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Monday, February 13, 2012

Product placement gets the red carpet treatment

A scene from the 2011 action film "Fast Five" features a prominently placed Apple computer. Apple won website Brandchannel's award for Overall Product Placement at the Product Placement Awards.

Apple the best at placement, but they do not pay for it. Their product is used and sometimes provided free to the set for "use" behind the scenes and on-camera.

Kai Ryssdal: Watch any movie today, and you shouldn't be surprised to see the occasional brand pop up here and there. Some, of course, are worse than others. But imagine a movie without a recognizable car model, or a computer whose make you can't name. Come on. It ain't gonna happen. The web magazine Brandchannel tracks product placement and brand cameos in each of the year's top films. And their annual Product Placement Awards, which came out today at, lists the year's winners. Abe Sauer writes the awards for Brandchannel. And he joins us now. Hey Abe.

Abe Sauer: Good to be here.

Ryssdal: All right, so before we get to the big winners, tell me how you guys figure out who the winners are?

Sauer: For the last decade we've been watching each one of the No. 1 films at the box office each weekend and tracking all of the identifiable brands and product placements in each one of those films and then adding to a searchable database by brand, film, year, and everything.

Ryssdal: Do you actually have to like go to the movie theater and sit there with a pad and a pencil?
Sauer: Absolutely. It's sometimes awkward because people wonder what you're writing about and you're by yourself. This last week I went and saw "The Vow" by myself with a notebook. That's kind of creepy.

Ryssdal: It's a fun date, man. All right, so who are the winners? Roll it out for us.

Sauer: The No. 1 product that appeared in more of the U.S. top films last year than any other was Apple.

Ryssdal: Shocking. Shocking.

Sauer: Yeah, Apple appeared in almost twice as many No. 1 films as did the nearest brand.

Ryssdal: Now let me ask you this: Other than tapping into the, 'Oh my gosh, everybody loves Apple' zeitgeist, why do producers want Apple or Ford or whatever it is in their movie?

Sauer: Well there's a number of reasons. First, Apple has a very good... They don't pay for product placement, but they have a very good system.

Ryssdal: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. I thought the whole thing about product placement was that companies paid movie producers to use their stuff?

Sauer: I think that's what everybody thinks. But the vast majority of product placement, actually, there's no money changing hands really I would say. Apple has a good infrastructure for getting products to sets so that people can use it for free, so I guess Apple does pay in the sense that they supply free product. But the truth is a lot of products are used as shorthand in development for characters on-screen in ways that audiences don't always see. When you put a man in a 911 Porsche in a movie, it usually means he's a jerk.

Ryssdal: Remind me never to buy a 911.

Sauer: Look at "Bridesmaids." In "Bridesmaids" this last year, he drove a Porsche and he was a jerk. And usually you will find that. Screenwriters and filmmakers use product as short-hand for character development very often.

Ryssdal: Is there a way to figure out, then, how much this is worth to Apple or whoever else it is?
Sauer: Valuation is still a hard thing to do in the industry, and there are different systems to do it. We worked this year for the first time with a group called Front Row Marketing and they came up with some big numbers. "Mission Impossible" for example, the value of the Apple product placement in that film was over $23 million.

Ryssdal: Wow.

Sauer: And it spent more than five minutes on the screen all put together throughout the film.

Ryssdal: And of course, it's not like Apple needs another $23 million.

Sauer: Well, I mean that's the thing. Here they're getting free placement and they don't have to advertise. That's $23 million of, kind of, advertising value that they get.

Ryssdal: Abe Sauer, he writes the Product Placement Awards for the website Abe, thanks a lot.

Sauer: Thank you very much.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy. Follow Kai on Twitter @kairyssda


Brandon Harrington said...

I found this article very interesting. I actually thought that the movies and/or tv shows had to pay the companies to use their products in the movie. I thought this because i've seen shows and/or movies where they would go out of their way to cover up brands. Well I learned something new today!

Anonymous said...

Apple isnt loosing anything. They get allt his free publicity and these actors and people on the set are using apple products. But when you really look at it the consumers pay for it. An Iphone costs a few hundrend and the cheapest ipad is 500.00, and who doesnt love apple products. We all want them.

Angela Mains
Com101 HN 4080

Anonymous said...

Apple products are built to last, user centered, have enough memory and guts from the start and come with programs. They are used on the sets of films, tv shows, in recording studios and in the arts. It's a better overall product for the money. To be that Apple has to cost on the high end, but compare same features, speed and programming (built in) and the machines are cheaper than their bargain basement low priced competition.