The Best of 2011

Here it is: the annual review of the best of the best in product placement and branded entertainment. In my previous feature The Best of 2010 I chose iPad’s placement in Modern Family as product placement of the year 2010, but this year iPad didn’t win any award.

The winners of 2011 are …


If I had to present an actual award for the best product placement in 2011 I would have a really tough task. This year, no product placement really stood up in terms of overall greatness, so I decided that there won’t be any best of the best award for 2011. There are two examples that could be memorable: one for its execution and one for the idea. BMW’s involvement in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an example of embracing opportunities that came with high profile product placement. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so BMW & MI4 can’t win the contest at Brands & Films.

The other example is Morgan Spurlock’s documentary POM Wonderful presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which was a great idea, but with not-optimal execution. Even for me Spurlock’s movie wasn’t as entertaining as it could have been. Perhaps it would be better to stick with a more traditional approach.

To compensate not giving the best of award I’ve decided to present some other prominent and interesting placements that occurred in 2011.


Somewhere in the middle of the movie Friends With Benefits Justin Timberlake gives Mila Kunis a present: a Banksy-like painting by a mysterious artist L.T. Kali. I haven’t found any useful information, so I’ve sent a tweet to Sony Pictures with a question whether L.T. Kali is a real street artist or some fictional character. The answer was:

“From the director – In the spirit of all street artsits, we request that LT Kali remains anonymous. Thanks.”

That answers didn’t give me any confirmation, however later on someone posted a comment on blog post Product placement in pictures: Friends With Benefits that L.T. Kali might be the same guy who did the iPod like artwork for Roger Waters’ 2010 The Wall Live Tour. These artworks appear during the performance of Run Like Hell. Maybe … but I still don’t know who L.T. Kali is.

Check more details about L.T. Kali in blog post "Product placement in pictures: Friends with Benefits"
L.T. Kali's painting @Ftale (2011, Screen Gems, screen capture)


Fiat decided to make a big splash on the US market in 2011. They have re-entered the market after 17 years. Fiat North America’s head Laura Soave hired Jennifer Lopez to appear in their ads for Fiat 500 Gucci Edition and put the car in her video. Later they even drove the car on stage at the American Music Awards (more on that later). Fiat also sponsored Wainy Days, web series on My Damn Channel, which premiered its fifth season in early December. According to Brand Channel Wainy Days is the longest-running and most-watched comedy series online. Saks Fifth Avenue even put Fiat 500 Gucci in their Holiday window.

Fiat 500 in J. Lo's music video Papi (2011, Island, screen capture)

However, all those ‘creative’ promotions couldn’t help Soave to sell 50,000 cars as she was supposed to. Fiat sold around 16,000 cars and Laura Soave had to go.


“The rucksack contained her white Apple iBook 600 with a 25-gig hard drive and 420 megs of RAM, manufactured in January 2002 and equipped with a 14-inch screen. At the time she bought it, it was Apple’s state-of-the-art laptop. Salander’s computers were upgraded with the very latest and sometimes most expensive configurations—computer equipment was the only extravagant entry on her list of expenses.” (a passage from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

Lisbeth Salander is an Apple girl. That’s a fact. In Swedish movie adaptations she used various Mac models, but in David Fincher’s US version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, produced by Sony Pictures, she’s using Sony Vaio. That was expected and it’s quite normal, but I was surprised after all. Stieg Larsson made it really clear that Lisbeth is a loyal Apple user that I anticipated that the producers will maybe blur the logo or do something.

Lisbeth Salander uses Sony Vaio (source: BrandChannel)


On Sunday, 20th November, American television ABC aired the 2011 American Music Awards, which became famous for one (unnecessary) event: during Jennifer Lopez’s performance of the medley of three songs ‘Until It Beats No More’, ‘Papi’ and ‘On the Floor’ a car drove on the stage. It was Fiat 500, which was also included in her video for the song ‘Papi’.

The majority of viewers and fans were baffled and quite angry. That could be expected, even more because we weren’t exposed to that kind of in-your-face product placement before, especially not at music events…

That’s why this Fiat’s action deserves a Product placement prostitution of the year award.


Toyota continues to place its eco-friendly model Prius in all kinds of movies and TV shows. We spotted Prius in TV shows Modern Family, Wilfred and Happy Endings. Also, the car could be seen in movies Horrible Bosses, Hall Pass, No Strings Attached, Our Idiot Brother … In Hall Pass we could see main characters’ rich neighbor bragging: “We’re going green”, even though his brand new Toyota Prius is parked next to a big and gas-consuming Hummer. it was even

Toyota Prius in Hall Pass (2011, New Line Cinema, screen capture)

To be seen in so many movies is definitely a good strategy that last year resulted in a “Best Role in a Supporting Product Placement” handed out by BrandChannel. Last year Prius was placed in several high profile movies, such as The Other Guys, The Kids are All Right, Repo Man, Wall Street 2 and The Next Three Days.

Great stuff by Toyota.


Sunglasses are one of the most usable products that can be used as a product placement, with such iconic placements as Ray Ban’s aviators in Top Gun or wayfarers in Risky Business. And you definitely haven’t forgotten Oakleys worn by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2. However, this year belongs to Ryan Gosling. His character Jacob from Crazy Stupid Love wore model Chad by an American glasses manufacturer Selima Optique.

If you click on Selima’s link above you’ll find an interesting explanation about Chad sunglasses:

These can usually be seen on a certain dashing young star, we won’t name-drop, of course!

Note: Due to overwhelming popularity, AUBURN TORTOISE IS ALL SOLD OUT! Still available in three amazing colors. Contact us with your name and telephone number to be added to the waiting list for Auburn Tortoise.

Chad sunglasses by Selima Optique in Crazy Stupid Love (2011, Warner Bros., screen capture)

Runner up: Wacks by Oliver Peoples, worn by Zooey Deschanel in the TV show New Girl. You can read more about Zooey’s glasses in the blog post What brand of glasses is Zooey wearing in New Girl?


Media event par excellence in 2011 was the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge) with reported figures of more than 2 billion viewers (although some reports tried to show that this number was really exaggerated). Among the main stars of the weddings were Middleton sisters, Kate and Pippa, and her Alexander McQueen dresses.

Kate’s wedding dress was designed by Sarah Burton, the creative director for Alexander McQueen. Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta said that “she had a perfect dress, a very traditional dress for a very traditional wedding.“ Kate was wearing McQueen also for the evening celebration, while her bridesmaid Pippa also wore Burton’s creation.

Kate Middleton's wedding and party dress, Pippa Middleton's dress for the wedding ceremony


Dunder Mifflin is a fictional paper company from the US version of the TV show The Office. NBC used the success of the show and started selling actual products with the Dunder Mifflin logo as souvenirs, e.g. branded T-shirts, mugs, calendars and other items.

However, in November American office supply chain store Staples announced that they will start selling their own Dunder Mifflin products, but not official merchandise, but rather an actual Dunder Mifflin paper. They will sell it under the license from NBC’s parent company, Comcast. You can also buy Dunder Mifflin paper on Staples’ website

The Dunder Mifflin deal is a great example of reverse product placement, with Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurants the most notable example.


Marshawn Lynch is an American football running back for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. He was drafted as 12th in 2007 NFL draft by Buffalo Bills and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2008. Lynch is also known for his off-the-field antics: he was the victim of mistaken identity when some unknown attacker shot at his car outside his high school alma mater, he was accused (but never arrested or charged) of sexual assault by his former girlfriend, he was investigated for his involvement in a hit and run accident that occurred in Buffalo …

Lynch is also known for his love of Applebees, a restaurant chain, and eating Skittles, a habit which started in high school (he has said that his mom used to feed him the candy in high school). He frequently eats candies during games and on December 1 Lynch was shown eating the candy after touchdown vs Philadelphia Eagles at a nationally-televised game.

Right after the game Skittles people offered him a two-year supply of Skittles and a customized dispenser for his locker. And later on Twitter, the brand posted an explanation for Lynch’s great game on its Twitter feed:

“Does he run that fast because he knows people are after his Skittles?”

Great move by Skittles.


50 Cent is next in the line of celebrities who started their own business. First it was Dr. Dre with his Beats by Dre headphones and 50 Cent wanted his share of the headphones market. His collaboration with Sleek Audio ended unsuccessfully in the middle of this year, but in autumn rapper announced that he will try for the second time. He established the company called SMS Audio and launched two headphones models: wireless Sync by 50 and wired Street by 50.

As I predicted 50 Cent will use product placement heavily in order to promote his headphones. We could’ve seen them in Hot Rod’s video Hot Girl, Jasmine V.’s video for the song Just a Friend and Lea’s video November Skies. I’m sure he’ll soon place his headphones in some more prominent artist’s video. And that will be just the beginning.

Street by 50 headphones in Lea's music video November Skies (2011, G-Note Records, screen capture)

Do you agree with Brands&Films’ awards? Yes/no? I’d love to hear your comments…

  1. Did you see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? She clearly uses a Mac all throughout the movie, that Vaio is just a small part. Even Blomkvist uses a Mac.

  2. Dude you have to mention McDonalds and Coca Cola in ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ … I liked the movie but it kinda felt like a mind-warping long commercial watching all the product placement going on … thanks for this post! I loved it!