Skip to content

Films as Commercials: Product Placement in 2011 Movies

December 16, 2011

Last week I heard a radio commercial that was a cross promotion for the new Mission Impossible film and a local BMW dealer.

The cross promotion wasn’t just a coincidence, since BMWs are featured in the new Tom Cruise film. The radio spot was not only encouraging people to head to the theater to catch the fourth installment of Mission Impossible, they were letting people know that the local BMW dealer would be present at the theater to promote their cars.

This kind of marketing of films is becoming more commonplace as Hollywood producers are using product placement as a means to generate addition funds for film production. Even the new Twilight film features products and brands such as Apple, Belstaff, Crest, ESPN, HTC, LG, Pepto-Bismol, Rainier, Volvo and Yahoo. After all, vampires are consumers too.

Basically there are two kinds of product placement in Hollywood films these days. First, you have films where products are used as merely background items, used by main characters or sometimes even named by characters. A film like Contagion contains 44 different products or brands – Audi, BBC, BMW, Bud Light, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chevrolet, Citibank, CNN, Coca-Cola, Dasani, Dell, Delta, Dole, Facebook, FEMA, Geico, Kellogg’s, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Lenovo, Lumix, Lysol, Mazda, Medex, Mercedes, Minnesota Department of Health, NBC, Panasonic, Purell, Rayovac, Red Cross, Rimowa, Samsung, Sony, Sony Ericsson, Sperian, StarKist, Taco Bell, The North Face, Twitter, USA Today, Vicks, World Health Organization and YouTube.

However, no one product or brand are dominant in the film, not do they become integral to the plot in any significant way. These products and brands are presented in such a way that normalizes their use in our daily lives without beating us over the head with obvious intent. For instance, one character is told to leave town because of the deadly virus and is seen in a store buying items to take with her on the road, items such as the Dasani brand of bottled water.

Other movies such as Limitless (24), Battle Los Angeles (19) and the Green Lantern (18) also include a significant number of products/brands, but none of them are integral to the plot or overtly presented. However, with superhero films like the Green Lantern (Dos Equis, Miller, Pabst, Guinness, Harper Lager), Thor (Budwesier) and Captain America (Cornona), each of the superheroes either consume branded beer or beer logos are prominent. This is a not so subtle way for beer companies to normalize the consumption of alcohol to the underage audiences that consume these movies in high number.

Then there are the films where the products/brands are more woven into the plot, where characters not only use the products, they discuss them and utilize them in very overt ways.

The Transformers franchise is not only based on Hasbro toys, but the each of the three films has been 2 – hour commercials for Chevy vehicles.

There are numerous other products/brands presented in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, such as NASA, Waste Management and Fox News, but it was another car that stood out in terms of overt product placement. The girlfriend of the main character gets a Mercedes from her boss, which is viewed online at one point and in another scene she slips into the $200,000 car. In the end, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon was the absolute winner of most products/brands of films in 2011, with 69.

Another films that is loaded with product placement and brands is Hall Pass. In Hall Pass, 2 men are given permission from their wives to take a week off from being married. They go out with 3 other friends to a local Applebee’s to start their week of freedom. For several minutes the 5 men are in Applebee’s and at one point one of the friend’s says, “Are you guys sure that Applebee’s is the best place to meet hot, horny women at?” One of the men with a hall pass responds, “What are you thinking Olive Garden?” In fact, it is difficult to find a spot in the film where the characters are not using products or naming them, whether it is asking for Splenda in the coffee shop, eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the hotel or talking about a friends Toyota Prius.

The last film worth mentioning that is riddled with product placement and brands is the Adam Sandler film Just Go With It. There are numerous sequences in the film where products and brands are front and center. Early on in the film, Sandler’s wife goes shopping in brand name stores such as Barney’s, The Gap, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Old Navy.

In another scene in Just Go With It, Adam Sandler takes 2 kids out to eat at Pizza Hut, where the of the place is displayed prominently and a discussion happens with pizza and Pepsi being consumed during this sequence. There is another long sequence where the main characters all vacation in Hawaii and stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where all sorts of products are consumed, including a scene where two characters are testing on Sony Ericsson phones. All total, there are 51 products/brands used in Just Go With It.

2011 may have broken all records for the use of product placement and brands in films and it speaks to the increasing level of hyper-commercialism in our culture. The increased use of products and brands in films is not only an assault on the public it is an insult to millions of Americans who are living in poverty and just trying to survive.

For more information on Product Placement in 2011 films go to Also, check out our 2010 film study or product placement and other films themes.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2011 4:13 am

    This is a good strategy to sell up movies. You can see a lot of movies are doing this and thus increase the ticket sales.

  2. kswheeler permalink
    December 19, 2011 6:44 pm

    Jeff, did you look at all at the dollar amounts that the tobacco industry pays for product placement in films?

    I remember reading that since tobacco advertising in other media (TV, print ads, etc.) is illegal, the industry has just simply shifted its ad dollars into product placement in films. I’m curious if you know what magnitude of business this generates.

  3. December 20, 2011 3:03 pm

    Kate, I didn’t include tobacco use in this look at films. There is a great website that tracks that. It is run by a guy who used to work in the tobacco industry

  4. kswheeler permalink
    December 20, 2011 4:45 pm

    I know you didn’t include it in the article; I was just wondering if you knew about up-to-date info on it, and of course you do! Thanks for the link; interesting site.

  5. December 21, 2011 3:56 pm

    Very good strategy, indeed. Nowadays, effective and new ways of marketing must be planned and implemented to be ahead from other competitors.


  6. December 23, 2011 7:49 pm

    Tommy, I think you missed the point of this posting, which was not only to point out the amount of product placement in Hollywood films, but to point out how disgusting the hyper-marketing of products has become in movies.


  1. US Militarism in 2011 Hollywood Films « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Embedded Commercialism: Product Placement in 2012 Hollywood Films | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: