Conference of Culture and Identity
Product placement -
From silent movies to James Bond
Manuscript: by Fredrik Johansson 2009-06-04
What is Product Placement?
After studying the concept of product placement this is how we want to define it. Product
placement is a change of service so to say. Moviemakers need big money to finance their
movies. Companies need to be seen by consumers. Therefore they exchange their services.
Moviemakers get money from the companies and then let the companies have their brands
placed into the movies. Sometimes rather discrete and other times a little more than so. The
point of product placement is to make the product fit in to the story without people realize that
they are getting brainwashed.
This is confirmed by the studies of Doctor Mary- Lou Galician, a prominent researcher in
media trends. She talks about the subtleness of product placement; the audiences are often
totally unaware to the hidden corporate message in movies. According to her 2004 survey is
product placement a $ 1.5 billion practice only in the USA1. The influence is so great that
critics of product placement´s demanded federal regulation, even Film Unions like Screen
Actors Guild have object to what they see as the increased blurring of lines between
advertisement and entertainment2.
Another reason for product placement is the commercial skipping feature in digital video
recorders like TIVO in USA. This allows viewers to just skip the commercial in their
favourite TV-show, good for the audience but very bad news for the advertisers. They must
found a new way to bring out their message, instead of annoy the audience with commercial
breaks they contribute to the entertainment with their products.
In the rest of the presentation we will give a general outlook and take a closer look at some
famous cases in product placement.
1 Galician, “HANDBOOK OF PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN THE MASS MEDIA (page.1)
The historic background of product placement
These days we are use to see product placement in everything from videogames to
blockbuster movies but product placement date back to the earliest days of filmmaking, long
before television entered our homes.Even the Lumiere Brothers, (the inventors of cinema )
used product placement in their 1896 short film “Washing Day in Switzerland”. It featured
strategic places cases of Sunlight Soap. It was engineered by the film´s producer, Henri
Lavancy-Clarke who also worked as a publicist for the soap´s manufacturer; Lever Brothers.
The story is confirmed by Professor Jay Newell at Greensle School of Journalism at Iowa
State University. Professor Newell claims that product placement is much older than
Hollywood itself, and this first placement was no incident. There is no information how the
soup manufacturer improved their sales after the movie, but it wasn’t long before it became
clear for companies that movies and television was a powerful influence on consumers
behavior1. The movie Industry was a new phenomena and not very appealing to advertisers;
because there was not much money in the movies, although you could see examples of
advertising in cinemas even from the early days of motion pictures. However trailers and
product placement hardly existed in the era of silent movies but some exceptions of
advertising could occur between short films.
When the sound film was introduced in the 1930´s, movies became more of a truly global
trend, and the companies were aware of their impact on sales. The film “It Happened One
Night” 1934 showed a bare-chested Clark Gable, the sales of men´s undershirts decreased
rapidly. Then in 1950´s, “Rebel Without a Cause” the sales of Ace combs increased after
James Dean was shown using a comb on his hair2. James Dean also influenced millions of
young moviegoers in the mid 1950´s of the cool and rebellious habit of smoking when he
starred in the 1956 film “Giant”. We will later give you a closer look in to the topic of
unethical product placement. Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses had a similar boom in the 80´s
when the teenage-idol Tom Cruise was wearing in them “Risky Business” in 19833.
One of the most successful product placement of all time actually where supported by a
company. Reese's Pieces in Steven Spielberg's 1981 blockbuster "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial"
created a new standard for the potential of corporate involvement in movies. In a crucial scene
Eliot uses candy to lure E.T towards him. E.T became a pop cultural icon for the kids in the
early 80´s, of course they want to eat the same candy as their icon. In only three months the
sales for Reese´s Piesces leaped 65 % and now day’s advertisers fully understand movies
potential as a marketing tool, especially the market department at Mars; who turned down the
offer to use M & M in E.T4. Mary Lou Galician describes this as a great example for how a
practically unknown brand could have a huge sales increase due to product placement.
According to Jay Newell was the success with Reese's Pieces placement the beginning of the
modern product placement business. In fact the term “product placement” shows up in the
press for the first time in 1982, before that it was referred as hidden exploitation. The movie
studios also got aware of the benefits of product placement, they started to ask brands owners
to financially support their movies, with the idea that a bigger opening would give a bigger
4 Galician, “HANDBOOK OF PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN THE MASS MEDIA (page.17, 105)
impact on consumers. Blockbusters like E.T was the birth off collaboration between movie
studios and commerce, but it weren’t until the mid 90´s the real turning point for cross-
promotion started. This coincided with the rebirth of the James Bond-franchise with Pierce
Brosnan and Daniel Craig. We will explain this later in the report1.
Product placement in Swedish media
Due to the long period of strict government control of broadcasting media product placement
and commercial breaks in TV-shows is still a rather new phenomenon in Sweden. Not until
the early 90´s the first real commercial started. TV-stations like Kanal 5, TV 4 etc and
Swedish media adapted to the way of media in USA and Western Europe. Just two decades
ago it was a major scandal to even mention a brand in SVT, which is the Swedish public
service media. The ESC-song “Fyra bugg & en coca-cola” (Four chewing gums & Coke) had
to change lyrics to due to advertise regulation. The regulation remains even today on paper,
but in reality it´s not a strict law anymore.
Even SVT is frequently using sponsors of TV-shows and major sports event like the
Olympics. In some cases the like cooking shows, home improvement shows (Sommartorpet)
some product placement even in SVT, and for the most time Granskningnämnden
(Govermental Media Inspection) let it slide. It is even more evident in commercial channels.
There is a large ambiguity in the rules when dealing with product placement and sponsored
The journalist Magnus Västerbro describes it as a new kind of television production and look
upon it as a prefinanced program. The idea is as follows: When people get tired of ads, then
those who want to advertise their products have to find other ways to reach them, instead of
advertising in the middle of the programs. Particularly Kanal 5 is known to air this kind of
shows. The classic and very successful example is the home improvement show; “Room
Service”, funded by the trade association of painters; Målarmästarna. For broadcasters, this
may in some way be a positive development, because they may decrease program costs. But
while the problem of credibility2.
The home improvement show “Äntligen Hemma” in TV4 is sponsored by Dewalt, the leading
brand among professional craftsmen. The popular host Martin Timell is frequently using their
tool and advocate for the importance to buy proper tool. According to investigation by the
Swedish newspaper Resumé, So-called "name droppings", when, for example, program
stresses a need for a certain product category, cost around 200 000kr. Martin Timell has seen
the change in Swedish media. He means that the marked have changed. Production
Companies try to test the limit of what’s accepted all the time and no one really knows what
applies and Martin seems certain that there will be much more product placement in the
future3. The success of prefinanced program has inspired other companies for their own TV-
show´s. A huge hit is “Färjan” 2008 (The Ferry) on kanal 5, it’s sponsored by the shipping
company Viking Line. It’s a reality show about the Viking Line cruise ship Cinderella, their
staff and the passengers. Färjan premiered in September 2008, and resulted in the highest
booking-rate ever in October for Viking Line1. Particularly the popular bartender Håkan with
the catchfrase “Inga konstigheter” had a major part in this effect. The second season is still
running on Kanal 5.
Product placement in Swedish movies is still not as common as in the US, but there are some
obvious examples. During the 90s Norwegian petrol company Statoil used product placement
in their marketing strategy. This is very obvious in Swedish action movies like “Jägarna”
and the Carl Hamilton-franchise. Jägarna (the hunters) 1995 was sponsored by Toyota, Falcon
and of course Statoil. Christian Bönnelyche former head of marketing of Statoil, describes
Jägarna as a mayor investment, as a part of the project they build up a entire combined Statoil
gas station and roadhouse bar in the middle of nowhere in north part of Sweden2. The gas
station was in several scenes with the hero as well as the villains.
The Swedish counterpart to James Bond is Carl Hamilton; and like 007 he frequently use cell
phones and other gadgets from Sony-Ericsson. The movie “Vendetta” (1995) also used
product placement, brands like Carlsberg, Ericsson and Statoil Is seen on screen. Especially
Statoil is significant. After a funeral scene, Hamilton and his sidekick Stålhandske stop by a
Statoil Station to contemplate. The Sicilian Mafia is apparently using Statoil rental SUVs in
the movies final car chase.
In the sequel “Hamilton” 1998 Statoil remain the cooperation with the movie studio. The
same year Statoil launched Statoil World Card, a joint venture with Eurocard. A combined
gasoline and creditcard, Christian Bönnelyche considered the movie as a perfect arena to
show the lead Carl Hamilton on the international scene and how he used the card3. Hamilton
use the card for traditional business purposes as well a key lock on a mission in Russia. This
movie is also contains an unjustified scene on Statoil gas station, this time on the Russian
tundra. Hamilton was criticized for an overuse by product placement. Peter Carnello; CEO of
InBetween Entertainment; the leading company of product placement in Sweden admits that
the placements was obvious, but argues that the market was new in Sweden at the time and
they learned much since then4.
A more subtle use of product placement from InBetween Entertainment was the comedy
“Varannan Vecka” (2006) (Every second week), a movie about divorced couples in
Stockholm. One of the sponsors was Kronfågeln, a Swedish chicken food company. On of the
leading parts work as producer of commercials, and it was appropriate to show his work on
fake commercial for Kronfågeln in the movie. Both InBetween Entertainment as well as
Kronfågel was very pleased with the result. According Kronfågel´s own survey 60 % of the
viewers had a positive link between Kronfågel and Varannan Vecka5.
The commercial also reflects the plot of a happy divorce. The movie also include a fake
commercial for IKEA with a similar motif, used when a character need new pieces furniture
after the divorce. Like the IKEA-scene in the Movie “Fight Club” (1999) it was not
supported by the company but they got some media coverage for free.
2 Smedhäll & Wärnqvist, ”Motiv till produktplacering i svensk media – Hur ser framtiden ut?” (page 24)
3 Smedhäll & Wärnqvist, ”Motiv till produktplacering i svensk media – Hur ser framtiden ut?” (page 25)
5 Darlin & Skarp, ”Hur viktigt är samarbete i modern marknadsföring? – En Studie om ..” (Page 34)
“Göta Kanal 2 – Kanalkampen” (2006), the sequel to the classic comedy from the 80´s is a
less successful example of product placement. Logos as ICA, Pripps etc and especially Findus
micro waved food. In connection to the movie Findus launched a special Göta Kanal –meal,
and off course the star of the movies; the Swedish comedian Janne “Loffe” Carlsson is eating
this in several scenes. The plot is a boat race on the Göta Channel, and during one scene the
contesters passes a float marker with Findus logo. The film received much criticism for over
use of product placement.
The Movie “Rallybrudar” ( Racing girls) was sponsored by the Swedish candy brand
Ahlgrens bilar (Ahlgren´s car). A candy shaped like little pink and green cars. The film,
which takes place in the 60's, is about two girls who start driving rally. In a scene the main
character sees a fake Ahlgrens Bilar-comercial at the cinema. The racing car also got the same
pink colour as Ahlgrens bilar1.
This is only a few examples of movies and TV-shows sponsored by product placement. The
Millienum-trilogy is also featuring many elements of product placements, ass well as the
Product placement in Seinfeld and other TV-shows
– The junior Mint campaign
A recurring theme in Seinfeld was its use of specific products as plot points, these products
might be a central feature of a plot narrative or simply discussing the merits of the candy. One
episode particularly showed the potential of product placement. In the fourth season 1993 the
episode “The Junior mints” was aired. This was the first time in television an entire episode
was devoted to on particular brand. Product placement has been seen before in sitcom but
unlike most placements, which try to paint a product in the most positive light Warner-
Lambert Co.'s Junior Mints accepted that the Seinfeld crew made fun of them. The Junior
Mints is number four on Businessweek´s “Product Placement Hall of Fame”2.
In the episode Elaine visit an old friend who is in hospital for surgery. Kramer and Jerry
observe the operation from the viewing gallery and accidentally drop one chocolate-mint
candies into the patient's open torso. The doctors don't notice and sew him up, Junior Mint
inside. During the episode both Jerry & Kramer advocates for the benefits of Junior Mints, but
they are of course afraid of negative consequence of the candy incident. But the patient
survives and the episode ends with the doctor explains it as intervention from above (God)
and is willing to accept Kramer’s offer of a junior Mint, and say those could be very
refreshing. Most candy companies would not let their products being used in this negative
manner, but Seinfeld was huge hit during the 90´s and any placement is better than no
This was not intended as product placement, but the success of Seinfeld was credited by
marketers and advertisers which influenced the attitude to product placement in US primetime
TV-shows. In general, product placement got much more frequent in TV shows after Seinfeld
demonstrated that a successful show could include specific products into its plots and
According to Brad Brown; founder of the firs major product placement agency Davie-Brown,
Seinfeld broke a barrier on the brand-name product in television, the brand was now allowed
as a plot point, and it was so successful that NBC looked the other way. NBC has never
admitted that money was paid for placements on Seinfeld but other sources stated this, either
way Seinfeld set the stage for TV- shows to use funds from enthusiastic brands during the rest
of the 90´s23.
There are too many examples to cover in this report, but beside of Seinfeld we want to
mention the sitcoms like Friends, Sex & the City and the action-series 24.
“Friends” are like Seinfeld a sitcom set in a traditionally apartment with many possibilities’
to show brands in kitchen scenes etc. Like Seinfeld it was a huge success, and of course there
was some product placement. Intentional or not product placement exists in Friends. For
instance Rachel Green works at Ralph Lauren, which is included in the plot in several
episodes. The real Ralph Lauren even did a cameo in one episode. A devious evidence of
product placement in Friends is this picture from the DVD-box. The box of Oreos was not on
the table when the episode aired on NBC. It was added digitally when the show was released
on DVD and in syndication, thus exposing millions more eyes to the product4.
The action series “24” (2001) also contains a lot of product placement, but instead of
designer handbags it preferably show technical gadgets like cell phones and computer, from
Motorola Cisco, Apple etc. The plot gives a lot of opportunities to show the star Jack Bauer
speaking on a cell phone, receiving or sending information by technical gadgets or the agents
on CTU working on their computer terminals. In the ongoing 7th season is apparently Jack
Bauer using a cell phone from Sprint Nextel5.
Product placement in James Bond and other blockbuster movies
Besides the success of ET and Seinfeld, the most well-known example of product placement
is off course the James Bond – franchise. The movies has always been an arena to show new
car models, technical gadgets etc, but in the first decades most of the gadget where just
fantasy toys. No one could imagine a future consumer market for GPS in cars, mobile phones
with the ability to send text, pictures or even movies. In the 90´s was consumer technology
almost at the same levels as the imagine gadgets from the 60´s.
The turning point for product placement / cross-promotion was revival of the franchise with
“GoldenEye” 1995 with Pierce Brosnan. In the beginning there is a promotion for Bollinger
Champagne placed in the classic Bond car Austin Martin. According to Bollinger they got the
longest-running brand marketing partnership In film history, began with the 1979´s
Moonraker1. Doctor Mary Galician says GoldenEye shifted everything to a whole new level
of what could be done in promotion. BMW spent $3 million for the right to replace Bond's
Aston Martin with its new Z3 Roadster model and to use the film to launch the vehicle
internationally2. Another sponsor was Omega, and 007 have ever since this Goldeneye
wearing an Omega Watch. Still according to a study by Millward Brown over 80 % of
consumers still believe Bond wears a Rolex like he does in the most of the series as well as in
the original novels by Ian Flemming3.
The sequel “Tomorrow Never Dies” 1997 was criticized for being to commercial, $160
million was spent in fees and marketing support from 20 different advertisers. That led the
marketers to be more cautious (for a while) about use to many promotional partners in a
single movie4. It is number eight on Business Week´s Hall of fame of product placement5.
Brands like Visa card, BMW cars and motorcycles, Smirnoff vodka, Omega watches etc and
off course Ericsson cell phones is included in the script. Tomorrow Never Dies is famous for
the obvious placement scene where 007 use a Ericsson cell phone to remote control his
BMW. Although Ericsson admits the placement was not as thoughtful, they continued their
involvement in the movies and entertainment6. Especially after the 2001 joint venture with
Sony, a mayor company in the video-game industry and owner of MGM; the studio who
produce movies like James Bond.
In the last Pierce Brosnan-film “Die Another Day” 2002 set a new record for product
placement, with $120 million worth of deals with 24 various companies. Ford spent $35
million on promotions to return Bond to an Aston Martin (Vanquish) and feature other Ford
cars. Other visible brands are Bollinger, Finlandia, Kodak, Sony Ericsson, British Airways
etc. (Visa filmklipp). The magazine 007 is reading is the real in-flight magazine for British
Airways. Called “High Life”, the Air Hostess is in real life the daughter of the former Bond
With the second revival of the franchise with “Casino Royale” 2006, the companies were
even more eager to participate. It was a huge anticipation for this movie, both on the new lead
Daniel Craig as well on the script based on the first novel by Ian Flemming. The entire plot
revolves around a card game, but instead of the classic game Baccarat as in the novel the
script was updated to the modern trend of Texas Hold´Em Poker. Although there was no
unique involvement by the on line poker industry they all benefitted from the high interest in
poker at the time.
The tone was much more realistic than previous movies, no room for fantasy gadgets from Q
Branch. Instead 007 where equipped with the latest technology from Sony Ericsson, the
camera cell phones K800 and the e-mail cell model M600. The marketing director of Sony
Ericsson Jan Wäreby was pleased to see their models play an important role in the movie, and
certainly use that in their promotion1. Other significant brands where Smirnoff vodka for the
supposed “Shaked not stirred”-line that actually wasn´t included.
For this movie they decrease the number of brands. It was a conscious decision by Sony
Pictures Entertainment, they looked for a fewer brands that would make a larger commitment
to the movie; Sony, Omega Watches, Heineken, Ford etc. This more creative brand approach
reflected the trend of the audience getting tired of unmotivated placement where the brand
where just a prop. Beside the product placement in the movie Sony used co-promotianal
partnership. Everything from screensavers, deck of cards, videogames where sold with the
Casino Royale logo2. According to Frak Zazzo; chief executive of product placement
evaluation fir iTVX there´s a risk with this strategy. The audience getting tired for the movie
in advance if they feel that is an in-your-face advertisement. British Airways reprise their
support from Die another Day. However some plane in the movie was actually supply by the
competitor Virgin Atlantic, and Sir Richard Branson got a cameo with Bond. British Airways
did not like that all, and got the scene removed as well as obscure the tail fin with the Virgin
The sequel “Quantum of Solace” 2008 extended the product placement even further. Where
traditional lines like “shaken not stirred” where deleted the tradition of letting Bond be the
hardest advertising sponsored action hero continued. According to Product Placement News
the product placement deals have earned the producers £50 million. This surpasses the
previous record from with £44 million in “Die Another Day”4.
The product placement this time is shown brands like Aston Martin, Omega, Heineken,
Smirnoff, Ford, Sony, Sony Ericsson, and the very non Bond beverage of Coca-Cola. This
time the Airline Ocean Sky lent of its aircraft to the studio and appeared eight times as a
Unethical Product Placement?
After reading articles on the internet, watching movies and movie clips we can see the
controversial topic that product placement is. Most often product placement isn’t anything we
viewers realize or even notice in movies. When you view a movie and just searching for
examples of product placement it will surprise you how much there really is. Sometimes the
brands can be seen too much in movies and sometimes the movies makers contribute to
unethical product placement. Peter Canello president for Inbetween Entertainement has as we
see it crossed that thin line between what’s good and bad product placement at least one time
during his years. As we mentioned earlier in the movie “Hamilton” the Norwegian petrol
company Statoil worked together with Peter and he reluctantly admits that Statoil was seen
too much in the movie6.
After empirical studies of the movie “Dirty Harry” (1971) we saw a tasteless example of
product placement where Clint Eastwood´s character “Dirty Harry” stated the following
quote: “But being as this is a 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and
would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?
Well, do ya, punk?1”The gun model 44 Magnum wasn’t that popular on the market until the
movie Dirty Harry was shown in 1971. It went from an unpopular model to an enormous
success on the market23. The movie “U.S. Marshals” (1998), there is a scene that shows when
Tommy Lee Jones say to Robert Downey Jr: ''Get yourself a Glock. Lose that nickel-plated
sissy pistol4.'' Even Guns get product placement as in the example of Dirty Harry that showed
the impact of such product placement you must get disappointed at the movie industry.
Regarding unethical Product Placement, in 2008 the US National Cancer Institute made a
study that concluded that non-smoking teens whose favourite stars frequently smoke on
screen are 16% more likely to have positive attitude to smoking in the future and more
important they concluded that exposure to smoking in movies means that non-smoking
children is four times more likely to start smoking. The tobacco industry has thru the years
been seen in TV and at cinemas. When advertising of tobacco was banned in 1970, tobacco
companies turned to Hollywood for help. The moviemakers started to place their brands in the
movies without people knowing it and still do so. They know that product placement means
more cigarettes sold5. According to Daniel Fierman writer for EW approximately 60 percent
of Hollywood films contain at least one firearm and that they are almost always
recongnizable. Laura Burgess, spokesperson for SIG Arms Inc says: "Like any product, you
can't control its representation in film. I could be selling ketchup — and believe me, you can
do pretty obscene things with ketchup6."