The history of product placement before the music video, part 1

September 4, 2017By

The creation of MTV in 1981 saw product placement take its place in the financial side of the musical industry from where it has remained to this day. However, product placement is not a new phenomenon in creating financial gain and it can be even traced back to the 19th century when Jules Verne reportedly badgered transport and shipping companies in order to be mentioned in his novel “around the world in eighty days” (1893).

The film industry before sound

The development of the film industry in the early 20th century saw product placement gain a foothold in the cinema that it has never relinquished. Even before sound there was evidence that this was taking place. In the Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle production “the Garage” the logo of Red Crown gasoline was visible in several scenes. The 1927 winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture “Wings” contained a plug for Herschey’s chocolate. As the film industry thrived so did product placement.

The film industry with sound

As the films incorporated sound so their popularity increased. This widening of potential markets made it even more attractive for business and their products. As the movies grew so did the creation of film legends. One of the first to hold such a title was James Dean who is remembered as an icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement. In his most famous film “Rebel without a Cause” (1955) he spent a great deal of his time slicking back his hair with an Ace Comb. This caused the sales of the comb to sky rocket and gave them a position in the comb market that they were never to fall away from.

James Dean with an Ace Comb in “Rebel without a Cause” 1955

The evolution of the film industry from black and white pictures to color made the opportunity to take advantage of such a marketing platform for companies even more attractive. The escalation of product placement came to a head in the 1992 film “Waynes World”. The characters in the film make open fun of product placement whilst still brazenly promote Pizza Hut, Doritos, Reebok, Nuprin and Pepsi.

A film that was tailor made for product presentation was the “Italian Job”, which was remade in 2003. BMW had taken over production of the Mini Cooper since the original film was made in 1969 and they agreed to provide the new film with 30 brand new models. In the famous car chase many of the cars were damaged beyond repair, but this was a small price to pay as over the next year BMW saw a 22% increase in the sales of their Mini Cooper.

The Italian Job 2003. A hit for the film and BMW

Cars in films are certainly a good opportunity for product presentation and this has been highlighted with the history of James Bond films and their timeless relationship with BMW. As the Bonds have changed so has the spy’s tastes in cars.

Up until “Golden Eye” he drove Aston Martins but this was replaced by BMW’s Z3 Roadster. This cost the company 3 million dollars but they made 240 million dollars in advance sales alone.Movies clearly gave product placement a vast platform but this was not as large as the emergence of television was to provide.

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