Product Placement in “Something Borrowed”

Saturday night at a wedding reception I was speaking with a guy who said he had just seen the movie “Something Borrowed” with Kate Hudson, John Krasinski, and Ginnifer Goodwin. He said it was very clear that during the first 20 minutes, as he put it, “the movie was made possible by Heineken, the official beer of this movie.” He said the product placement was overwhelming. I laughed, recalling that in my New Media Market Dynamics class we recently discussed the fact that advertisers are having a heck of a time getting in front of people like they used to. The DVR has helped make it possible to skip ads and advertisers have been trying to reassert their power with the ‘non-skip’ ads in the beginning of movies but I think advertisements are at the cusp of resurging with a vengeance their appearances in shows and movies.

Creative Loafing Atlanta also humorously recognized the “Something Borrowed” product placement faux pas.

According to the book C-Scape by Larry Kramer, the show Mad Men is a great example of this. “It was not widely known, for example, until the third season of AMC’s hit Mad Men, a drama about a fictional 1960s advertising agency, that the show not only referred to 1960s brands as part of its period storyline, but also contained products placements negotiated by still-extant brands. These included London Fog coats and Stolichnaya vodka. The endorsements by characters were sometimes explicit: in one scene, agency head Roger Sterling (played by John Slattery) not only names the brand of vodka he chooses, but he also denies it to an out-of-favor junior account agent, saying ‘Not the Stoli!’ Yet both the show’s producers and the representatives played down the use of product placements. A representative for London Fog told that the company’s PR agency had facilitated the brand’s placement, yet wouldn’t reveal what compensation the show received. Andrey Skurikhin, a partner at SPI Group, which owns the Stoli brand, stated that he didn’t pay for placement. And the AMC network’s president and general manager, Charlie Collier, refused to provide any information to Brandweek about advertisements built into the show. ‘We absolutely have product integration on the show,’ he explained, ‘but you shouldn’t know which ones are paid and which ones aren’t.'”

Many people (myself included) find this kind of subliminal (or not so subliminal) selling to be disingenuous and sly. But how does the film industry strike a balance between depicting real life with real products and “in your face” product placement? Does the difference lie in how long the camera stays on the product? Or how the product is used?

Admittedly, I tolerate the show The Ultimate Fighter with the whole ad integration of “This fight brought to you by Burger King or Edge Shave Gel” and it is a perfect example of sponsors forcing your attention. But I have the ability to mute the TV and look away, don’t I?

Early in television history commercials were often performed by the actors and actresses from the shows being sponsored. Sometimes the shows would mention the sponsor brand in the course of the episode, too. From my own perspective it seemed as if the movies and shows of the 1980s were heavily loaded with products ala “E.T.” (Reeses Pieces). The “Wayne’s World” movie poked fun at overt product placement in a parody but I can think of several other movies that leaned towards brands pretty heavily: “The Italian Job” (Mini Cooper), “Transporter 3” (Audi A8), “Matrix Reloaded (Cadillac, Ducati)…and the list goes on and on. Expect to see more obvious product placement in films as advertisers attempt to do all they can to re-gain the attention of ad-skippin’ consumers.

More Resources:

The 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History

The 10 Worst Movies for Product Placement

Apple Dominates Movie Product Placement

Product Placement Rules Defined by Ofcom

Seduced by Package Design

I’m often seduced by package designs. I’m a pushover for unexpected curves, thematic details, and bold design decisions. The M.O. of Apple (as in stock symbol AAPL) is that all of their iCandy products have a seductive minimalistic design, but great design doesn’t always have to be stark and simple. I see great package design everywhere… especially in liquor stores. I’m drawn to the creative shapes and incredibly effective designs that wine labels and vodka bottles have. I could dedicate a whole blog post to genius wine labels alone. That’s another day. Right now, here are a few designs I like:

With one sinister broken fork tine, it just says "Thanksgiving". I'd get a case of this to last for holidays to come.

A shape you can slip into a bookcase or briefcase or into your local library's night drop slot.

A bit phallic, but also a bit bong-ish...naughty all around and possibly a straight man repellent.

Aside from my liquor bottle fetish, I also really find perfume bottles to be objects of desire, looking sharp and pointy or jewel-like. Again, I could do a whole post on perfume bottles. (Digression: when I was four I would ask my Grandma if I could put on some of her “pume” – she always had a respectable and varied selection in her boudoir.) Well, here are a couple of my “pume” package design faves:

DKNY Be Delicious. I want to eat this. Keep away from children.

I've never found the antidote nor lost my love of the occasional dose of Poison.

This didn't have a name, but the peacock side of it catches my eye. It reminds me of looking and playing with marbles as a kid. Those were wonderous and youthful days.

Like a breakable lily pad, this one is pretty sparkly, and it may cut you with its sharpness. But there's so much would so be worth it.

But my package fascination happens with other items, too. I used to be enamored with Fiji’s square water bottle, but I would betray that design for this one by Evian, however impractical and heavy…and space-hogging:

Drinking water was never so hard to accomplish. Try not to drop it on your foot.

Per, the following design was concept packaging created for Adidas by a Capilano University college student named Jenny Kim and I totally dig it.

These promise to make me fast. Fast like a Solid Gold dancer.

Same with makeup. I sometimes can be made to buy makeup because it just looks so damn good. I don’t currently own these, but I would if they were within eyeshot:

Well behaved women rarely make history...or sexed up package designs ; )

Fred Faruggia makeup. This would be either FUN or a NIGHTMARE to use.

Made by a Brazilian cosmetics company (Ducha) I'm not even sure what these are, but they look fun.

There are just so many great designs out there, I feel like I don’t even know where to begin. I guess this post will have to be one in a series of posts highlighting great design.
Other recommended package design-related sites:

Veerle’s Blog

Packaging Diva



Packaging of the World