Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Product placement, especially in popular media, can translate into a big PR boost for a brand as viewers associate their good feelings watching that film or TV show with the brands they discover on the screen. Because of this, product placement has been around almost as long as movies have been, but there are some instances that stand out more than others.

Here are a few examples of product placement done well:

Mars misses out

One of the most famous incidents of product placement almost didn’t happen. When the producers of E.T., which would go on to be a massive hit movie, approached Mars to allow them to use M&Ms in the movie, Mars turned them down. So, producers approached Hershey’s about using Reese’s Pieces. Hershey’s agreed, and that led to both an iconic movie scene, as well as one of the best promotional deal in Hershey’s history.

Heineken windfall

The James Bond movies have always been prime spots for product placement, especially for Aston Martin and BMW. But it was Heineken that really scored a win in one of the most recent Bond films, Skyfall. The beer company paid a sizable sum to have its signature brew in the movie, and it was certainly a noticeable set piece. After all, one of Bond’s most recognizable tropes is his preference for a martini, shaken, not stirred. Instead, he orders a Heineken, and you could almost hear audiences gasp. As a follow up to the film, Daniel Craig reprised his Bond role for a commercial, and further Bond movies are expected to feature Heineken as well. Is it beer for Bond from now on? It will be as long as Heineken is buying that placement.

Gaga fills videos with prominent brands

It really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that pop music videos are treasure troves of product placement. Superstar performers are veritable billboards for savvy brands to help them get the word out. And perhaps no one does it better, or more prominently, than Lady Gaga, who has featured, among others: Coca Cola, Virgin Mobile, Polaroid, Miracle Whip, Hewlett Packard and even dating app Plenty of Fish. Some reports say that not all the placement in these videos was paid, but what is paid seems like a good investment.

Parody placement

Finally, there’s product placement as parody, which actually serves as clever commentary and expert brand promotion. In the cult classic movie Wayne’s World, lead characters Wayne and Garth break the fourth wall several times. In one extended scene, the pair take a moment to parody the concept of product placement to hilarious effect. In a single scene, Wayne and Garth give the spotlight to Pizza Hut, Doritos, Nuprin, Reebok and Pepsi. What stands out most about this scene, other than the brilliantly-rendered parody, is that these brands would be very popular with the movie’s target market. Well-selected, well-placed and well-played.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of NYC based 5WPR, which has been named PR firm of the year by the American Business Awards.