Following up on my previous blog regarding the culture of the “celebthletes”, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look at product placement and advertising.

If you’ve ever watched a movie or anything on TV, you would have seen product placement at work. It is a very lucrative business and was well explored in Morgan Spurlock’s fantastic documentary “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” (to give it its full title).

I can remember watching Top Gun way back in 1986 and thinking that Tom Cruise’s Aviator sunglasses were the third coolest thing in the movie, just behind his F14 Tomcat and Kelly McGillis.


I wanted, no, make that needed, a set of those sunnies! And so did a lot of other people - according to Time Magazine, sales of RayBan Aviators rose by 40% due to their appearance in Top Gun. Mr. Cruise has always been a big promoter of sunglasses, with such iconic placements as his Wayfarers in Risky Business and his Oakleys in Mission Impossible 2.

In 2011, Apple was featured twice as often as the next most conspicuous brand. In fact, Apple has appeared in over one third of all the number one movies in the US box office since 2011, an enviable position considering that the fruity logo and associated products appear more than McDonalds, Pepsi and Sony Vaio combined. Apple even goes as far as saying it doesn’t pay for product placement and furthermore, refuses to respond to any questions on the subject. If Apple doesn’t pay, then this seems to be a phenomenal publicity coup when you imagine what all this exposure does for the company.

An American company called Front Row Marketing Services has figured it out. Using their “proprietary product placement valuation metric” (a fancy way of saying “cunning software”), they calculated the total product placement value Apple received from just seven movies in 2011: US$48,9 million! Apple spent more than five minutes on the screen during Mission Impossible 4, which according to Front Row was worth US$23,5 million! That excludes exposure on DVD, video-on-demand, downloads and so forth. Wow.
In the month following Mercedes' role in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, sales of the star model SLS AMG were up 14 percent. By the end of 2011, sales of the Dodge Charger, the star of Fast Five, were up 227 percent! Double wow!

Even here in New Zealand, product placement is starting to go through the roof, with a number of companies specializing in this theme. Auckland based product placement company Exposure seems to be making quite a living from it with brands such as Ford, LG, Telecom, Bell Tea, Vodafone, Lexus, Mini, Suzuki and dozens more featured on their client list. They’ve hooked their clients up with spots in The Cult, Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune and The Strip to name but a few.

Then there are the other shows which are just sold outright to brands: Hyundai Country Calendar,Chelsea New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker, TradeZone Gone Fishin' and The ITM Fishing Show.

What I like about product placement in the New Zealand market is that it isn’t totally over the top (just yet). By that I mean we can at least be thankful that it isn’t as bad as some of our local advertising. But things could change and who knows - maybe in the next season of The Almighty Johnsons, one of the lads will go to Harvey Norman, buy a new Samsung TV and take it home to his new missus, the Briscoes’ lady? The entire scene could even have the sponsor’s jingles in the background for good measure.