Let's continue with the countdown of the Top 40 product placements of all time. Remember: this is my personal and very subjective list. You can check positions 31 to 40 here: Top 40 Product Placements of all time: 40-31.

No. 30 – Taco Bell/Pizza Hut in Demolition Man

How would you feel if there would be only one restaurant in the future? As a customer pretty badly, I guess? What about if you were the owner? I would be pretty cool, ha?

Well, in the movie Demolition Man (1993), which was set in 2032, Taco Bell is the only restaurant left in existence. In the movie, it is presented as a fine dining establishment, complete with valet parking and a dance floor. However, PepsiCo, Taco Bell’s and Pizza Hut’s parent company, decided that some movie scenes will be filmed twice. Taco Bell, which wasn’t widely known outside the US, was replaced with Pizza Hut. This included dubbing and changing the logos during post-production. Today, you can find two different versions of the film in circulation (or online).

Pizza Hut in Demolition Man (1993, Warner Bros., screen capture)


No. 29 – AOL and Starbucks in You’ve Got Mail

You've Got Mail is a romantic comedy with Tom Hanks (Joe) and Meg Ryan (Kathleen) in the leading roles. It’s a story about two letter-writing lovers who are completely unaware that their sweetheart is in fact the person with whom they share a certain degree of hostility. The movie is a remake of the Ernst Lubitsch movie The Shop Around the Corner, but You've Got Mail updated that concept with the use of e-mail.

According to Jean-Marc Lehu’s book Branded Entertainment the movie’s title was initially You Have Mail. But the world’s leading instant messaging service at that time, America On Line (AOL), was using an expression “you’ve got mail” to alert its users that a new mail had arrived. AOL and Warner Bros. somehow manage to convince the director (Nora Ephron) to change the movie title, in order to achieve some mutual benefits.

AOL in You've Got Mail (1998, Warner Bros., screen capture)


The other notable product placement in the movie was Starbucks. The main characters drink coffee in Starbucks and they also meet there. Joe even said: “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

Starbucks in You've Got Mail (1998, Warner Bros., screen capture)


No. 28 – Budget in Home Alone

Home Alone is an American blockbuster from 1990. The movie stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin, an eight-year-old boy from Chicago, who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for their Christmas vacation.

In the late 80s Budget was a major player when it comes to car rentals, but wasn’t that successful in the truck-rental segment. Budget struck gold when they agreed to be a part of Home Alone. When Kevin’s mum got stack on the Scranton airport, John Candy her and his band The Kenosha Kickers in the Budget’s truck back to Chicago.

After the movie was released Budget’s sales rose by 16 percent.

Budget truck in Home Alone (1990, 20th Century Fox, screen capture)


No. 27 – Vespa in Roman Holiday

Vespa is an Italian brand of scooter, manufactured by Piaggio. It was hugely popular from the 50s to 80s. In the 50s Vespa’s biggest promoter was Hollywood. In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck's Vespa in the movie Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome, resulting in over 100,000 sales that year.

Why was this placement so successful? Well, the movie includes two Hollywood superstars and Oscar winners, the location is the eternal city, and the motorcycle is the icon of Italian design. And to spice it up a bit, you have to add a rumour. Hepburn and Peck bonded during filming and they might be even romantically involved. They both denied it, however Hepburn added, “Actually, you have to be a little bit in love with your leading man and vice versa. If you're going to portray love, you have to feel it. You can't do it any other way. But you don't carry it beyond the set.”

Great stuff.

Vespa in Roman Holiday (1953, Paramount, screen capture)


No. 26 – McDonald’s in Pulp Fiction

Seventeen years ago Quentin Tarantino gave us one of the best movies of the 1990s – Pulp Fiction. It was fresh, clever, funny, and full of surprises and bizarre/intelligent dialogues. It includes numerous references to movies and popular culture.

One of the most memorable dialogues occurred between gangsters Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), who discussed differences among nations, namely cultural difference. As an example they used McDonald’s. Even though we can assume that there was no paid product placement, the Royal with Cheese dialogue became famous. It’s kind of funny to associate brand with men whose job is killing people, but there are only few movie dialogues that include McDonald’s and are interesting for viewers.

You can read more on that topic in blog post Product placement highlights – Royale with Cheese


No. 25 – Coca-Cola in American Idol

Coca-Cola’s product placement in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy was at number 32 on Brands & Films’ Top 40 list, but here’s another, even bigger success for the brand.

American Idol is a reality television competition to find new solo singing talents. The show debuted on the Fox network in 2002 and has since become one of the most popular shows in the history of American television. It is currently the most-watched TV series in the Nielsen ratings and is the only program to have been number 1 for six consecutive seasons.

Coca-Cola was one of the first sponsors of American Idol in its first season. In the beginning the sponsorship deal cost around $10 million, but in the Season 7 it rose to $35 million. The most important part of the product placement deal are cups bearing logo of Coca-Cola which are featured prominently on the judges table. Contestants and host are shown gathering between songs in the “Coca-Cola Red Room,” the show's equivalent of the traditional green room.

“It was a risk, and we weren't sure about it, but we felt it had the right elements,” says David Raines, vice president of integrated communications for Coca-Cola. “But, wow, you couldn't ask for better TV. If you look at ratings, it's got universal appeal — everything from kids to 35- to 64-(year-olds). It's hard to find something that is that universal.”

“We've primarily done Coke, but when we launched Coke Lime, for instance, we switched over,” Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling says. “We've done contests where consumers have been able to create their own judges' cup designs and the winner was featured on the show.”

This is the combination of fantastic ratings, universal appeal, universal brand and very aggressive use of product placement. Well done Coca-Cola!

Coca-Cola in American Idol


No. 24 – Duff beer in The Simpsons

The Simpsons is an American animated television series created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The show debuted on December 17, 1989 and it’s s the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program and the longest running American primetime entertainment series.

Duff beer is a fictional brand of beer in the series and Homer Simpson's favourite beer. It is a parody of stereotypical commercial beer: poor-quality with moderate price and advertised everywhere. Apparently Matt Groening stated that he will not license the Duff trademark to brew an actual beer, over concern that it would encourage children to drink. However, there are several companies that actually brew Duff beer (Daleside Brewery in England, DuffDeMexico in Mexico, Eschweger Klosterbrauerei in Germany).

Duff beer is a great case of reverse product placement and the only fictional brand on the Top 40 list.

Fictional and real Duff beer


No. 23 – London Fog in Mad Men

I have to admit that I love Mad Men. For me, it’s one of the best TV series ever (in the company of The Sopranos, Twin Peaks and my guilty pleasure Moonlighting). Product placement for London Fog, an American company specialized in coats and other clothes, was brilliant. I really suggest you read a more in depth analysis of that placement in the blog post London Fog in Mad Men.

Product placement was part of the opening episode of the 3rd season. It began with the conversation that included the line: “There is no fog in London. There is no london fog.” In the middle part it involved a sketched ad for London Fog brand with a tagline “Limit your exposure.”

London Fog’s product placement ended with the scene in Don Draper’s office where his colleagues Bert, Peter and Roger were drinking Stoli and scotch. During that scene Bert delivered another great line to sum up the whole placement: “I don’t care what they say… London Fog is a great name.”

Sketches for the London Fog ad in Mad Men (2009, AMC, screen capture)


No. 22 – Courvoisier in Pass the Courvoisier

Give me the Henny, you can give me the Cris.

You can pass me the Remi, but pass the Courvoisier

Give me the ass, you could give me the dough.

You can give me ’dro, but pass the Courvoisier

Give me some money, you can give me some cars.

But you can give me the bitch, make sure you pass the Courvoisier

Give me some shit, you can give me the cribs.

You can give me whaever, just pass the Courvoisier

One of the most significant examples of product placement occurred in 2002, when American rapper Busta Rhymes released his album Genesis. In the song ‘Pass the Courvoisier’ Busta and P Diddy rapped about different alcohol brands, but gave the biggest credit to Courvoisier, a brand of cognac. The New York agency Impact calculated that the following year, sales had seen an increase of 18.9 per cent. The company itself claimed that it had no agreement with the artists on the inclusion of the cognac brand in the music video.

This product placement is one of the most important placements from the music industry – it includes brand dropping and the placement of the brand in the video: a combination that many advertisers would like to achieve.


No. 21 – Aston Martin in James Bond

Aston Martin DB5 is a British sports car, most famous for being the first and most recognised cinematic James Bond car. It has been featured in several films, most notably Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Cannonball Run, and Casino Royale. It could also be seen in Catch Me If You Can, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.

In Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger James Bond drove Aston Martin DB Mark III. However, when the movie adaptation hit the cinemas, the DB5 was Aston Martin’s newest model and thus very appropriate to be included in the movie. The car used in the film was the original DB5 prototype, another standard car was used for stunts and two more modified cars were built for publicity tours after the film's release.

In October 2010 the original DB5 was sold at auction in London for $4.1 million to Harry Yeaggy, an American classic cars collector who has a small private museum in Ohio.

Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger (1964, United Artists, screen capture)


Top 40 Product Placements of all time: 10-1

Top 40 Product Placements of all time: 20-11

Top 40 Product Placements of all time: 40-31


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