We’ve compiled a list of the films most guilty of product placement… have we missed any? Let us know via Twitter!
10. Up In The Air
Jason Reitman’s 2009 Oscar contender just creeps into this list. The produt placement for Hilton Hotels and, in particular, American Airlines is pretty egregious. The life goal of George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham is to reach 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles and is a central conceit and device in his character’s arc. Potential ludicrousness is tempered somewhat by the fact it isn’t always a positive product placement, but American Airlines (and Hilton Hotels) still signed off on their involvement in the film.
9. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
It seems that E.T. has a bit of a taste for branded chocolate – who knew? Steven Spielberg did, apparently, and he also arguably gave rise to every other film in this list. An early example of product placement, Elliot uses Reese’s Pieces to lure E.T. and sales of the candy sky-rocketed as a result. Although pretty blatant, at least it wasn’t quite as bad as some of the films higher on the list.
It’s small in the case of Spidey, but so unnecessary it must make an appearance. For years, bad and good guys alike practised their sharp-shooting on bottles and cans – but that isn’t good enough for Peter Parker. No, he requires a refreshing can of Dr. Pepper to test his new web-slinging ways. We even get a close up to show us just how accurate he is, even if the film itself is way off the mark.
7. You’ve Got Mail
There was a time in the 1990’s when you couldn’t get away from AOL – and this romantic comedy only added to this. The title is so evocative of rubbish internet providers it makes you want to go back to snail mail. Throughout the film you are left in no doubt as to the enablers of Tom and Meg’s budding anonymous romance. You’ve got the message – use AOL or you’ll die alone as your computer makes a horrible whining dial-up noise.
6. Real Steel
Although nothing remarkable, Real Steel proved to be a decently put together film – but yet another that featured silly product placement. Between ridiculous adverts for the non-existent (at the time anyway…) Xbox 720 and HP-branded tablet computers all over the shop, no one missed a trick. Worst of all, however, is another segment for our friends over at Dr. Pepper (see entry #8), when our lovable child hero downs what must be two dozen cans of the stuff. It’s also unclear why, given Dr. Pepper tastes like cherry coke that has had a tramp’s feet pickled in it.
5. Blade Trinity
Blade Trinity: Made in Hollywood, designed by Apple in California. This is what it should have said on the DVD box of this film, a film that should have been presented in a plain white box. Jessica Biel is so hip she ‘makes playlists’ before she vampire-hunts. Compiled for her iPod, on a MacBook in iTunes of course. Short of making the fight scenes silhouettes on coloured backgrounds, this couldn’t be much closer to an Apple advert.
4. Casino Royale
Although undoubtedly a bruising return to form for the Bond franchise, the reboot is littered with so much Sony crap that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into a Sony retail store. However, when Bond isn’t too busy ringing people on his Sony Ericsson phone, searching on his Sony Vaio laptop or watching something on a Sony Bravia TV, he is at pains to point out he’s wearing an Omega watch rather than a Rolex. When he jumps into his Ford Mondeo (that’s right, Bond is now the classic Mondeo man stereotype), the whole shot is so laughably like an advert you might spit Heineken all over yourself (Bond’s tipple of choice in the upcoming Skyfall, what’s this martini nonsense?).
It turns out all other alien invasion films were wrong. The greatest weapon we have against extra-terrestrial invaders is not guns, lasers, our human cunning or Ellen Ripley. It’s Head & Shoulders shampoo. Well, selenium sulphide, at any rate – an active ingredient in the anti-dandruff product – which, in the ‘plot’, was poisonous to the rapidly evolving life forms. Compounded by the advert shot at the end by the characters, as a rather misjudged piece of meta-advertising, acute dandruff problems and alien overlords would be preferable to sitting through it again.
Michael Bay’s dross-fest only makes number two purely because you don’t really expect much else from him. The entire Transformers franchise is, after all, product placement for the Hasbro toy range. Whilst the Transformers director maybe has a slight point when he says that there ‘are products in everything in everyday life’, that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING must be branded in your film, Micky. Do we need a close up on Panasonic memory cards? The recognisable car brands are also rather transparently the ‘good guys’. Whilst there is one more cringe-worthy example, Transformers is a prime example of a director who has sold his soul.
1. I, Robot
The undisputed heavyweight king of terrible product placement, with an ad in practically every frame of the opening reel. Although not too bad a film, the screen is fit to burst with products available in the present day (the film is set in 2035), simultaneously annoying you and desecrating a classic sci-fi novel. Audi, FedEx and JVC all feature heavily. The absolute worst, though? When Will Smith’s Detective Spooner slaps his shiny new Converse trainers on and drones ‘Converse All-Star, vintage 2004’ you lose all respect for this film… which was released, you guessed it, in 2004.