Product placement hit theaters in the 1910’s. Henry Ford’s Model T was featured at the end of many of directxor Mack Sennett’s comedies during the credit sequence and then the phenomenon took off. In the early stages, product placement was simply used for producers to utilize a company’s product without having to pay for it. Now companies pay millions of dollars in order for their products to be featured in films. The rapid growth of product placement was evident when the magazine Variety showed that 50 percent of movies in 1931 contained product placement.
The reason for this drastic rise in product placement is because companies realized that audiences become very easily invested in the film they are watching. While watching the film, a viewer is so invested in the story that they can not avoid the advertised products. Thus, product placement is more effective than a billboard or a newspaper ad because the target market is forced to see the advertisement.
Directors often times hinder the storyline in order to incorporate certain companies products. For instance, in the comic book Superman II the character Lois Lane never smoked a cigarette. However, when Superman was made into a movie, Lois Lane smoked Marlboros throughout the whole film. Later, Marlboro admitted to paying up to $42,000 for 22 placements of Marlboro throughout the film.
However, the cost of an advertising spot can vary based on the significance of the product in the story. For instance, if a company paid for their soda machine to be featured in the background of a scene, this would be less expensive than if it were the basis of a storyline. Directors sometimes even go as far as making the title of an episode a products name. One example of this was on the hit television show Seinfeld when they had an episode named “The Junior Mint”. In this episode, one of the main characters, Elaine, visits her ex-boyfriend in the hospital who she dumped because he was overweight. Later, Elaine finds out that he lost some weight and is now interested in dating him again. At the hospital, during the operation, Kramer and Jerry drop a Junior Mint into his heart. This miraculously cures him. While shooting this scene director Tom Cherones substitutes a York Peppermint Patty for the Junior Mint because the Junior Mint was too small for the shot. However, Junior Mint offered Seinfeld more money, so they went with the name “Junior Mint” anyway.
Today, advertising products in cinema has become the most effective and utilized way to advertise. With the evolution of DVR, and the more distractions that technology introduces to us every day, placing your product in the material that the consumer is interested in is the best way to be sure that your consumers will see your products.
Lehu, Jean-marc. Branded Entertainment: Product Placement & Brand Strategy in the Entertainment Business. London ; Philadelphia, London: Kogan Page, 2007.
Cherones, Tom. The Junior Mint. Comedy, 1993.
Donner, Richard. Superman. Action, Adventure, Drama, 1978.