What was the most memorable product placement of 2013? Something from Iron Man 3 or Man of Steel, this year’s box-office winners? Something from The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Mad Men … or some other TV show?

Here are some thoughts from product placement specialists. And at the end … my favorite placement from 2013.

Abe Sauer of Brand Channel and the author of the annual Brandcameo Product Placement Awards

“It’s tough to pick a single standout placement in a year that featured Iron Man 3’s Audi and Superman’s, ah, Sears store. My choice would be the BMW Z4 in Warm Bodies. Critics panned the film but it made double its budget and was a hit with youth not just in the U.S. but also in China, where the film enjoyed cult popularity and where BMW’s exposure was multiplied many times over to an audience already partial to BMWs.”


Chris Laverty of Clothes on Film

“I’m not sure if it counts as product placement as such because the brand itself is not mentioned or eluded to, but Muffy’s saddle shoes in Stoker have certainly been my favourite use of ‘product awareness’ this year. With the shoes featuring so strongly in the narrative and always being presented in the most attractive light, i.e. on Mia Wasikowska dressed in sophisticated clean chic, they couldn’t fail to become covetable. It was smart, albeit unintentional branding of a classic product that has long remained brand less. I know at least three people personally that have bought a pair of Muffy’s, and when you consider they are distributed from a small shop in the even smaller town of Vernonia in Oregon, and cost nearly around $100 each, that’s quite something.”

Muffy’s leather saddle shoes from Stoker

Chandler Poling, President of White Bear PR

“For me the most memorable placement was an obvious one. The vintage Disney products used in Saving Mr. Banks really struck a chord with me. While the film centered around Walt Disney himself and the making of ‘Mary Poppins’, there was a memorable stuffed Mickey prop that gets great screen time. I love it when filmmakers can skillfully use a product to also move the story, so it doesn’t just feel like a blatant branding insert.”

Mickey from Saving Mr. Banks (2013, Walt Disney, screen capture)

Jason Metcalfe, Consultant at Freedom Film Productions Inc.

“In terms of commercial success and great reviews in theatre: Man of Steel is the obvious stand out. Clear winner as far as product placement dollars and fans! 75 percent of the budget of the whole movie. 160 million or so. And it was different brands than you expect: Sears, IHOP and 7/11. Subtle, but there, and well integrated into the story in a natural logical way.

On television, I’d have to say Modern Family has the best product placement. Natural logical integration into the show, and the brands even let them make joke, about the product. You can see hit shows like Arrow had obvious major financial support from Microsoft, yet the product placement didn’t really get featured or highlighted. Subtle is good, but invisible product placement is just wasting your money. It underwhelmed as opposed to overwhelm as it did on Hawaii 5-0.

My personal favourite that I think was a very well targeted placement that was a big win-win for both the movie and brand: A movie of the week on the Lifetime channel called Forever 16. Targeted at the “Twilight” market, Kawasaki placed a new 2013 Ninja motorcycle in the hands of their lead character Raven. A “rock and roll” type rebellious young girl who was turned into a vampire. She works with the police using her vampire super powers to fight crime, and is about as far from the typical teen lead like Glee or Modern Family as you can get. She breaks into blood banks to steal blood to survive without killing people!

While the story may sound far out there, it was a good show, with strong potential for a series. The motorcycle placement was natural, high profile, and didn’t overwhelm. It made the lead character edgier and more original (especially for a female lead) by having her on a new motorcycle the whole show. At the same time it wasn’t a commercial for Kawasaki, but still made the show look more interesting by providing a new vehicle for the lead character, raising production value, while providing a ton of exposure for Kawasaki in a natural way.”

Kawasaki from Forever 16

Michelle Mastro of Boston Brand Group

“I know this is supposed to be about films, but I am thinking of some of my most memorable placements of the year and they all have to do with social media.

Within a week of its release online, the Volvo Commercial/video with Jean-Claude Van Damme had over 25 million views. It became mega-viral, or viral enough for other brands to spoof it and even those went viral. It became clear in 2013 that movie marketers have learned how to tap this viral heat with Channing Tatum spoofing JCVD’s “Epic Split” to promote the sequel of his new movie ’22 Jump Street’. A week later, Seth Rogen and James Franco parodied Kanye West’s latest video ‘Bound 2’. The parody which has over 3.6 million YouTube views was apparently shot in their downtime on the set of Rogan and Franco’s new movie “The Interview”. It seems like the studios are taking a page out of Oreo’s playbook and harnessing the power of real-time social media marketing.”

Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme

Stacy Jones, President of Hollywood Branded

“Here’s some information about our top placement, but what’s most notable is that this was not a paid integration and a great example of what can be accomplished by simply leveraging a brand’s assets and offsetting production costs.

Coffee Beanery had a store build out in Showtime’s Shameless, where Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) is looking for a job and later gets employed as a barista at a Coffee Beanery. Starting on March 8th, Coffee Beanery was scheduled to be featured in four episodes of Shameless, but received additional exposure on the Season Finale episode that aired April 7th.

With its coffee shop, which spanned over episodes 8-12, Coffee Beanery received phenomenal exposure which included: location build out, logo, hands-on, insert, and wardrobe.”

Coffee Beanery in Shameless (2013, Showtime, screen capture)

Beth Bell, President of Green Product Placement

“If I think for our little startup company, it was getting our repurpose compostable cups into the hands of people on both Law and Order: SVU and also- a biggie- into Francis Underwood’s hands in House of Cards.

It was significant for us for a few reasons:

  • It showed a “green” product being used by people/characters not necessarily known as “green”. You see for sustainable habits to become the norm with the main population, they have to be seen as something that everyone uses, not just the 6% of educated “super-greenies” So having a “congressman” and some “NY Policemen and policewomen” using a compostable cup is a great step towards normalizing this type of earth positive behavior.
  • Secondly, the House of Cards placement was huge. We had other products in other scenes, but to have the Emmy nominated, much talked about evil villain protagonist, played by Kevin Spacey, hold that cup, right there in front of the camera, was fabulous!
  • To have even placed in such a ground breaking series to begin with is a big deal. We’re also placing in Season 2, and we also placed in Hemlock Grove and Orange is the New Black Season 2, too for Netflix along with Alpha House for Amazon prime. Streaming content is the “new cable”. It’s the cutting edge of entertainment content delivery.”
Repurpose Compostables coffee cup that Kevin Spacey is holding in a scene from “House of Cards.” (Photo: Green Product Placement)

Steve Spignese, Vice President and Entertainment Team Leader at Beck Media & Marketing

“What the studio marketing team did with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was impressive. They were everywhere and created what I thought was the most memorable and creative pre-release campaign in recent memory. Brands like Dodge Durango, Ben & Jerry’s, Jockey and others reaped the benefits of truly entertaining partnerships.”

Ron Burgundy in a Dodge Durango ad
Ron Burgundy in a Dodge Durango ad

Erik Renko of BrandsAndFilms.com

I love product placement from Modern Family, but Mad Men remains my favorite TV show. One placement that has been the most memorable for me was Hershey’s placement from the season 6 finale. To read more about it, check the blog post Hershey’s in Mad Men: The currency of affection.

Hershey’s in Mad Men S06E13 (2013, AMC, screen capture)
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