As advertising intrudes more and more, audiences are aware of the sneaky way companies are selling their brands. From social media feed to television, at least movies are safe. Right? However, there is a type of advertising that you don't even notice. It's called product placement and it's the future of advertising.
Product placement started in the nineteenth century with mentions in novels like Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days and paintings like Manet's Un bar aux Folies Bergere. But what about film? The first recorded product placement was made by the Lumiere brothers in 1876 with Sunlight soap. This led to partnerships between brands and producers. Films received more funding while brands received invaluable advertisement on the silver screen. Audiences began associating brands with the excitement of the films subconsciously. Most films have kept these shout-outs subtle, but in this era of Progressive Field and Verizon Hall, brands have become shameless.
Not all product placements are equal. The most famous use of product placement was the Reese's Pieces in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial claims AdWeek. Almost as famous is the fact that M&M's turned down the offer first. Another obvious advertisement was Mini Coopers in The Italian Job says CNBC. In the 2003 remake of the 1969 film, BMW supplied the Coopers perfect for the heist. Some product placements are so successful that they actual influence sales. For example, Sideways, a 2004 comedy about wine tasting led to drastic changes in wine profits. Pinot noir increased, specifically the Blackstone brand, after the films release. However, the main character despised merlot and may have caused the 2% drop in US sales afterward.
Similarly to sound production in film, if you notice product placement it's probably a bad job. It should blend into the story and not break the audience's perspective. Heavy action films like superhero flicks have a lot of room to throw some cars or smash into specific buildings. While Transformers clearly focuses on car brands, 2013's Man of Steel had brawls in view of or inside of a Sears and iHop. That by itself was a bit much, but with those businesses advertising the film ad nauseam, Superman got surprisingly annoying. Some talented artists have parodied this product-heavy superhero craze by creating new looks for their favorite heroes that makes them visibly sponsored like race car drivers. As filmmakers need to offset the high costs of their budgets, an easy way out is product placement with the right companies. All they need now, is to do it right.
There is apparently more than one way to label product placement. In fact, there are even awards! Brandchannel collects information every years since 2010 for their own Brandcameo Product Placement Awards. Categories include (for 2016): Overall Product Placement (Mercedes-Benz), Most Product Placement in a Single Film (Furious 7), Shameless Product Placement (Mark Wahlberg), Product Placement in Foreign Films (Piku), Reverse Product Placement (Pepsi Perfect from Back to the Future 2), and more! Everything is backed by statistics including an overall Products Per Film (PPF) counter at the end to easily track the amount over time. This separation into categories turns product placement into a more versatile medium. It's almost an art in film to balance the dialogue and screen time of the products to ensure the funding but not to lose the audience.
While it can seem like an inconvenience, you probably don't even notice the major portion of product placement unless it slips into the dialogue. The more intrusive advertising of brands purchasing stadiums and parks beats out the annoyance of Iron Man biting into a burger thats not from fake fast food. It's up to the audience in the end and the profits don't lie. TV shows can increase brand awareness from 20-43% depending on the quality of the show. Product placement works and it's relatively harmless. Either way you look at it, product placement is here to stay.