The Worst Movie Product Placements Of All Time
I’d buy that for a dollar !
Product Placement is – whether we like it or not – is a crucial part of Hollywood filmmaking and a vital tool for films to increase their budgets through brand exposure. It’s for this reason that most of us have become accustomed to the odd lingering shot or even a line of dialogue making reference to a product. The problem is when product placement is so blatant and poorly implemented that it ruins the credibility or dramatic impact of the film itself.
There’s been many films which have managed to successfully pull off product placement in a clever way. Take Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner for instance. Its neon hazed dystopian future was populated with huge towering Coca Cola, TDK and Atari adverts. There’s no subtlety, but Scott uses the ads as a tool to ground its depiction of the future in reality – with familiar products making the world both alien and alarmingly real.
Or there’s the superb TV drama Mad Men, which uses a variety of real products as plot specific accounts for the members of Sterling Cooper advertising agency.
Then there’s those which have poked fun at product placement – most famously a classic scene from Wayne’s World – in which the whole notion of product placement is poked fun at. Likewise, The Truman Show satirized the notion of product placement in TV and film, with its fictional actors contractually obliged to clunkily promote products live on air, often directly to a confused Truman (Jim Carrey).
But it‘s when product placement is so offensively blatant that it has the potential to ruin both the audiences engagement and the credibility of the film itself.
Here’s just some of the worst offenders, featuring the clumsiest and most shameful product placement of all time.
Happy Gilmore/Adam Sandler (1996)
Happy Gilmore stuffs some form of advertising into almost every shot, thanks to its professional sports setting. Billboards for Pepsi, Budweiser and Honda can be seen regularly – but theres one particularly shameful instance that forms a crucial plot point.
Strapped for cash and needing it quickly, Gilmore (Sandler) signs a deal with soggy sandwich purveyors Subway, appearing in an advert full of marketing quotes (“Talk about a hole in one!”) and a mugging Sandler – becoming essentially, an actual advertisement slapped into the middle of the movie. Just incase this ad wasn’t enough to make you crave one of Subway’s sandwiches, Gilmore sports a Subway T-Shirt for what seems like the entire remainder of the movie.
Adam Sandler is a repeat offender too, with nearly all of his films featuring shameless and illogical product placement, shoed in with complete disregard for anything other than the potential moolah. Little Nicky is perhaps just as bad as Happy Gilmore with its constant plugging of Popeyes fried chicken – with Sandler himself stating at one point that “Popeye’s chicken is fuckin’ awesome!”…..
We’ll take your word for it.
Cast Away (2000)
Robert Zemekis’ Cast Away is a moving story of survival in the face of adversity. After miraculously living through a horrifically realistic plane crash, Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks) must adapt to life alone on a seemingly idyllic but desolate and dangerous undiscovered island.
Powerful, gripping and heart-wrenching, Cast Away is an unforgettable journey into one mans struggle to recapture the life he once had.
It’s also a feature length advert for Fed-Ex.
Through wind, rain and even plane crashes – Fed-Ex will always deliver your package…. 5 years late, but better late then never eh ?
There’s also the infamous Volleyball buddy Wilson, which is named after the sporting company that produced the spherical friend. When he went back home he developed a whole new set of friends – Dunlop the tennis ball and Slazenger the racket.
Sam Raimi’s first feature based on the web-slinging adventures of Peter Parker was an 100% certified hit for Sony, resulting in a bombardment of lingering shots for a variety of products. The most jarring being a close up shot of a can of Dr.Pepper, as Parker tests out his web slinging abilities in his own bedroom.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg though, as this early moment is followed by an entire sequence which features a mysteriously prominent Carlsberg beer truck. Are they involved in Uncle Ben’s death too ?
Later on there’s a dominance of billboards for companies like Samsung and Budweiser, while even Sony’s Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Macy Gray herself turns up – trying to flog a few albums during a Green Goblin attack.
This sci-fi comedy would be instantly forgettable if it wasn’t for a clunky plot crucial piece of product placement and the disturbing sight of David Duchovny’s bare arse. Ever wondered how Head & Shoulders is so effective at stopping dandruff ? Thanks to Evolution the truth is finally revealed.
It just so turns out that its active ingredient is so powerful that it can kill off the alien threat of the movie and therefore is also likely to also cause baldness – so be warned.
Revolving the entire third act around the shampoo isn’t enough for Evolution, and its final scene features the three heroes of the film actually doing an advert for Head & Shoulders, I shit you not.
Michael Bay is fearless when it comes to product placement – nearly all of his films featuring blatant advertising at every turn. Transformers is perhaps the most shameless, with the Transformers themselves serving a duel marketing purpose.
Not only are they advertising the spin-off toys, but the permanently shiny cars themselves, like the Chevrolet Camaro being used for for the autobot Bumblebee.
Shia Labeouf spends a significant amount of his time selling items on Ebay, and at one point an Xbox 360 console can be seen transforming and attacking its unsuspecting owner – bringing whole new meaning to the term ‘red ring of death’.
Will Smith was once the coolest man alive – so cool he could just about get away with releasing an album titled Big Willy Style. It’s perhaps for this reason that the makers of I-Robot decided to hire Smith as both an actor and as a walking mannequin dummy for expensive shoes.
Early on in the film we see Smith unboxing a pair of brand new Converse All-Stars and declaring them as “a thing of beauty” – looking like he’s one step away from having sex with them.
They probably could have just about got away with this single moment, if it weren’t for the shoes being illogically re-referenced throughout as if they’re an important plot device.
Sentient robots you say ? But what about your amazing pair of Converse !
The Terminal (2004)
One of Spielberg’s more forgettable films, The Terminal also features one of the worst instances of product placement in his entire career. Yep, E.T had its Reeces Pieces tie-in and Minority Report’s future was completely full of adverts which directly addressed Tom Cruise – but there’s something distinctly crass about a single sequence in The Terminal.
Seeing as the whole film is set inside an elaborate recreation of an airport terminal, there’s shops and brand names everywhere you look. Strapped for cash and hungry, Tom Hanks’ unconvincing Russian immigrant Viktor scavenges by collecting quarters from left behind baggage trolleys.
His reward ? A big juicy Burger King Whopper, filmed in loving close-up as he takes a glorious bite….. Anyone suddenly peckish ?
Casino Royale (2006)
No other film series manages to make product placement so damn cool. If you want to be as sophisticated as James Bond in real life, you need all the stuff which comes with it. Sadly most of us can’t afford the tailored suits, expensive gadgetry, sport-cars and prostitutes.
But while blatant advertising has always been a staple of the series from the very early days, in Casino Royale it felt particularly irksome, thanks to a realistic tone making it a far more emotionally engaging Bond flick.
There’s so much to choose from here, from Sony laptops to mobile phones and Blu-ray disks. Even insignificant sequences of Bond driving are filmed identically to car adverts – all that‘s missing is Daniel Craig telling audiences to test-drive it today from their nearest dealer.
There’s one moment however which has become a legendary example of product placement at its worst . As Bond (Daniel Craig) and Vesper (Eva Green) discuss 007’s firm arse, she inquires about his watch.
“Rolex” ? To which Bond suavely replies “Omega”.
What’s wrong with a Casio ? There’s a recession for gods-sake
Demolition Man (1994)
Demolition Man’s Utopian future is all the more frightening for its predictions made regarding the future of dining out. Sylvester Stallone has to face the horror of a world in which every single restaurant is a Taco Bell – the U.S Mexican food outlet – with the franchise outliving rival fast-food chains.
This is a curious one for a number of reasons. There’s the fact that Taco Bell isn’t exactly widely unknown outside of the U.S (there’s only one outlet in the U.K) which means the joke falls flat in many territories. Likewise, Stallone’s reaction to the news isn’t exactly a flattering one.
Star Trek (2009)
Before JJ Abrams’ fun reboot of the Star Trek franchise, I had never acquainted myself with the adventures of Captain Kirk and Starfleet. I enjoyed the movie so much, I immediately tracked down the original series and quickly fell in love with William Shatner’s quest to sleep with every life form in the galaxy.
Sadly though, something stuck out about the otherwise excellent reboot like a sore thumb.
Early on as a young Kirk takes his step-dads car for a death defying drive, a familiar ringtone can be heard. It’s a bloody futuristic Nokia ! Seriously ? This is all the more jarring for sticking out in a film that’s otherwise light in product placement.
Mac & Me (1988)
By far the worst offender on this list – and that’s really saying something – Mac & Me had the gall to not only blatantly feature a McDonalds burger in its title, but aim its cynical marketing exclusively at a family audience and specifically young kids.
A cheap knock off from Spielberg’s superior E.T, Mac & Me exists to purely spend 90 minutes advertising the worldwide fast-food chain. This culminates in a terrifying and nightmarish Ronald McDonald dance off sequence – which somehow epitomizes everything wrong about the world we live in.
The Invention Of Lying (2009)
Ricky Gervais’ thinly disguised tirade against religion shows that the comedian doesn’t simply draw the line at ironic self promotion. In a pivotal sequence mocking the ten commandments, they’re scribbled onto the back of a Pizza Hut box that can be seen prominently in a lengthy sermon sequence.
It’s not just this single instance either, the film is completely awash with appearances and references to products like Coca-Cola & Budweiser.
Interestingly, co-director Mathew Robinson denied any product placement deals, arguing that they simply served to ground the film in reality. Whether you believe him or not, the jarring bombardment of products in The Invention Of Lying becomes more memorable than the film itself.
Which other films deserve a mention for obvious product placement ?
Do you feel films should avoid advertising products in such a blatant way ?