From Schwarzenegger giving his fans what they want, to the rise and fall of Cristal in Hip Hop, this article lists 5 anecdotes about product placement.
1. The Schwarzenegger lifting belt: reverse product placement
Back in 1976, Arnold Schwarzenegger was atop of body building world and beginning his long planned transition into cinema. In his first speaking role, Arnold played a character very similar to himself a few years earlier, an aspiring body builder training for the Mr Universe competition. In the film, he is often seen training in the gym, and uses a distinctive lifting belt. This belt was created as a prop for the film and did not exist as a commercial product. However, after the release of the film, fans kept mailing Arnold asking where they could buy the same one. In response, Schwarzenegger and his team, that already ran his mail order business, created a product that resembled the film’s prop as closely as possible, and fulfilled the fans’ demand.
This is a textbook case of reverse product placement, where demand for a product featured in a film develops despite the product not being available beforehand.
Source: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2012
2. Sing for the brands
Singing and rapping about brands is nothing new, since Run-DMC’s famous “My Adidas” in 1986 to Nelly’s 2013 single “Hey Porsche”. However, what is not widely known is that most of these songs are in no way commercially linked to the brands that are being sung about. What does happen, if the artist fits their values, is that brands offer them endorsement deals following the successful hit. This happened with Run-DMC and Adidas, it happened to Nelly with “Air Force Ones”, to Busta Rhymes with “Pass the Courvoisier” and the list goes on.
3. Apple…Apple everywhere
If you have not seen an Apple product in a film or TV show then you have not watched anything that has come out in the past 10 years. In this period, Apple’s wide array of products has become omnipresent on our screens and this presence is considered an important part of their “cool” image. What most people do not realize is that Apple does not actually pay for the appearance of the brand. This is despite the fact that the value of the time Apple spends on screen in a film such as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has been assessed at a whopping 23 million dollars. This fact was officially revealed in hearings during the Samsung vs Apple law suits, Apple explained it got so much screen time for free by simply providing the right people with all the Apple gear they wanted. Whilst this means they are not getting the exposure for nothing, thousands of dollars in equipment Apple produce themselves, in exchange for millions of dollars’ worth of exposure is still a pretty good deal.
4. Please drink responsibly!
A brand cannot legally force a movie to remove an appearance by their product and/or logo, but they can ask for them to do so, and whilst some still think all publicity is good publicity, Budweiser disagrees. The All-American beer company has been known to ask for their labels to be edited out of movies such as in The Hangover II (which depicts Budweiser being drunk by someone underage) or Flight (which shows Denzel Washington as a dysfunctional alcoholic, at one point drinking Budweiser whilst driving his car). What this undoubtedly proves, is that in no way are companies always behind the appearance of brands in movies.
5. Remember Cristal?
A long-standing trend for rappers has been to evoke luxury brands in order to illustrate their high flying lifestyles. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were champions at this, and one brand, which became iconic of the rap world thanks to them, was Cristal Champagne. However, in a 2006 interview with The Economist, Frédéric Rouzaud, the managing Director of the company that produces Cristal, showed little regard for some of his champagne’s biggest fans when saying about them: “What can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it.” Whilst Biggie and Tupac were no longer around to react to this, Jay-Z took it upon himself to offer Hip Hop’s response to Mr. Rouzaud’s diss: “I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands, including the 40/40 Club, nor in my personal life”.
Whilst it did not happen overnight, the presence of Cristal in Hip Hop has indeed drastically diminished since 2006 and been replaced by more mainstream brands such as Dom Pérignon or Veuve Clicquot. The presence of Vodka brands such as Cîroc has also grown in music to fill the void left by Cristal. Interestingly, another brand that began appearing prominently in Hip Hop following Jay-Z’s comments, and particularly in his own songs and music videos, was Armand de Brignac, known more commonly as “Ace of Spades” Champagne. This brand, which was utterly unknown before Jaz-Z began singing its praise, denies all commercial links to the music mogul. But an in depth investigation by a Forbes journalist argues quite convincingly that Jay-Z undoubtedly has a monetary stake of some sort in the Champagne brand.
So, take note Gucci, Lamborghini, New Era and any other brand that is loved by Hip Hop: you better appreciate your fans, otherwise the business smart hip hop royalty will replace you with other products and make a few million bucks while they are at it.