Product placement in movies has been occurring since the inception of moving pictures. It has become so common, many people do not even react or even notice when merchandise is shamelessly promoted on-screen during a film. The primary reason for product placement is to help finance a film–with many Hollywood movies being incredibly expensive to produce, filmmakers have found product placement to be an excellent way to fund their projects.
For many producers and directors, putting a soft drink can on-screen for a few seconds seems like a reasonable price to pay for their film to get made. This type of marketing exchange is how the commercial film industry operates in modern Hollywood. To illustrate the prevalence of this sort of advertising, here are five of the greatest, most memorable, instances of product placement in modern cinema:
1. Reese’s Pieces: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
The Steven Spielberg film that broke the record held by “Star Wars” for the highest grossing film of all time also had what is generally considered to be the greatest example of product placement in film history. The young boy named Eliot uses Reese’s Pieces candy to get the alien to come out of the shed at the beginning of the film. E.T. also eats the colorful candies later in the film. Sales of the candy exploded soon after the film was released. E.T. also appeared in a marketing campaign for the candy.
2. Pizza Hut and Reebok: Wayne’s World
In this Mike Myers comedy, the product placement was put in for comedic effect. In the memorable scene, Wayne and Garth are proclaiming that they have integrity and they can not be bought by large companies. As they are saying this, Wayne is eating pizza made by Pizza Hut, which he joyfully holds up to the camera. Garth is fully outfitted in clothes made by Reebok. Numerous other products are promoted in the scene.
3. Coca-Cola: Superman II
Towards the end of the movie, Superman and the evil General Zod engage in their final battle. However, the most memorable part of that battle for many people is when Superman throws Zod into a massive, electronic Coca-Cola billboard that fills up the entire screen. It promptly explodes when Zod hits it.
4. Pabst Blue Ribbon: Blue Velvet
David Lynch’s disturbing film gets a few laughs for Dennis Hopper’s extreme and oft-professed affinity for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. At one point, the character even makes a point of disparaging another brand of beer in favor of his beloved Pabst.
5. DeLorean Motor Company: Back to the Future
This is product placement with an asterisk. While the DeLorean DMC-12 became synonymous with the film franchise, production of the car had already ended two years before the first film was released.