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11 December 2023

Brands cash in on product placement

By Rachel McArthur


In 1982, when a little-known sweet product called Reese’s Pieces was used to lure ET, the friendly but shy alien in the movie of the same name, it started a trend that would forever change the way we shopped.


It caused sales of the Hershey Company’s peanut butter-filled candy to take off, while executives at Mars Incorporated kicked themselves for declining director Steven Spielberg’s offer to feature their M&Ms.


Product placement is the term used to describe the arrangement by a company to have its specific brand used in a television show or film, or by a specific actor. And while it may sometimes be criticised by actors, writers and even viewers, paid product placements in movies and TV shows help companies’ sales. At the end of the day, everyone wants to get more out of a movie than a feel-good storyline and a used ticket stub. And immediately after ET was released, sales of Reese’s Pieces increased by 80 per cent. Now that’s some good advertising.


There’s no sign of the market slowing either. According to American market research firm PQMedia, product placement in movies soared to Dh25.7 billion by the end of 2006, and is expected to rise to Dh36.7bn by 2010. In comparison, PQMedia’s figure for earnings from product placement in 2004 was Dh12.8bn. And the cash that is invested in movies stateside brings in revenue from around the world, including the UAE.




Dubai’s Boutique 1, for example, which sells Belstaff clothing exclusively in the region, most recently launched the Trialmaster Legend jacket in the city, the same jacket Will Smith wore in his latest movie, I Am Legend. You too can be Dr Robert Neville for the bargain price of Dh5,500. And the jacket proved to be tremendously popular.


“We sold 15,000 of the Trialmaster Legend around the world following the release of the movie,” Manuele Malenotti, spokesperson of Belstaff and the son of manufacturer’s owner, told Emirates Business.


“Collaborations with movies benefit Belstaff a lot, especially in terms of the image of the brand and not just the sales. This year we are very proud of the fact that Sweeney Todd received a nomination for Best Costumes, which Belstaff also provided.”


Johnny Depp aside, two of the company’s most popular jackets have come courtesy of Tom Cruise, whose War of the Worlds' Hero jacket sold 25,000 units. Meanwhile, the jacket Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt wore in Mission Impossible III, the M Blouson, sold 20,000 units.


Malenotti adds: “Belstaff clothing has been featured in more than 70 movies in the last three years, and no other fashion brand has had such great success in the history of product placement in movies.
Plus, the sales of Belstaff jackets in Boutique 1 in the UAE are always growing, and we feel very comfortable and believe that business in the region in the future will be even more significant.”


So what’s the key to Belstaff’s success in recent years? “The main reason is due to the fact that the process to be part of a movie with the clothes is very difficult,” he said.

“Timing is very important, because big productions move very fast and need multiple copies of the same look. For example, in the movie The Aviator, we created 80 jackets in five days. Plus, the jackets must not only fit the actors perfectly, but the actors also have to love the brand. Leonardo DiCaprio once said to me: ‘Thanks for the great jacket you did for me for The Departed. It looks great and helped me to get into the character and feel like a bad boy.’”




It’s not only clothing brands that are widely benefiting from product placement. Cars are a pretty hot business too. According to brandchannel.com, a website that hosts its own product placement awards, Ford was the most advertised company in 2005, 2006, and 2007, appearing in 18 of 41 number-one films in 2005, 17 of 41 in 2006, and 20 of 40 in 2007. And in last year’s Transformers movie, General Motors raced to the product placement opportunity with four of its brands starring in the film. And it was definitely worth the race.


There has been huge demand for the Camaro – or Bumblebee, the car that Shia LaBeouf’s character owned – despite the fact that it will not even be available until the end of 2008.


Advances in technology may also push the product placement trend even more in your face. According to various technology publications, the television remote may be the next big thing for retailing, as labs are now in the process of testing technology that will let viewers buy “as they watch”, a similar concept to online retailer As Seen On Screen (asos.com), which provides replicas of must-have items seen in movies and shows.


The so-called t-commerce is expected to be available to some satellite customers in the United States in the near future. But don’t be surprised if it reaches the UAE soon.

Imagine ordering the same type of takeaway Brad Pitt is eating in his latest movie or Carrie Bradshaw’s Jimmy Choo stilettos from Sex and the City: The Movie available at the press of a button. It could all very well be achievable.



Movies with the most product placements in 2007


71 brands in Transformers


$70.5m weekend gross


The mega-bucket movie, starring Shia La Beouf and Megan Fox leads the pack, with GM being the film’s biggest brand.



59 brands in Blades of Glory


$55.5m weekend gross


Melting figure skating’s genteel image, this film spotlights an eclectic mix of brands, including Puma, for laughs.



58 brands in The Bourne Ultimatum


$70.5m weekend gross


Jason Bourne is on the run so the big brands in this movie seek to help him on his way, such as the London Underground.



42 brands in Evan Almighty


$31.2m weekend gross


Brands flood this film while some even get holy endorsements from God (Morgan Freeman).



41 brands in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry


$34.2m weekend gross


While the city questioned the match, audiences pondered their love for Adidas and Nike.



On-screen success




Rank                  Product            Films appeared in

                        Ford                       20

2                         Apple                     13

3                         Coca-Cola            11

4                         BMW                       8

                           Mercedes               8

                           Nike                         8

5                         Motorola                 7