Imagine you’re on the edge of your seat in the middle of an action-packed, spellbinding movie. After a few climactic scenes, the main character makes a frantic phone call. He then cracks open a can of soda.
Nothing about this scene seems out of the ordinary. The character is simply quenching his thirst after a big police chase or a kung fu brawl.
That is until some familiar brand of soda appears on the can in a big, bold, unapologetic font.
Talk about a plot twist.
But product placement in movies is nothing new. Old school marketing techniques show how far companies will go to advertise. They’ll even go as far to pay directors and producers to feature them in films.
There have been great instances of advertising that worked well in films. But there have been plenty of others that were so shameless and unnatural, we wish we could forget them.
Here are 6 of the silliest, most cringe-worthy moments of advertising in movies.
1. Starbucks (You’ve Got Mail):
‘You’ve Got Mail’ may be the first film to portray online romance. Given that it takes place in 1998, AOL was practically its own character in the film. Without it, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters would have never “met” and fallen in love.
But AOL wasn’t the only company to get prime ad space in ‘You’ve Got Mail.’ At the beginning of the film, Tom Hanks quips about the obscurity of Starbucks.
His character’s snarky commentary doesn’t serve much to the plot. But it does help to give the audience somewhat of an introduction to his character. All while appealing to pretentious coffee drinkers like his character in the process.
2. Designer Brands (Sex and the City):
Curious which movies with the most product placement made our list?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ‘Sex and the City’ film featured dozens of fashion labels. After all, fashion was a constant theme throughout the hit TV series.
The series has long appealed to women in the 20-30 age bracket. So, when it went to the big screen, tons of the biggest fashion labels came calling.
You better believe Louis Vuitton and Chanel made a handful of cameos throughout the film. But some other products made the cut, too. Nike, U-Haul, Apple, and Marie Claire are just a few of many brand name drops in ‘SATC’.
Producers and creator Darren Starr were clearly not ashamed.
3. Reese’s Pieces (E.T the Extra-Terrestrial):
Not all instances of product placement in movies are bad. Certain films have done it so subtly we hardly pick up on the smell of advertising.
Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T the Extra-Terrestrial’ is undeniably one of those movies. Who could forget when Elliot entices E.T by scattering Reese’s Pieces around the woods and back to his house?
Hershey’s certainly cashed in when E.T became a box office hit. But this was back in 1982. So, can product placement still hold merit today as an advertising technique?
The technique may actually be more effective than ever before. You can discover more about the different ways this technique continues to work.
4. Popeyes Chicken (Little Nicky):
Whereas E.T is a good example of subtle product placement, Adam Sandler’s ‘Little Nicky’ is not. It’s one of several Happy Madison comedies that wasn’t well-received by critics. But it gained a cult following for its ridiculousness and quotability nonetheless.
In one scene, Adam Sandler, who plays the kindhearted son of Satan, learns how to eat with the help of a talking dog. What does he learn to eat with?
Popeyes fried chicken. And the large takeout box of it sits in the center of the shot. Even a big K-mart bag makes a small cameo, as well.
The scene concludes with Nicky proclaiming how awesome Popeyes chicken is. Not subtle in the least, but the scene is something fans continue to quote to this day.
5. “I Will Not Bow to Any Sponsor” (Wayne’s World):
Is it any less shameful when a movie calls itself out on its attempts to advertise?
Few films are able to make fun of themselves about their blatant attempts to advertise. But the first ‘Wayne’s World’ film provided a plot where it was possible to do so.
Wayne and Garth sell their public access show to a big-time TV producer. In the build-up to the climax, the producer confronts Wayne and Garth about their contract. They agreed to air an interview with the show’s new sponsor, but Wayne insists otherwise.
What follows is a satirical scene of obvious advertisements all surrounding Wayne’s opposition. While opening up a box of Pizza Hut, Wayne proclaims, “I will not bow to any sponsor.”
Wayne goes on to explain that he doesn’t believe in “selling out” while holding a bag of Doritos and drinking a Pepsi. Garth also gives his two cents on the idea of selling out while clad in Reebok gear from head to toe.
6. Heineken (James Bond Franchise):
The character James Bond has always had an affinity for dry martinis. This trait has inspired fans of the franchise to become martini drinkers for decades. But over the years, James Bond has dabbled in other commercial alcoholic drinks.
In 1997, the famous film franchise partnered up with the Dutch beer company, Heineken. Heineken has advertised the James Bond films since 1997’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ The ads have always been over the top, contributing to the promotional side of the Bond franchise.
But Bond himself never drank the Dutch beer until 2012’s ‘Skyfall.’ In one scene, while James Bond is in bed cuddled up with his latest love interest, he drinks a Heineken.
For any fan who has ever wished to be like James Bond, this scene is definitely inspirational. At least that’s the kind of association Heineken had intended to portray.
The Power of Product Placement in Movies:
If you’ve ever watched a movie and noticed an advertisement, you may have reacted one of a couple of ways.
You may have hardly noticed or didn’t care all too much. You could’ve felt preyed upon as a consumer or felt the ad ruined the experience. Or, you may have thought to yourself, “Wow. That was actually a great instance of advertising.”
Product placement in movies allows companies to reach a worldwide audience. Depending on how big the film is, these audiences can reach into the millions.
When characters we love use certain products, we’re more inclined to buy them. But there are other lots of other innovative and clever ways to advertise in movies – and beyond. If you’re in need of some inspiration, check out more advertising news and ideas.