The best movie for product placement

Thomas Z. Ramsøy

September 9, 2020

Which movie is the best (or worst) at product placement? By using Predict, you can test how product placement actually works. Will it be the movies that unashamedly put branded products in your face or the more subtle cues? Read on to see who wins.

Product placement is all the rage in movies, and it is seen both as an extra revenue stream for moviemakers, and a way for companies to naturally brand themselves. Among many places, Netflix is a master at product placement. Or are they?

By testing classics and more recent movies, we set out to see how well products are placed in movies. We took some of the most notable ones out there, both the more subtle cases of James Bond wearing an Omega watch, to the blatantly obvious ones, as in Wayne's World, where is a section where they show a plethora of brands in a matter of seconds.

Below you can see examples of the movies we analyzed.

You can see all the analyses by going to this link

Analyzing brand and product attention

We took 60+ movies and analyzed the brand and product attention in the movies, and aggregated them for each movie. We also looked at whether there were any differences between the brands and products in the movies.

First, we found that despite what one would suspect, there were a lot of movies that scored abysmal on brand/product attention!

Brand and product attention showed a strong skew to lower values. This means that the vast majority of movies had a low attention on products placed in the movie.

Already here, we can conclude that there's work to be done! If movies fail miserably on product placement, even when their sole intention is to get attention to the product, then improvements are a must.

Let's now see whether there were any differences between brand and product attention across all movies.

Brand and product attention is significantly different. Product attention is much higher, suggesting that it should be the whole product, and not merely the brand, that is shown.

Indeed, we see that there is a strong difference between brands and products in movies. By far, products receive more attention than brands. This suggests that when companies want to be a part of a movie, they should have the entire product shown, not merely the brand.

Which movie wins?

At the end of the day, we all want to know which movie seems to win. Here, the results are pretty obvious: the movie called Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle takes the prize. This might not be that surprising, since the whole movie is about two buddies that are hungry for a very specific meal: the offers through White Castle. The prime-time placement of the branded products, combined with the clear statement of longing for the perfect burger and satisfaction when it was achieved was also sure to bring attention and revenue to the White Castle company!

Somewhat surprisingly, The Matrix (part 1) comes in at second place. The consistent use of the Nokia folded phone throughout the movie was surely placed as a natural part of the narrative and, at that time, a rather fancy looking phone at that!

The winners and losers of product placements in movies.

The losers of the product placement are equally surprising. At the very low end, I, Robot did not succeed in getting attention to the Converse shoes, although it certainly does help that Will Smith says the brand name out loud...  

Surprisingly, Wayne's World, which has some pretty explicit product placement in the movie, does not fare better than a half-baked attention response. This is pretty surprising, given the effort that is put into building a narrative around the placement of products in the movie!

Product placement dos and don'ts

At the end of the day, what seems to work is a branded product that is positioned more naturally as part of the scene. A whole movie dedicated to a product is, of course, a true winner. But even with subtle cues such as a phone (Matrix) it is clear that natural and central use of the product also produces more attention.

Quite surprisingly, some movies that clearly go for good product placement fail miserably. In movies that explicitly are about the brand, such as The Internship (for Google), or when a specific scene is cut in just for the sake of the product placement (e.g., the banners with brand names in Fantastic Four), the product placement is still way under par.

What's the fix for such miserable product placements in movies? It's simple: test your materials with Predict -- change, improve, iterate, and optimize!

Remember to check out all the analyses here.

The best movie for product placement

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