Advertisements are everywhere. It’s not an exaggeration when I say that wherever we look, we see ads. Product placement is an awesome example of exactly that: even while giving into our Netflix addiction or while watching your favourite TV show on the actual TV (oldschool, I know), we are getting brainwashed by commerce. Now, product placement is not a new phenomenon, but the tactics are getting sneakier and sneakier every day. Let’s look at what product placement does with us, and some awesome examples.

What is product placement, and why does it work?

I learned something in class once that stuck with me: imagine being in a café and having a conversation with someone, and totally focussing on what they are saying. Suddenly we hear our name being mentioned in a conversation that is not yours- it’s across the room. Immediately our focus is shifted and we are listening to that other conversation. How is it that we could focus on one conversation, yet still pick up signs from another? Well, that’s because our brain picks up pretty much everything that goes on around us. So even though you think you are only receiving information from one conversation, your brain is programmed to listen to everything that goes on around you. When something striking happens near you, it just switches its attention to something else.

You’re probably asking yourself what in god’s name I am dragging on and on about. Well, it’s actually quite interesting that our brain processes everything that goes on around us. That means that the things we don’t consciously see, we actually do see – we just process them differently. And – like with every other tiny chance they get – marketers are playing with this feature of our head. It’s called product placement: the subtle placement of a product in something we like watching. So yes, that means that if you went to see Deadpool, you saw a little IKEA advertising (that one was not very subtle, but genius nonetheless), or when you watched modern family, you were being persuaded to try Oreo cookies. The brainwashing never stops!

deadpool                      IKEA’s product placement in Deadpool: a blind lady trying to understand the instructions. Photo credit:

It’s is absolutely genius though, when it’s done in the right (subtle!) way. Here are some awesome examples:

The good

Now, there are tons of examples of good product placements. To give you just a few:

  • Ford in New Girl
  • Coca-Cola in American Idol
  • Ray-Ban in Risky Business
  • Apple in Modern Family
  • Blackberry in House of Cards
oreo modern family                        Oreo in Modern Family. Photo credit: 

It is, however, more fun to look at the outstanding examples in more detail. So keep reading!

The better

The name is Bond – James bond. And he loves himself a Heineken. Not only Heineken, but also Aston Martin have been really clever product placements in the James Bond series. The Aston Martin has practically become THE care associated with James Bond – at least it has in my eyes. That means that if we like James Bond, we automatically also tend to love Aston Martin cars.

aston                        Photo credits:

Heineken took it a step further. Besides being mentioned in the movie, the brand actually designed a bunch of commercial in the James Bond theme – with Bond himself! That’s masterly.

The best

The absolute best product placement – in my opinion – was in back to the future. Nike and Pepsi both showed futuristic products that ruled the world until the actual future: 2015. Nike actually lived up to the challenge and launched their back to the future items, as did Pepsi! To me, that is what you call ultimate product placement. Genius!

pepsi nike

Photo credits:

A mindtwister

Lastly, a mindtwister for you guys. Now, this is one of my favourite commercials EVER, it’s just hilariously well thought-out. But is it product placement or not? It’s kind of a reversed situation: Volkwagen (a brand) is showing Star Wars references (a media production) in their ad. Hmm, confusing. What do you guys think? Let me know in a comment!

Author: Kim van der Vliet