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

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4 thoughts on “Subtle or Obvious: Product Placement in Movies

  1. It’s really funny that you used the product placement in the newest Transformers movie because throughout the entire movie my friends and I continually commented on it! It got a little ridiculous honestly lol. We watched the documentary in IMC 1 about the works of product placement and it really shed a light on the reality of the situation. I remember watching a One Tree Hill episode years ago that was sponsored by SunKist and there was SunKist everywhere. Every vending machine and bus had the logo on it and every cast member was constantly drinking it. I can attest to the fact that I bought SunKist because of that. So I guess product placement really does work, or at least it did in that instance.

    • Rachel,
      Thank you for commenting!
      The product placements really can work in their favor, even if the placement is painfully obvious! Just like you bought that SunKist, my husband picked up Bud Light the evening after we watched that movie just because Mark Wahlberg did. We all fall for it sometimes 🙂
      -Danielle

  2. I thought the exact same thing when I was watching this movie. I didn’t realize the extent to which the movie produced the brand product placement until taking this IMC class. I did realize the intention of the brands in movies and television series, but I have learned a lot more about it being IMC. I also agree with Rachel’s comment above about the television series of One Tree Hill and SunKist soda. I remember when that particular season was being aired on the CW network, there was constantly short commercials stating that if you buy SunKist soda you have the chance to win a One Tree Hill episode being filmed in your hometown. This encouraged the target market of pre-teens to teenagers who watched One Tree Hill to go out right away and buy a soda. Watching this clip of Transformers makes me want to go drink a BudLight so I guess it seems to be working. Well done product placement.

  3. I always found product placement just a little ridiculous. I was never sure if the companies intend to make it so obvious that the viewers just find it cheesy, or if there is an actual strategy behind it. There is a scene in Wayne’s World, where Wayne and Garth are talking about never selling out to big named companies, and the whole scene is just ridiculously cheesy product placement in what appears to be them making fun of actual product placement. In its defense though product placement works. If a little kid sees a transformer drinking a sprite, or Mark Wahlberg driving a cool car then a bunch of people will buy these products to emulate their favorite characters. So it may work for these companies, but I still find it a little cheesy.

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