Mac and Me
Most of you won’t remember this poor man’s E.T. rip off, but it is a terrible, terrible film, an abomination filled with the most obvious product placement in movie history. Now, for those of you who have not seen this work of art, it involves a young boy in a wheelchair who comes across an Alien who has lost his parents. This is where the product placement starts; the alien can only eat Skittles and drink Coke. Seriously? But the most egregious product placement comes when there is an inexplicable five minute dance scene at McDonald’s for no apparent reason. Watch for yourself below:
Now, I mentioned this film before because it is pretty bad. But I did not go into detail about the shocking amount of product placement. For those of you who don’t know, the film is about an autistic boy who is a savant at video games, and his brother, and their journey to the video game championships in which he has to play Super Mario Brothers 3. Along the way, they come across a bully with the power glove and a cute redhead, who I had a crush on when I was younger. Now it seems that Nintendo attempted to throw in every product that they had into this movie. Watch for clips of Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, and of course Super Mario Brothers 3. Not only that, but for some reason the kids have a ten minute chase scene through Universal Studios.
The Last Dragon
Now this was the first and only movie made by Motown, and although it was supposed to be a martial arts film. It played more like a platform for Motown artists to be displayed, including parts of the video for “Rhythm of the Night” by none other than the legendary El Debarge. Meanwhile, simply because it was necessary they decided to throw in a plot as well. So in comes Bruce Leroy (played by the immortal Taimak) and his journey to find “the one master”, and love, in the form of Vanity (everyone remember her?). But before he can, he has to defeat his arch enemy Shonuf (the shogun of Harlem). At the end of the day he finds that he is the master, he gets the girl, defeats Shonuf and catches a bullet with his teeth (yes, a bullet with his teeth). Meanwhile during most scenes, you have Motown songs being played, and yes Vanity was a Motown artist. Simply shameless.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the line between “product placement” and “feature-film advertisement” is crossed. Or if films tied in with, say, toy lines, are product placements, legit attempts at filmmaking, or full-length feature ads?
If people thought that E.T. (1982) was shameless in promoting Reese’s Pieces, they haven’t seen how Mac and Me (1988) could whore Skittles, Coca-Cola (it saves aliens), McDonald’s (one of the most “what the fuck” scenes in movie history), and Sears.
Then there are feature-length film adverts like The Wizard (1989) and The Garbage Pail Kids (1987) is another example of a film-long advertisement for a product line. There’s also a film that’s literally titled The Coca-Cola Kid (1985). Top Gun (1986) was a feature film advertisement for the US Air Force and Navy, and it boosted sales for Ray Ban Aviators and Bomber jackets. Transformers (2007). I honestly think the ’80s had the most blatant product whoring.
Anyway, here are a few more:
– Demolition Man (1993) — Taco Bell (in the future, the only one to survive the fast food wars is Taco Bell)
– Back to the Future (1985) — Pepsi, among others
– James Bond films
– Cast Away (2000) — FedEx
– Zombieland (2009) — Twinkie
– Happy Gilmore (1996) — Subway
– Surf Ninjas (1993) — Sega Game Gear
And the list goes on…
Awesome points, all of them, especially about Top Gun. I did have a question though: what is the difference between “product placement” and “feature film advertisement”?
“Feature film advertisement” isn’t actually a term, or at least, one that I know is of widespread use. It’s basically my way of saying that the film, for its entire running time, is an advert for a certain service/product. Top Gun (1986), for example, didn’t plug the US Air Force/US Navy once or a few times over the course of the film; it literally was a film designed to showcase them. This is opposed to, say, Pepsi in Back to the Future (1985), which I believe was plugged a few times over the course of the series, but I wouldn’t say the film was designed to showcase the brand.
This is why I posed the question when product placement becomes just a long running ad.
Bottom line is that companies make the effort to put their products in things that sell. Recent product placements, just like Bruce’s, can be seen all the time.
The Lost World Jurassic Park: Nikon, and Mercedes Benz
IronMan: Burger King
Transformers: Mountain Dew, Chevy, Ford, Pontiac etc.
I, Robot: Audi
Talladega Nights: Wonder bread, Old Spice, Nascar racing
However, i don’t mind the idea of the “Faux product placement” as we’ve seen in various Quentin Tarantino films like: Red Apple Cigarettes, Jack Rabbit Slim’s Restaurants and Big Kahuna Burger.
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