Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Product Placement – Weaving ads into the movies since 1896

I think of product placement as something that developed in recent decades – maybe around the time that E.T. followed a trail of REESE’S PIECES brand candies set down by Elliott.   (In fact’, I’d always heard that REESE’S PIECES ended up in the movie because Hershey, the owner of the brand, agreed to a cross-promotion after Mars turned down a request to place M&M’s in the movie, and sure enough, Snopes proclaims this to be true.)

So I was intrigued to read in The New York Times that Lever Brothers’ SUNLIGHT soap was used in the movie Washing Day in Switzerland, a movie made in 1896 by the Lumiere brothers.  That means that some of the very first attendees of the new moving pictures were treated to commercials built right into the story. 

Wikipedia, which is never wrong, also notes early instances of product placement – for example, the 1919 Fatty Arbuckle comedy The Garage featured RED CROWN gasoline.  

So this form of not-so-subliminal advertising has been around practically since the invention of  the silent film.  Movie makers and product purveyors realized early on that if they weren’t capitalizing on the captive audience, they were missing quite an opportunity. 

Maybe I’ll see if I can get the makers of RED CROWN gasoline to pay me for mentioning it in this blog post.  Anyone know how to get in touch with them?  Or maybe I’ll just crack open a bag of Reese’s Pieces and phone home.

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April 7, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,

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