The European Union defines product placement as “any form of audiovisual commercial communication consisting of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service or the trademark thereof so that it is featured within a program.” Product placement is one of the most effective methods of advertising because it has a viewing audience of nearly 100 percent. While TV advertisers lose many viewers who take breaks during commercials, movie viewers pay attention to product advertisements because they are engrossed in the film. The growth of product placement in movies has been phenomenal over the past decade. The U.S. is the largest and fastest growing paid product placement market. It generated revenues of $1.5 billion in 2005, $2.9 billion in 2007, and $3.7 billion in 2008.
Lets look at five exceptional examples of product placement in Hollywood movies that stood out in terms of seamless integration with the storyline and benefit to the brands.
- Wilson (Movie: Castaway) – “Castaway” took the concept of product placement to another level by using a brand name for a character. When Chuck (Tom Hanks) gets stranded on an island, he finds a Wilson volleyball from one of the boxes that was in the plane. He paints the ball and turns it into a friend and companion named “Wilson.” One of the original volleyballs used in the movie was auctioned for $18,500 to the ex-CEO of FedEx Office, Ken May. Wilson launched a joint promotion at the time of the films release boasting the fact that one of its products was co-starring Tom Hanks.
- Sears (Movie: Man of Steel) – The 2013 blockbuster “Man of Steel” holds the record for the most occurrences of product placement in a movie. Apparently, the producers signed around 100 deals with promotional partners. One prominent example of product placement in the movie is a Sears store. Supermans father uses Craftsman tools and works at Sears. One scene includes a Sears store being blown up. Sears used this opportunity to create a Guinness World Record for the largest number of people assembled in one place dressed as Superman by gathering 566 employees in Superman costumes at the companys headquarters.
- McDonalds (Movie: Pulp Fiction) – The 1994, Quentin Tarantino movie “Pulp Fiction” is arguably one of the best movies ever made. One bit of iconic dialogue centers on McDonalds. While discussing cultural differences among nations, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) reference the Quarter Pounder and Big Mac.
- Omega (Movie: Casino Royale) – Product placement in James Bond movies isnt new. Omega is one brand with a long history of association with the Bond films. It started in 1995 with “GoldenEye,” in which Pierce Brosnan wore an Omega Seamster Quartz Professional watch. The trend followed as Brosnan flaunted different models of Seamster in later films. Daniel Craig, the current 007, has also worn the Omega Seamster in all of his Bond movies and even mentions the brand name Omega in “Casino Royale.”
- Starbucks (Movie: Youve Got Mail) – The 1998 romantic comedy “Youve Got Mail” famously placed two brands in the storyline–AOL and Starbucks. In the movie, Tom Hanks is shown drinking coffee at Starbucks and even makes a reference to the coffee giant in the dialogue: “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who dont know what the hell they are doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”