Movies are a tough business, no doubt about it, and they sure do cost a pretty penny. This means that in order for a lot of movies to get made, they might have to accept payment from companies and brands in return for incorporating a product into the finished film. It’s just one of those things, and most of the time filmmakers manage to incorporate product placement without drawing too much attention away from whats going on – some even manage to use it to their favour to create laughs (Wayne’s World, for example). However, that’s not always the case, and more and more films are being accused of laziness in this area – Jurassic World this Summer felt at times like an extended ad break. I have compiled a list of five hilarious instances of product placement:
CASTAWAY – FEDEX
This one is an honourable mention due to the fact that FedEx didn’t actually pay for the extended appearance in Robert Zemeckis Castaway. The film, starring Tom Hanks, follows the story of a time-obsessed FedEx delivery man who fights for survival on a desert island after a delivery fight for, you guessed it, FedEx crashes. The company logo features pretty heavily throughout and the service is essential to the plot, leading many to deduce that FedEx must have paid a huge sum for such extensive product placement. However, this was not actually the case – Zemeckis has publicly stated that it was he that approached FedEx rather than the other way around, believing that an authentic logo was essential to the overall realism of the film. Interestingly enough, FedEx were in fact initially dubious about the film due to the fact that it featured one of their planes crashing.
5 – SAN ANDREAS – PEPSI
San Andreas is hilarious in a lot of ways, very few of them intentional, but the product placement is without a doubt one of the highlights amongst the madness. The film is a disaster movie which appears to exist only to allow director Brad Peyton to live out all his childhood fantasies and let Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson flex those gigantic muscles – there are explosions, earthquakes and tsunamis galore, so just where they would manage to fit in an advert for Pepsi was always going to be problematic. Yet manage it they do, with Paul Giamatti’s Dr. Lawrence Hayes taking a nice long sip of Diet Pepsi before going about finding out about that pesky earthquake, as you do. Even more hilariously, this is not the only example of blatant product placement in the film – there is also an excellent shot near the beginning where we see dozens of Apple logos light up on students macbook in a crowded lecture hall – the height of subtlety.
4 – WORLD WAR Z – PEPSI
Pepsi seem to love placing their product into films where it makes little sense, with Coca-Cola’s main rival also showing up in zombie thriller World War Z back in 2013. It seems that any character in a film that is going to be required to deal with some form of disaster just has to have a few glugs of Pepsi goodness before they can continue on their way – even if you’re Brad Pitt. It’s hilarious in the same way that San Andreas is in that it is just flat out ridiculous and only succeeds in totally bringing you out of the film for a couple of minutes as you try to get your head around how weird it all is.
3 – THE LEGO MOVIE – LEGO
This one manages to be both hilarious and clever, surprising everyone in the process. The Lego Movie became one of 2014’s biggest success stories – based on the building block toys, directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord managed to make a film that was inventive, wacky and above all else, entertaining with a heartfelt message. This is no mean feat for a kids film, but its all the more impressive when you consider that the film is really just one long advert for Lego, with sales reportedly going up by 11% in the wake of the films release and a sequel in the pipeline. Now that’s product placement done right.
2 – ZOMBIELAND – TWINKIES
Product placement works best when it is either natural to the surroundings or incorporated into the plot in a way that doesn’t feel overly intrusive, usually in the form of a joke or gag. Zombieland pulls this off perfectly, with Woody Harrelson’s character “Tallahassee” being obsessed with Twinkies. The character is on a quest to find them, and that moment when he gloriously fulfils his dream probably had all of America hankering for the sweet yellow treat. The joke is funny, but also feels organic to the overall tone of the film and is a great example of how to pull off product placement without compromising the finished film.
Side Note: Zombieland also nailed cameos – Bill Murray, anyone?
1 – ANYTHING MICHAEL BAY IS INVOLVED IN
Michael Bay isn’t a director known for his sophistication, so it can hardly be a surprise that the guy appears to be a pretty big fan of the old product placement. How else is he going to fund the increasingly ludicrous explosion extravaganzas he calls films? There was X-Box in The Island, Burger King in Transformers, but Michael Bay was officially awarded for his contribution to the big business that is product placement earlier this year. The Bandcameo product placement awards (yes, it’s a real thing) deemed Transformers: Age of Extinction the film with the most product placements in the past year, with a staggering 55 separate brands being featured throughout. 55. The film ran for a ridiculously bloated 165 minutes, but how they still managed to fit FIFTY-FIVE different brands in a film about robots and Mark Wahlberg is a mystery. It’s hilarious because if you didn’t laugh you would probably weep at the fact that this guy continues to make films and that they continue to make millions.
What are your favourite moments of hilarious product placement? Let me know in the comments section!