There are legendary and of course less known product placement examples in the history of cinema. Without further ado let’s look at some.
A Reese’s Pieces in the „ET” (1982) movie
Of course, companies would leap for joy if Steven Spielberg asked them to place their products in one of his movies these days, but product placement wasn’t the giant in 1982 that it is today. Hershey, the owner of M&Ms, placed demands on the studio for allowing its goodies to be featured, including seeing a final script before filming even began. The studio said no and Reese’s Pieces was offered the deal instead…for zero dollars. Reese’s did spend around $1 million to promote the movie, however, which works out to around $2.5 million today. That was actually quite a bargain, however, because they saw a 65% increase in sales.
BMW Mini Cooper in the “The Italian Job“ movie (2003)
An inferior version of the classic 1969 film featuring Michael Caine, Noël Coward, and Benny Hill, the 2003 remake still had a lot going for it. The original film used British-made BMC Mini Coopers, but BMW owned the company by 2003. You can’t make “The Italian Job” with any other kind of car, however, so BMW was approached by the producers for permission to use it. Not only did they get it, but they were given over 30 cars for use in the film. With a BMW Mini Cooper averaging around $20,000, that’s way less than $1 million for some phenomenal advertising. And BMW sales soared.
Converse Shoes in “I, Robot“ (2004)
A chilling story of AI running amuck, “I, Robot” was one of the biggest films released in 2004, raking in over $342 million in the U.S. alone. It starred box office powerhouse Will Smith and featured a blatant ad for Converse All-Star sneakers. From the opening of the box to the close-up of the shoes on his feet and even someone saying “nice shoes,” this is product placement is so obvious that it takes the viewer out of the experience of the movie. But the tie to Will Smith’s character being phobic of anything new is concrete, and that makes it work. It could have been a classic Nike or Adidas shoe, but Converse grabbed the opportunity.
“Wayne’s World,” “Return of the Killer Tomatoes,” and “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”
Product placement was parodied “most excellently” in “Wayne’s World.” From pizza and sneakers to headache pills and soft drinks, it was a master-stroke that managed to make fun of product placement and get paid for it at the same time.
“Return of the Killer Tomatoes” did a wonderful job parodying product placement as well. That’s a very young George Clooney doing the pitching.
Morgan Spurlock created a whole movie funded by nothing but product placement revenue in 2011, called “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” Spurlock did what people told him was nearly impossible, making a movie on money received only from product and brand-name integration in the film. It was a smart way to fund a documentary and to highlight the way product placement works in one fell swoop.
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