Undoubtedly, product placement in movies is definitely worth it. Talking of product placement we mostly think about how much profit did those companies get by doing it, but what we seldom think about is how many great movies could not have been released without this phenomenon. As a matter of fact about 75% of all broadcast-network shows feature placements of some kind not to mention video games and pop music videos. For example, 25% of Minority report’s budget was financed by companies in exchange for enclosing their products.
Another great advantage of product placement is that as opposed to commercial breaks, they do not interrupt movies and ruin viewers’ experience. But at the same time the former is probably more effective than the latter. Why? Because instead of keeping up suspense before or during plot twists, product placement — if performed well — do not interfere with the tempo of movies. In other words, according to Priceonomics, products placed into storylines can be a lot more successful for brands than traditional advertisements, like TV ads. It’s easier to sell a viewer on the value of a product if they’re emotionally invested in the storyline in which it’s presented, rather than a viewer who’s watching an ad totally out of context. In addition, in the age of Netflix, marketers need to adapt to new trends in watching TV shows.
Before giving a few good and not so good examples of embedded marketing two main categories of it need to be differentiated. In the first category there are all those product placements which do have a function in the script. Basically any little meaning can count. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call it meaningful product placement. In the second category there are those product placements which lack creative effort from script writers and have no actual purpose or meaning at all. Let’s just call it shameless product placement.
For example when Alex’s parents in A Clockwork Orange (1971) learn about their son’s release from prison from the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail it is definately product placement but it has a purpose. Actually it was a pretty accurate prediction for the future as all three newspapers still exist. Also there is Wilson (Chuck’s only “mate” on the island) and FedEx in Cast away. It could be labeled as shameless because it is so obvious, but it also serves an actual purpose in the plot and is smart as well.
Or there is Marty McFly’s Nike shoes which also have a meaning in part 3 when he travels back to the wild west and the locals make fun of his unusual outfit. Not to mention his self-lacing shoes in the previous part taking place in 2015.
James Bond movies provide us another example of meaningful product placement. Technically all featured products are there to demonstrate 007’s style and elegance from his luxury cars to his Rolex and Omega watches and Martini. And of course, there are cases when products play a crucial role in movies’ plots like a Ford Gran Torino in Gran Torino.
Contrary, Superman 2 from 1980 most definitely falls into the category of shameless product placement, due to the fact that in its fighting scene Superman throws his enemy on a Marlboro van which was designed just for the sake of that one scene.
The Truman Show’s (1998) product placement would also fall into the second category due to its overly unmistakable product placements if it was not a parody and a huge hint inside the plot, which actually makes it remarkable.
All in all, product placement can be considered as a good thing in general, but as always, there are drawbacks as well. Overusing it or doing it unprofessionally can drastically reduce its efficiency. For instance, when James Bond dropped his Aston Martin for a BMW and his Martini — ‘shaken, not stirred’ — for Heineken came across as unexpected and ridiculous.