The other night one of our employees was watching a television show called “Suits” on the USA Network and spotted a yellow classification folder, exactly like the ones we sell. We would love to say that the fine work done by the FBI agents on that show is assisted by our great products, but, sadly, it is not.
The last time a Kleer-Fax product made it’s way onto the big screen was during the filming of “Goodfellas,” as noted last year in our Goodfellas Giveaway. However, it did give us a great idea about writing this fun blog post. We hope you enjoy it.
Many people’s first introduction to product placement was in the film “The Truman Show,” starring Jim Carrey. Truman lives in a 24-hour reality show with no breaks for commercials, so the cereal he eats, his favorite brand of beer, and the car he drives are all the results of the highest bidder.
Since then, people have been noticing when products that appear to be organic parts of the story are hurled at them, such as when the 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” showed us that AOL isn’t just a company with terrible customer service and a history of fiscal malfeasance; it’s also a way to anonymously fall in love with someone who was always right there in front of you!
Let’s get to these examples.
Outlander on “Orange is the New Black”
During season 3 of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” a storm was blowing through town. As a result, the library was flooded, leading to some books being ruined. During the course of dumping the trash, Taystee asks her friend Poussey if she’d ever read this book. When she answers in the negative, Taystee breaks out the following advertisement:
“Outlander! You ever read this? Lady travels back in time to Scotland, hooks up with this big, sexy outlaw type, and they be getting it day in and day out. It’s hot!”
Following such a review, it’s safe to say that many of the viewers are interested in finding out more. And that’s the point. While you think a character on your favorite show is expressing an opinion she has about a book she likes, the truth is you’re just getting sold something. And you know this when you realize that this information does nothing to develop the characters or push the plot of the story. It’s merely there to introduce you to this novel, which is now a TV series of its own.
Dexter Loves His MacBook
Dexter Morgan, of the former Showtime series, “Dexter,” uses his computer a lot. If you watched the show, you’d know that he loves to use the Apple MacBook, and why not? Macs are good products and they can get the job done.
What you need to realize, though, is that it’s no mistake that the Apple logo is always in plain sight. While the director may have plans to shoot a scene from one angle, the contract dictated by this advertiser tells him that they have to have so much screen time for people to know that this perplexing murderer or murderers prefers Apple to HP. With some luck, you’ll want to get the MacBook because of how effective it is in helping Dexter.
Forest Gump Loves Dr. Pepper
The year was 1962. Forest Gump was meeting President Kennedy as a member of the collegiate All-American team, and as he’ll tell you, they had just about anything you could ever want to eat or drink. He drank 15 Dr. Peppers. This is said in both narrative and in the display of Tom Hanks downing the delicious beverage. Years later, he enjoys another as he celebrates New Year’s Eve with Lieutenant Dan.
Most people can agree that Dr. Pepper’s prescription is a fine one, but we can also agree that even such a film as Forest Gump (one of the greatest fictional stories of all time) was susceptible to the influence of its advertisers because if they’d been told to promote Pepsi, A&W Root Beer, or even Cel-Ray, that’s what he would have been drinking.
Love & McFlurries on “30 Rock”
The character of Jack Donaghy was known for many things, such as having a dog he named Pop after his father left, and becoming the head of NBC.
One thing he was also known for was loving the McFlurry ice cream treat from McDonald’s. In fact, the mortar that held his relationship together with Salma Hayak was this very treat, but this is where it gets weird. This terrible advertising copy that viewers were forced to endure was NOT a paid placement. It was actually part of the script and the “30 Rock” team approached McDonald’s about it. As you can imagine, they were gracious enough to say yes.
The 2 Hour Google Commercial, AKA The Internship
For those who love buddy comedies, The Internship has it all. There’s a purpose (two guys who need jobs), the fish out of water context (old timer sales guys at a Silicon Valley tech company), and a love story (Owen Wilson charms his way into a much younger and more gorgeous woman’s heart/bed). To top it off, there’s also the underdog aspect of a group of misfits competing with a seemingly superior team, and proving in the end that they are just as good.
The only thing missing is a vehicle by which to pay for this story. Wait, they’ve got it covered, because when you’re done watching this movie, you will not only have heard the word ‘Google’ more than 70 times, and you’ll be thinking, wow, I want to work there, present company included.
Sure, the reality of working at Google is that you will be surrounded by hyper-driven types with highly technical minds who don’t mind pulling 90-hour weeks in their quest for vesting with the company while also doing amazing things. During this time, your family will have to come second as will your social life, but they have free coffee, yogurt, nachos, and don’t forget the sleep pods that will help you recharge after the first half (that’s 12 hours) of your workday. Also, you can take fun classes during work and meet people like Stephen Colbert.
Despite the sarcastic tone of these words, we still want to work there, and would watch this movie again!
Change Your Life By Joining the Girl Scouts!
Lastly, we’d like to discuss a little-known, straight-to-video film called “Smart Cookies” about the very popular cookie company & non-profit, The Girl Scouts of America.
“Smart Cookies” follows a hard-charging real estate agent named Julie who is one sale away from being named a partner at the agency where she works. Her boss, however, has other ideas about how Julie can not only be a wonderful salesperson, but also a better human being by taking over a rag-tag band of Girl Scouts and helping them learn to sell-sell-sell.
Along the way, Julie learns that she is going to have to change from being so focused on her career (after all, she’s not a man!) and think of others. Between her sales skills and these girls’ desire to beat the rival troop, they end up selling their way to the top while befriending the other scouts, forming one unified division.
What’s most intriguing about this 119 minute Girl Scouts of America commercial is that it goes out of its way to ensure that no other brand is visible. People routinely offer each other bottles of water, but with no label. And in a scene where someone is on a cell phone, or when the girls are roasting marshmallows, the products are indistinguishable from any other.
Why? Because you have to pay to play.
As for viewers like us, we’re often footing the other half of the bill, and in some cases, it’s worth it.
Do you have any examples of product placement from movies you love or hate? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.