Subtle or Obvious: Product Placement in Movies

What is the most humorous example of product placement that you can think of? One that comes to mind is the latest Transformers movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction. There were several times in the movie where one couldn’t help but notice the blatant product placement. The most notable is the scene where an alien ship crashes into a Bud Light truck, spilling the bottles all over the street. Mark Wahlberg’s character then picks up one of the bottles and takes a sip. Throughout the rest of the movie, it was impossible not to notice all of the products being displayed so shamelessly on the screen. The video below even features some scenes with the most obvious product placement.

When used appropriately, these placements work. This article suggests that brand recognition reaches over 75% when the product is used by the character or incorporated into the story.

For example, the 1995 James Bond film, GoldenEye, gave BMW a sales boom. James Bond is known for his gadgets, nice suits, and fast cars. A brand having their product placed in just the right film can encourage viewers to want to be just like that character. What did viewers need to emulate James Bond? A fancy car, of course. Aston Martin was struggling at the time and were bought out by Ford, causing the production team to source a vehicle suitable for James Bond. BMW was the highest bidder. Due to the increase of sales, a $100 million promotion was created for Tomorrow Never Dies, the next film in the series.

Even though the placements may be quite “cheesy” and obvious majority of the time, they seem to work very well for companies. By creating that brand familiarity in Transformers: Age of Extinction, there’s a good chance that come Thanksgiving dinner, those who have been tasked with buying drinks for the adults will see Bud Light in the store, be reminded of the scene with Mark Wahlberg, laugh, and take that pack of Bud Light to the register.

By: Morgan McCleaf and Danielle Walters