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Product Placement in Pictures


Ray Faiola
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I'm watching CRAZY OVER HORSES this morning and both the front parlor and back store room of Louie's Sweet Shop are papered like crazy with signs and containers for Dad's Root Beer.  I wonder how much Monogram was paid for this obvious example of product placement.

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I try to keep an eye out for it slipping coyly into old movies.  You don't really see too much of it in the "classics".  One example being REAR WINDOW, where the name of the maker of Jimmy Stewart's camera is blacked out.  Not until I developed(no pun intended) an interest in photography and vintage camers did it occur to me it was probably a MIRANDA, as I once owned an old SLR that looked a lot like the one in the movie.  IT was a Miranda.

 

Guitar maker's names on the instrument's headstocks are usually blacked out with either paint or what looks like obvious electrical tape.

 

Product placement is relatively new in film making, I'd say only about the last 40 years or so, which isn't long considering how long movies have been being made.

 

Sepiatone

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What we now call product placement was rare in the old days. The more common practice was for producers to arrange to use a company's product (such as a new car model), then that company could start an ad campaign saying, "As seen in MGM's Megacollossal production of Sugar Daddies of 1938!!". An early form of cross promotion/synergy. 

 

A key moment for modern product placement came in 1949. The producers of the Marx Brothers' film Love Happy ran out of money, so they sold advertising space in the film's climax, where Harpo is chased over rooftops by gangsters. As he evades the villains we see signs for such products as GE lamps, Mobil gas (this bit is actually mildly clever), and Kool cigarettes. 

 

Love Happy caused some controversy in Hollywood at the time -- I believe some theaters actually objected to showing the film without being paid for the ads.

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