How Product Placement Works


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You've heard the rumors before, perhaps in whispers, written between the lines of the textbooks, conspiracies, paranormal events, all those things that disappear from the official explanations. Tune in and learn more of the stuff they don't want you to know in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark

Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. With me is Charles W. Chuck Bryant, who's enjoying a delicious RC brand cola right now. How's that treating you? It's wonderful, isn't it?

Chuck Bryant

It's satisfying and delicious to my mouth.

Josh Clark

I hear you, Chuck, yes. Chuck, I know we've already mentioned this once,

but I want to allude once again to the mysterious companion shows that are coming out on the Science Channel

Chuck BryantSure, Pumpkin Chuckin and -

Josh Clark

That's close.

Chuck Bryant

The Road to Punkin Chunkin.

Josh Clark

Yes. No - yeah, but they're in reverse order.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

The road begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, there on the Science Channel, on Thanksgiving night.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

It's a special Thanksgiving special. And you can kind of glean from the name what it's about.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

But we're not going to say too much more about it.

Chuck Bryant

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Josh Clark

Chuck, I'm going to give you a little known, but historically significant dated in the 20th Century.

Chuck Bryant

Let's hear it.

Josh Clark

March 31, 1999.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

You give up?

Chuck Bryant

15, 16 days after my birthday, 99, ten years ago, I was in my 20s still. Those were good days. No. What?

Josh Clark

On that day, the digital video recorder, known as TIVO shipped its first product.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

I happened to be outside that day, the moment that that was shipped.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

And I swear I heard an audible oh (Bleep), sighing out of every ad agency on the planet.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they have found a way to not watch television commercials.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Not only can you fast forward through television commercials, you can skip television commercials automatically. TIVO sense that break.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Much like your old cassette player in your car could skip to the next song because of that break, right?

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah, I remember that.

Josh Clark

Yeah, it was bad news for advertising.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it was - and I have to admit that I do that, as well. I record. I try to start, even, my Falcon's games about an hour late, so I can zip through the commercials there, too.

Josh Clark

Oh really?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

So you like to postpone gratification.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I've gotten spoiled here. You know they actually factor DVR stats into Nielsen ratings now. They've figure out how to do that.

Josh Clark

Wow. That's a landmark change.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they factor it in as whoever watches a show, and then there's the secondary seven day window after the show premiers.

Josh Clark

I remember them scrambling to come up with how to -

Chuck Bryant

Well yeah, sure.

Josh Clark

How to work that in, yeah. Good for them.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, go Nielsen.

Josh Clark

Well go Nielsen, and I guess advertising agencies because they figured out a way around it.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Actually, it wasn't anything new, but it's definitely been stepped up since the introduction of TIVO, and that is something called product placement.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, product placement is big time.

Josh Clark

Which you might not have been paying attention towards the beginning of this podcast, but we did it ourselves when we mentioned Chuck drinking a delicious RC brand cola.

Chuck Bryant

Right. It's a little harder to be subtle when you are working in a audio medium.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

You pretty much have to say it.

Josh Clark

You have to kind of whisper.

Chuck Bryant

Right. But the trick is, in a visual medium, like television or film, obviously, you don't want to hit someone over the head with it too hard because then it can kind of backfire on you.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

So you want to be really clever with how you place it. You want it to be noticed, but not to stand out.

Josh Clark

Right. And when done right, it works like gangbusters.

Chuck Bryant

Absolutely.

Josh Clark

The key is to have a cool advertising exec working on this plan.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Who has nerves of steel, and knows where that line is.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Because you want, as Catherine Neer, our esteemed colleague who wrote this wonderful article -

Chuck Bryant

Go Catherine.

Josh Clark

As she points out, it's very easy to cross the line and you want the product to fit in almost seamlessly.

Chuck Bryant

Right, because the filmmaker certainly doesn't want that either.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

Even though it greases their palm a little bit and makes things possible many times, they still don't want it to be the focus, any filmmaker worth their salt.

Josh Clark

Well they don't always have their palms greased.

Chuck Bryant

Well no.

Josh Clark

And you would think, yeah, they're always paying to have their product placed. There's actually three ways that it happens.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

The first way is when a product just ends up in a scene, organically, or without any contact with the company who manufactures it, sayings give me money.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, like a director or prop master or someone says hey, that would be cool if Tom Cruse smashed this Coke can against his head, his little tiny, pea like head.

Josh Clark

Or if somebody in the Sopranos uses a can of Raid.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, on Tony.

Josh Clark

Very violently, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, Ralph sprayed Tony in the face during a fight.

Josh Clark

That's not good.

Chuck Bryant

It didn't end well for Ralph, either.

Josh Clark

No. And the SE Johnson Company who manufactures Raid wasn't entirely happy about it because really, number one, they weren't asked.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And number two, it makes their product look kind of bad.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

Like oh yeah, I forgot. Raid's really dangerous on humans too.

Chuck Bryant

And they didn't use the can of Rid, the fake things that Hollywood comes up with. My brother used to give me those little props as Christmas gifts.

Josh Clark

I would love to have one of those. Chuck, by the way, got me a can of beer.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

That we'd talked about in the previous podcast.

Chuck Bryant

Well that's legit. Those are just generic products. But he would send me a Budweiser can that was Budmasier. He sent me an Evian bottle that said Ewan. They do it just in the type face and it looks just like it.

Josh Clark

Which I guess you can get away with.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

There's two other ways this can happen. One is that the company trades some of their product for product placement, which is -

Chuck Bryant

Payola.

Josh Clark

About as lame as it gets.

Chuck Bryant

Not really.

Josh Clark

Yeah, we need 50 cases of Coca-Cola and we'll put your product in the movie if you give us free Coke. Who does that?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, but that's the kind of clamoring that you do, buddy.

Josh Clark

Oh yeah.

Chuck Bryant

You've been like, hey, if you send us some Reece's Pieces, we'll talk about them on the air.

Josh Clark

Yeah, that's right. Huh.

Chuck Bryant

So yeah, but we're not famous filmmakers.

Josh Clark

No, we're not famous enough to do it the third way, which I plan on doing. That's pretty much extortion.

Chuck Bryant

Financial compensation.

Josh Clark

You're saying we'll put your product in our movie or TV show or on the Internet, whatever. We'll get to that in a little bit. If you give us money in return.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's a big deal for smaller films, though, for sure.

Josh Clark

Definitely. When you think this is the most expensive film ever made, $200 million or whatever, wasn't it Water World that broke the $100 million mark or something.

Chuck Bryant

I don't remember.

Josh Clark

And then Titanic broke the $200 million.

Chuck Bryant

It's crazy money.

Josh Clark

But this doesn't all come from one guy writing a check or one studio writing a check. There's Japanese masters involved. There are charity groups. There's investment funds, and then there's sponsorship, corporate sponsorship, in the way of product placement. Probably the most famous, as far as I know, product placement was in E.T.

Chuck Bryant

Well yeah, I just mentioned Reece's Pieces.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

Out of context, but yeah, E.T. was famously catapulted. I even remember this. I remember Reece's Pieces before E.T. and after E.T. because it was a big, big difference in their notability. It was supposed to be M&M's. I think people may have heard this story.

Josh Clark

It was.

Chuck Bryant

And I think the M&M people -

Josh Clark

They said, nah, to Spielberg, who wanted a million for it.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, is that what it was?

Josh Clark

He wanted a million. M&M's turned him down. Reece's said yes! 80 percent jump in sales the month the movie was released.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and really put it on the map forever.

Josh Clark

And put product placement on the map, as well, like this can work.

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

And it does. Chuck; let's talk about the first product placement that ever occurred, as far as we know, something in a little film, called The African Queen, in the 1950s.

Chuck Bryant

Kate Hepburn through a case of Gordon's Gin over the side of a boat.

Josh Clark

That's exactly right.

Chuck Bryant

That was awful.

Josh Clark

That wasn't bad. It's better than my Kate Hepburn.

Chuck Bryant

I used to do a pretty decent one. I don't know what happened.

Josh Clark

You did a pretty decent one before we started recording.

Chuck Bryant

Or maybe I did Audrey Hepburn.

Josh Clark

No, that was not Audrey Hepburn.

Chuck Bryant

Maybe I used to do that one well. I can't keep them straight.

Josh Clark

Yeah, Gordon's Gin paid the production company that made The African Queen, which at the time was either UA or Paramount, as far as I know.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, probably.

Josh Clark

And that was the first real product placement that ever took place.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that we know of.

Josh Clark

Did you know that about that same time, it started to really gain traction and soap operas are named soap operas because they used product placement, often times soap products in their episodes and it still continues on today. What is it? All My Children had like a couple month long story line where Revlon factored in to the plot line.

Chuck Bryant

It's probably like the Revlon killer or something like that.

Josh Clark

Probably.

Chuck Bryant

I'm sure someone knows.

Josh Clark

And we'll hear about it.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, we will.

Josh Clark

All right. So we've got it simply happens, it happens in exchange for the product or it happens in exchange for compensation, or it doesn't happen at all, most famously in the movie, Repo Man.

Chuck Bryant

Repo Man, a film by Alex Cox.

Josh Clark

Wait. How do you know that?

Chuck Bryant

I'm a fan of the movie.

Josh Clark

I am too, but I don't know who directed it.

Chuck Bryant

Well he did Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell. He's a classic director.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. He, Alex Cox, famously, in Repo Man used all generic products. And if you've seen the movie, it's a cult classic now; you'll notice that every single product in the movie is generic. And it came from Ralph's grocery store in L.A.

Josh Clark

Oh really?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, who used to make the beer that I sent you.

Josh Clark

So it really was generic products.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they were real generic products.

Josh Clark

So technically, there was a company that made those generic products that feature prominently. So I guess there was lots of product placement. It was all one company. Actually, there were two companies. Also, anybody who has seen that movie can tell you that probably the most prominent character in the entire movie that appears in just about every scene are the little Christmas tree air fresheners.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

That shows up on every vehicle in the movie.

Chuck Bryant

And a motorcycle.

Josh Clark

Right, exactly. And they, actually, the company that made those, actually sponsored that movie, so.

Chuck Bryant

Well actually, I looked into that. I think this is - it wasn't quite a sponsorship, but they did send them free trees. And apparently, they - Alex Cox said they sent unscented trees because none of the actors could stand to be cooped up with the scented ones for too long.

Josh Clark

That's very kind of them.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and he basically said these really stink. Can you send us some that don't? They went okay, but they are air fresheners, remember?

Josh Clark

So they didn't sponsor the movie.

Chuck Bryant

They did not sponsor it, but they sent him the swag that was used in the film.

Josh Clark

Why must you always humiliate me?

Chuck Bryant

I'm sorry.

Josh Clark

So we talked about Reece's Pieces getting a big payoff, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Smaller companies can do this too. Do you remember Red Stripe Beer?

Chuck Bryant

Rock a Rock a Red Stripe.

Josh Clark

Great beer. I love those ads.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I like Red Stripe, too.

Josh Clark

I do too, but I had never heard of that before The Firm.

Chuck Bryant

See, I don't remember that in The Firm.

Josh Clark

When he goes down to the Cayman's, and it hanging out with Gene Hackman.

Chuck Bryant

They're drinking Red Stripes.

Josh Clark

They're drinking Red Stripe the whole time.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, okay.

Josh Clark

It was so prominent that there were articles in the New York Times and Time and Newsweek written about Red Stripe beer. And it was so funny too. I remember it wasn't about product placement. They were drooling over Red Stripe, like it was the hip, new thing.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

It could not have paid off better for Red Stripe. I think they saw - actually it could have. They saw a 50 percent increase in sales after that movie was released.

Chuck Bryant

Right. People were probably turned on by the cool, little squatty bottle.

Josh Clark

Yeah, but it had been around forever and was sold in the United States.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

I think they probably used it to just kind of up their market presence. I'm sure that they got a lot more distribution after that, too.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, the power of the Cruse. He's a very powerful, small man.

Josh Clark

Don't you wish that just for mentioning Red Stripe being in The Firm, they would send us Red Stripe?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Maybe some retroactive compensation?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, some juice. You know my uncle was in The Firm, by the way.

Josh Clark

Juice? What do you have DTs or something?

Chuck Bryant

No, some juice as in some juice, (inaudible).

Josh Clark

Gotcha, okay. I thought you meant beer.

Chuck Bryant

My uncle was in The Firm.

Josh Clark

I'm not surprised.

Chuck Bryant

He was living in Memphis, at the time, where they filmed it.

Josh Clark

Is Tom Cruse your uncle?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, he is.

Josh Clark

Is Gene Triplehorn your uncle?

Chuck Bryant

Gene Triplehorn's my uncle. No, he just had a little walk on, like when they walk in and give the papers to somebody.

Josh Clark

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

Chuck Bryant

Exactly. Should we talk about Jerry Maguire?

Josh Clark

Yeah, this is a really good example of product placement going awry, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, if you remember in the Cameron Crowe film, Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding, Jr., as Rod Tidwell, was a professional football player who is getting constantly dissed by Reebok, in the movie. And Reebok, showing me no love, they're giving me no love. And that was a deal made through Reebok and Tri-Star. And it was contingent on at the very end of the film, after the credits, I think, there would be a phony Reebok commercial, finally, with Rod Tidwell that said sorry Rod, we were wrong all along. Love Reebok. And Cameron Crowe cut that from the end of the film. And they got sued by Reebok; Tri-Star did because Cameron Crowe cut that scene.

Josh Clark

Well not only that, Cuba Gooding, Jr., is talking smack about them in at least one scene, right?

Chuck Bryant

Well they Okayed that, as long as the commercial played at the end.

Josh Clark

Oh, I gotcha, wow.

Chuck Bryant

So it was all part of the deal. And Reebok, supposedly, put in 1.5 mil into merchandise, advertising and promotional support. They sued Tri-Star for 10 million and settled out of court. And if you notice, if you've ever seen Jerry Maguire on cable, that commercial is back in the movie.

Josh Clark

Wow.

Chuck Bryant

So that had something to do - or at least it was, initially, on Showtime. I don't know if it still is. But they - that was probably part of the out of court settlement.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Slip it back in there for cable and DVD or whatever.

Josh Clark

Yeah, TBS.

Chuck Bryant

And we'll make good.

Josh Clark

Cars also usually feature prominently in movies.

Chuck Bryant

Let's talk about cars.

Josh Clark

Yeah, there's actually been - any time you see a movie where there's like a high speed chase, you, inevitably, invariably, are shown the grill of the car that has the emblem. So you know exactly, like The Transporter. I think Audis figured really big into that one.

Chuck Bryant

Transformers, I think it was that new Camaro. Michael Baize is always trying to highlight the new models of Fords and Chevys.

Josh Clark

I think the first time I ever became aware of product placement was a little movie, called Robocop.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Do you remember the Taurus from the future?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, the Ford Taurus.

Josh Clark

It was actually the 1988 model Ford Taurus, with a couple of ground effects on it that Robocop drove.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And I remember it coming out. I think Robocop came out in 86 or 87. It was definitely before that Taurus debut.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark

So the movie was its debut. And I remember seeing it on the road when it came out, like holy cow, there's the Robocop Taurus, without the ground effects.

Chuck Bryant

Dude, that's exactly what they want.

Josh Clark

It is exactly what they want. I didn't go out and buy a Taurus, but it is exactly what they want.

Chuck Bryant

Josh, some other notables.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Clearly Smokey and the Bandit, with the Pontiac Trans Am.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

One of the most classic.

Josh Clark

I would have gone with a bitching Camaro over a Trans Am, but whatever.

Chuck Bryant

Herbie the Love Bug, was, of course, a big ad for the Volkswagen Beetle, not a big ad, but big -

Josh Clark

That's the thing. It might not be intended, like that. Sometimes it just works out.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

There's a classic movie out there that is centered around a scientent VW Beetle.

Chuck Bryant

Right, that talks.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Is that what scientent means?

Josh Clark

No. Does Herbie talk? I think he just reacts.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, you're right.

Josh Clark

No, scientent is aware of your own being.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I know. I'm kidding.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

I wasn't kidding. Back to the Future, the DeLorean was prominently featured, obviously. But I think, if I'm not mistaken, that was after the DeLorean had already had its run.

Josh Clark

It was. It was a very tongue in cheek appearance.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. Is that what it was?

Josh Clark

And actually, I think Pepsi was definitely a corporate sponsor of that movie.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And who can forget the truly bad BMW Z8 that was driven in the Bond film, The World is not Enough?

Josh Clark

The Bond films are often used to debut new stuff.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, new cars.

Josh Clark

Because they're just such global events when those movies come out. They're perfect for it, unless, of course, Chuck. Let's not forget my boy, Magnum P.I.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Driving a Ferrari 308i, which, by the way, I've been online. You can get one of those these days for a bout 30K.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah. And it costs you another 15K every time you need an oil change.

Chuck Bryant

Oh wow. Yeah, that's a TV car. Some other notable TV cars are the Dodge Charger from Dukes of Hazard and the Trans Am from Knight Rider, once again, getting some more love, and the Gran Torino.

Josh Clark

What's wrong with Camaros?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know because even Starsky and Hutch use a Gran Torino. They could use a Camaro.

Josh Clark

They were bad. I often think of us as the Starsky and Hutch of podcasting.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Who's who?

Josh Clark

I'm clearly Hutch.

Chuck Bryant

Okay, that's fine. Who is that, David Soul?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Nice. If you're talking cars, though, Josh, a little company called Audi took it to a whole nother level, as we say here in the south. In 2004, the movie iRobot, which had something to do with Asimov, right!

Josh Clark

Well yeah, it was based on his book.

Chuck Bryant

Based on one of his books. The Audi RSQ concept car really plays a central role in that movie. And it wasn't just placed in that film. It was built and constructed, solely, for that film.

Josh Clark

Right, with the input of the director of the movie.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they designed it together.

Josh Clark

Yeah, just for this movie.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

It's nuts.

Chuck Bryant

And did they ever release that as a real car to the public?

Josh Clark

Most concept cars aren't released.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

As a real car. There's just kind of like hey, check this out. Get excited about this and then sorry chumps!

Chuck Bryant

Some other examples of non-car, who can forget Tom Cruse? Once again, we can't escape his tiny shadow, the Ray Ban sunglasses in Risky Business.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Classic scene.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and Fruit of the Loom underwear.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, Fruit of the Loom. What else? FedEx in Castaway, the film Castaway!

Josh Clark

Yeah, not just FedEx. Clearly FedEx features prominently in it, but they did such - the writer, clearly this is the writer - did such an amazing job of Wilson Sporting Goods manufacturers and their volleyball. There's basically two characters in the whole movie. And one of them is a Wilson brand volleyball.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, namely, Wilson.

Josh Clark

Exactly. But it's so perfect. This is actually, maybe an example of the almost being taken out of the seamless, the product placement being seamlessly woven into the plot.

Chuck Bryant

I thought it worked, actually.

Josh Clark

It did work. I'm saying it worked so well that I don't think must go buy Wilson volleyball.

Chuck Bryant

Right, yeah.

Josh Clark

It was just another character. I thought it was great.

Chuck Bryant

I wonder - well I guess they've proven with things like Reece's Pieces that it works. But do you really get a jump in volleyball sales because of that?

Josh Clark

I don't know.

Chuck Bryant

It seems unlikely to me.

Josh Clark

Will the COO of Wilson Sporting Goods please write us and let us know if you guys saw a jump in sales?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I'd like to know that.

Josh Clark

All right.

Chuck Bryant

You know Josh, now they have - it used to kind of be just a willy-nilly, let me see what I can do DIY thing. But now, most corporations have entire branches - well not a branch maybe - but they'll have people that work exclusively with product placement. And they search out films and contact them to try and get their products featured.

Josh Clark

They have - I think they're called officers for integrated branding is the division, usually.

Chuck Bryant

they always create such silly names.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Just call it what it is.

Josh Clark

They want to leverage their brand on as much of a granular level as possible.

Chuck Bryant

Call it Schillmeister.

Josh Clark

That's a great one. So Chuck, this has become quite the booming little cottage industry.

Chuck Bryant

Big time.

Josh Clark

In 2006, they spent 1.6 billion for product placement in movies, 1.8 billion for TV.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

Most of that went to a show, called American Idol, Coca-Cola, Ford.

Chuck Bryant

Man, that one is full of it.

Josh Clark

They will do anything for money.

Chuck Bryant

Remember, AT&T, if you call AT&T and you can text to AT&T and vote for your favorite person AT&T, and that way when your person wins, you can thank AT&T for being around. That's the kind of thing that Seacrest doles out each week.

Josh Clark

I feel dirty, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

You know what they paid?

Josh Clark

What?

Chuck Bryant

Every one, every sponsor, AT&T, Coca-Cola and Ford each paid $26 million each.

Josh Clark

Per episode, not per season.

Chuck Bryant

Is it per episode?

Josh Clark

I think it is per - well per ad deal, we should say.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

I don't know how many episodes that is.

Chuck Bryant

That's a lot of dough, man.

Josh Clark

It is. It is.

Chuck Bryant

And reality TV as a whole has really embraced this. This is where I don't mind it that much. Like I'm a big Top Chef fan! And that show is heavily sponsored. Like Padma will come and say, if you notice in your GE Monogram kitchen," and you see GE Monogram everywhere or we want to thank the Glad family of bags for supplying us with this blah, blah blah. But reality shows, they don't have the hugest budgets. If they can get an entire kitchen donated by GE Monogram, then good for them!

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Give them a little love back and its reality TV.

Josh Clark

Whatevs'.

Chuck Bryant

It's not like ruining the through line, the (INAUDIBLE) through line.

Josh Clark

You don't have to suspend disbelief to watch reality TV. It takes the guesswork out of watching.

Chuck Bryant

I have to suspend disbelief that Padma is not my wife.

Josh Clark

I'll bet you do, at times, especially when your eyes are shut really tight. Chuck, there's been some really great examples of product placement being treated tongue in cheek.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Remember in Wayne's World?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Where they are going off about how they won't do any product placement. They won't be corporate shills, and while they're doing it, they're showing the products.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I think Pizza Hut was one of them.

Josh Clark

Right, and Nuprin, little, yellow, different, better.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And the little yellow pill is on his black and white hand. It's pretty good. Josie and the Pussycats, apparently, I didn't see the movie.

Chuck Bryant

I didn't either.

Josh Clark

But I guess in their two minute, 25 second trailer there's like 30 instances of product placement.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, as a spoof though, right?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

I think they're just trying to take the piss out of it, as our English fans might say.

Josh Clark

Yes, which means it shouldn't be bleeped out. And also, have you ever seen State in Maine, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

I love that movie.

Josh Clark

I love that movie, too.

Chuck Bryant

So that happened.

Josh Clark

Do you remember -

Chuck Bryant

That's my favorite line in that movie. Remember when Alex Baldwin crashes the car.

Josh Clark

Oh yeah.

Chuck Bryant

And then he gets out of the car and goes, "So that happened."

Josh Clark

Right, he's all kind of dazed a little. He's hit his head, clearly.

Chuck Bryant

Love that movie.

Josh Clark

Do you remember one of the minute subplots was that was about product placement.

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah.

Josh Clark

They were having a real problem with it because the movie was set in the 19th Century, the movie they were making.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, that's right.

Josh Clark

And they had corporate sponsorship from a brand new, cutting edge office supply company.

Chuck Bryant

Right, I remember now.

Josh Clark

So they finally figured it out and they kind of show it very subtly at the end.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Like the name of the office supply company printers or something like that.

Chuck Bryant

Or else like Ye Olde, whatever it was.

Josh Clark

Right, exactly.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that was classic. Poor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the writer that had to deal with that.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

It was a great role.

Josh Clark

It was a great role.

Chuck Bryant

Josh, not only - if you're talking about American Idol, not only will you see ads splashed all over the place, a big thing now is to actually sponsor - I wish I could think of the right word. It's not even an ad really. But if you go to their website, parts of their website are sponsored, like the Old Navy Fun and Games section.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

When was the last time you went to a Falcon's game?

Josh Clark

I don't remember, Chuck. When was the last time I went to a Falcon's game?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know. You know the red zone is when a team has the ball on their opponent's 20 yard line.

Josh Clark

I'm familiar with the sport of football.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, so if they're inside the 20, it's the red zone. That means you're trying to score a touchdown. It is not the red zone in Atlanta any more.

Josh Clark

What is it?

Chuck Bryant

It's the Ford drive zone.

Josh Clark

I've seen that. There's also the Old Spice red zone.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It depends on your team, I guess, what city is sponsored by what team or what company.

Josh Clark

Or who the highest bidder was that season.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I guess so.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

You want to talk about books real quick?

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Who's the author here? I'd never heard of her, actually, Faye Weldon. Apparently she wrote a book. She was contracted by Bulgari, the jeweler, contracted to write a book. She didn't just have an idea and they said hey can you slip Bulgari in there. They contracted her to write a book that centered around Bulgari. And she did so. And it was called The Bulgari Connection.

Josh Clark

Right, they contracted her to write this book, and it was exclusively for their highest end clientele.

Chuck Bryant

Right, just as a gift. See what we got this famous author to write a book about.

Josh Clark

Exactly. And here you go Mr. Moneybags.

Chuck Bryant

But she did release it, though, as a book and was chided in many circles.

Josh Clark

I would imagine so because that put her in league with such other titles, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

I know what's coming.

Josh Clark

As Skittle Riddles Math, the Hershey's Kisses Edition book, the M&M's Brand Counting book, Twizzler's Percentages book and the Cheerios Christmas Play book.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, apparently kid's books are rife with this kind of thing. I didn't know that.

Josh Clark

Kid's book and Faye Weldon books.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I had no idea. And Catherine gave a great example here. She said something about you know if you think that maybe they just sponsored the book and put their name on the title, not true. The Oreo Cookie Counting book, literally, you're counting Oreos. You open up the page and you're counting. This is how you teach kids to count, by counting cookies.

Josh Clark

Count delicious Oreo Cookies. So we talked about the first product placement. We should have qualified that, Chuck. As far as we know, it's the first product placement in a movie, Cat Hepburn throwing Gordon's Gin overboard.

Chuck Bryant

That's right.

Josh Clark

The oldest product placement that Catherine could come up with was in a song, Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Chuck Bryant

You got it. That's one of the more obvious product placements, but from what we can tell, it was not accidental, but he was certainly not given Cracker Jacks and they didn't pay him anything to do that.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

But still very famous example.

Josh Clark

Let me give you an example that has yet to happen yet. It's an example product placement from the future.

Chuck Bryant

Woo.

Josh Clark

On the November 8th episode of the Family Guy, viewers will be treated to what has been called, pretty much, a 30 minute ad for Windows 7.

Chuck Bryant

Really? Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Is this one of those things where they sponsor the show, ad free?

Josh Clark

No, the whole episode's about it.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, okay. Huh. I can't imagine not making fun of it, though.

Josh Clark

I'm sure they'll make fun of it because you want a cool ad exec. And Seth McFarland is not a complete sell out, but he - I'm sure it will be as cool as a 30 minute infomercial cartoon can be and probably even cooler than it can be.

Chuck Bryant

Classy.

Josh Clark

Wow. You've got Rich Little sitting over here. Good lord. But do you want to know where I found that little tidbit of information?

Chuck Bryant

On Fox.com.

Josh Clark

No, I didn't.

Chuck Bryant

Where?

Josh Clark

Do you want to know?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Folks, there is a site out there, where if you are looking to arm yourself against product placement, you can go to and it will give you a heads up on what's coming out.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

It's an industry website called productplacement.biz, www.productplacement.biz. The actual name of the site is Product Placement News and it's all basically press releases and articles about the industry of product placement.

Chuck Bryant

Holy cow.

Josh Clark

It's pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant

That's awesome.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

I guess the final example that Catherine mentions in the article that's noteworthy is rap music, starting way back with Run DMC and My Adidas.

Josh Clark

Sure. I don't know that - I think they did that themselves, though. They're pretty fond of Adidas.

Chuck Bryant

That's what her point is that most of the instances in rap music, like Busta Rhymes had a song, called Pass the Courvoisier, Part 2. Most of these come out because of the artist's fondness for the product. And then, afterward, the products will get in touch with them and say hey Busta, thanks man. You really did us a solid, and so here's a year supply worth of Courvoisier.

Josh Clark

And some trees.

Chuck Bryant

And whatever else.

Josh Clark

That's actually happened a lot earlier with the advent of hip hop, what you just described.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

There's a very deep-seated rumor, surrounding Janis Joplin.

Chuck Bryant

Southern Comfort.

Josh Clark

You might remember had an affinity for Southern Comfort.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, big time.

Josh Clark

Would drink fifths of it on stage during the show.

Chuck Bryant

yeah.

Josh Clark

Would go through a fifth during a show.

Chuck Bryant

Poor Janis.

Josh Clark

Yeah. You know she couldn't hack it the first time she went out from Texas to San Francisco?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, she had a really sad life.

Josh Clark

She had to go home. She was like I can't do this, and then she, I guess, started really, really getting wasted and was like okay, let me try again. And that one took. She met up with Pigpen and then it just went downhill from there.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Did you ever read those letters?

Josh Clark

Wait. Hold on. I wasn't done with my story.

Chuck Bryant

Well, I'm not done with my part, either.

Josh Clark

All right. Go ahead.

Chuck Bryant

Did you ever see the letters from her sister that she and her sister wrote back and forth, that documentary.

Josh Clark

No, I'll bet they went (inaudible).

Chuck Bryant

No, it was actually very touching and very sad. She wasn't like Miss Big Pants Rock Star. She was a really sweet, down home girl that was, like you said, was very shy and nervous and close to her family. Very tragic!

Josh Clark

Yeah, that is tragic. Well any time somebody dies at age 27, that's pretty tragic, you know.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark

Apparently, there's a rumor that SoCo was so fond of her drinking their product and hawking it, just by taking it up on stage that they bought her the mink coat that she wears on the album cover for the album, Pearl.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Classic cover.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Those big round glasses.

Josh Clark

I've also heard they bought the Rolls Royce that she's standing next to, as well.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

You know, I've got a little tip for you. Janis Joplin spent her last night at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood, drinking Southern Comfort, went off to a hotel and died. Go to Barney's Beanery and older the Toad in the Hole!

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

Thank me later.

Josh Clark

And if you want to know more about - I feel like such a jerk saying this after that. If you want to know more about product placement, you can type product placement into the handy search bar at HowStuffWorks.com and that means it's time for listener mail.

Chuck Bryant

Indeed. Josh, I'm just going to call this our favorite high speed story so far.

Josh Clark

Already. Man, Chuck, you've got turnover going.

Chuck Bryant

We did our Cannonball Run episode recently and we asked for high speed stories. We got a bunch of good ones. We don't want to plug those because it's unsafe to drive fast, kids. This came from Jamie in Chicago. Jamie works at a financial advising firm and we help him get through some long workdays, Josh. He has an Uncle Matt that's a pretty big car collector. He never owns more than two to three cars, but he always has a nice Corvette or a muscle car from the 70s. He'll buy, fix up and then sell or trade.In the early 1980s, Uncle Matt was living in Kansas. He had just bought and fixed up his Corvette. And he took it out on a nice flat highway in Kansas, to see what it could do. He was going between 120 and 140 when he saw the flashing blue lights in the mirror. And cop pulled him over. The cop walked up and says do you know why I pulled you over sir. And Matt said I tried to fumble through some answer about how fast he was driving.And the cop said I pulled you over because in this state, we have a law that all aircraft must have their tail numbers displayed on their wings. It turns out the cop was a gear head and more interested in looking under the hood than giving him a ticket. So not only did he not end up giving him a speeding ticket, he just said keep it down to more of a land speed level and sent him on his way.

Josh Clark

Sweet.

Chuck Bryant

So good for Uncle Matt.

Josh Clark

That is a good one.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that's good.

Josh Clark

Well, I guess we're done with the speed stories, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, we're not going to read too many of those.

Josh Clark

Well then I guess that means that we should just have a grab bag this week, huh?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, grab bag.

Josh Clark

Anything you feel like saying to us, you just go ahead and say it. Send it in an e-mail to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com.Announcer: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com. Want more How Stuff Works? Check out our blogs on the HowStuffWorks.com home page.