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Brands Featured In Films And TV - Hit Or Miss

Sarah Kistler
October 14, 2022 at 4:38 PM

7 minute read

Building Brand Awareness

ET and Reeces Pieces, Eleven and Eggos, and "Maverick" aka Tom Cruise and Ray Bans. All have been iconic product placement moments that achieved the goal of building brand awareness, but not all placements lead to brand-shining moments. After all, how can we forget the tragic Mr. Big and Peloton placement in And Just Like That

If due diligence isn't done, a brand can easily end up the center of attention in a scene that's unfavorable and, to the brand's dismay, memorable. In this blog, Hollywood Branded examines two product placement moments in film and TV where brands have stood out (for better or worse) and where there were missed opportunities for others.


Brands Featured in Film & TV


Getting Your Brand Seen On-Screen - Spoilers Ahead

Product placement can come in two forms, paid or trade. The goal of product placement has always been for it to occur in the most natural and organic ways.

KAHI and CurlMix Beauty Products in Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Photo: Disney+ | Hocus Pocus 2 

The addition of streaming platforms has immensely added to the competition in terms of content, so today, productions can go overboard on product placement. This happens due to production companies' attempts to turn out content cheaper and faster than without using it. As a result of productions being placement and/or message-heavy, brands can be called out. Inorganic or overdone placements can cause consumers to feel like the brand is being shoved in their faces and they are being taken advantage of.

UK Movies Group — Transformers 4 Wins 'Worst Product Placement'...

GIF: Paramount Pictures | Transformers: The Last Knight | UK Movies Group

An example of this is Olive Garden's appearance in Cobra Kai Season 5. While they do a decent job pointing out the breadsticks as a perk of going to Olive Garden, they push the messaging a bit little too much when the server comes in.

 That's why when a paid placement (also known as an integration) is done, it's important for the placement to align with the ethos of the brand. During the placement, it's best that the messaging is short and sweet, sticking to one to two quick key points. 

Trade-based product placement is usually the more desired method for brands since no dollars are exchanged, but the effects could be less than favorable. Yes, the production will make its best efforts to not associate the brand with anything that could reflect negatively on the brand, but nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the creative process. That's the gamble with trade-based placements and a price that some brands have paid. 


And Just Like That

Earlier this year, HBO Max launched the revival of the beloved show Sex and the City with a new series titled And Just Like That. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon returned as the leading ladies, Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte. In the series, they navigate friendship and dive deeper into the complexities of life as they experience their 50s. 

With a revived show come old characters. Some are lucky to make a return, while others get written off with no on-screen appearance. The characters that do make it on are usually in the show to appease old fans' appetites for nostalgia but usually need to leave the show soon after their re-appearance.

And Just Like That HBO Max

Photo: HBO Max | And Just Like That

The reason being that they leave for new challenges to arise for the main character; they only wanted to make a quick re-appearance or the character's development has reached its peak.

That brings us to the writers. What they thought was a realistic yet dramatic way to kill off a key person in Carrie's (Parker) life, i.e. Big (Chris North) in the show became a bit of a major wound to a brand they used when the event occurred.

big and carrie and just like that

Photo: HBO Max | And Just Like That

While it was a great moment in a compilation of drama and predictability, it turned into a slight storm both on HBO Max's side and Peloton's.

Now to the event!

In the episode of his demise, Big (North) and Carrie (Parker) mention his Peloton workout with his instructor Allegra. Additionally, the Peloton bike and branding are clearly displayed in various cuts showing Big (North) while he works out and eventually when he has his arduous heart attack.  

Peleton 'SATC' Death: Stock Falls Amid 'And Just Like That' Twist

Photo: HBO Max | And Just Like That | Chris North 

While nothing was wrong with the storytelling, the branding (as many of us know) was the issue. The placement highly correlated to a noticeable drop in Peloton stock, leading to fingers being pointed at the production and within Peloton. Well, look no further, as Buzzfeed News was able to uncover what occurred and reported the following:

Peloton spokesperson Denise Kelly said the company approved King's [who played Peloton instructor Allegra in the episode] appearance but indicated that it didn't know about the plot line.

"HBO procured the Peloton Bike on their own," Kelly said. "Peloton was aware that a Bike would be used in the episode and that Jess King would be portraying a fictional Peloton instructor."

"Due to confidentiality reasons, HBO did not disclose the larger context surrounding the scene to Peloton in advance," Kelly said.

Peloton x Mr. Big And Just Like That

Photo: HBO Max | And Just Like That 

To summarize, Peloton was aware that its likeness would be used in the form of a Peloton class. The company was not aware of the full context of the scenes that the brand would be involved in.

Therefore, it seems Peloton asked for additional information, but production declined. Peloton then could have made a choice to decline the usage of the brand's likeness in the series, but who would have thought it would have been associated with such a disastrous event? 

While Peloton did rebound quite admirably from this incident, it was snuffed out by the allegations surrounding North which further polluted any attempts Peloton made to turn the negative into a positive.

It is a placement that will go down in history as a cautionary tale for brands and productions alike. But not to worry, more people have moved on than those who haven't from this product placement spectacle. 

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I Feel Pretty

As we've seen from Peloton in And Just Like That, not all placements can be good ones, but don't let that event ruin your outlook on product placement!

Take Amy Schumer in STX's I Feel Pretty. The film follows a woman who is struggling with insecurity until she falls. When she wakes up, she believes she is the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. Her new confidence empowers her to live fearlessly but comes to realize that her appearance never changed.

In the film, Schumer's character, Renee, goes to SoulCycle with the hopes of becoming like the other girls she is surrounded by at the location and admires. To clarify, like model and actress Emily Ratajokowski, who makes a couple of appearances in the film. During her first and second visit to SoulCycle, Renee (Schumer) has a slew of bad experiences. Her bike's seat malfunctions which rips her yoga pants; she falls off a bike during a class and hits her head, and has her hair ripped out by a neighboring bike post-fall in summary of those two trips. 

But as the saying goes, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Just like Renee does in the film, her more undesirable experience at SoulCycle is then made into lemonade as she is given the gift of self-love and confidence in herself after she falls off the SoulCycle bike and hits her head. 

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Plot and Timing

Peloton's appearance in And Just Like That may have made people less likely to use a Peloton and turn to competitors. In comparison, SoulCycle didn't gain nearly as much concern among consumers despite the main character also having a tragic, very possible in real life, accident occur related to using a brand's equipment. 

So why did this placement of SoulCycle not have the same impact Peloton's side? It's because of the plot and timing. 

Both incidents that Renee (Shumer) and Big (North) undergo in the productions are horrific. The difference is that SoulCycle was given something Peloton wasn't given as well.

Its redemption arc.

Putting aside the fact that no one died in I Feel Pretty after being associated with using the branded bike, the character later uses the bike properly and successfully. At the end of the film, SoulCycle isn't seen as a villain but a hero brand. 

i feel pretty x soulcycle x amy schumer

Photo: STX Entertainment | I Feel Pretty

On the other hand, the death of Big (North) occurs at the end of episode one. It is something that is fresh in viewers' minds throughout the rest of the season, especially since the show then follows the characters through their grieving process. Given that Big (North) was fresh off his Peloton workout with Allegra, it makes it seem like his fragile heart couldn't take the workout (although it's generally known working out is good for you).

And Just Like That x Peloton

Photo: HBO Max | And Just Like That  

In the second episode of And Just Like That, the writers try to recover the damage done from Big's well... big moment, but it isn't as impactful. 

When Miranda (Nixon) and her husband Steve (David Eigenberg) discuss whether Big should have been using the Peloton to begin with, Miranda defends his actions (and the brand) saying, "He was on that bike for over a thousand rides. He got the OK from his cardiologist. Exercise is good for the heart."

Despite the initial efforts to turn this placement around, it could do Peloton some good to pay for a positive integration where Carrie decides to ride the bike in memory of Big and to feel connected to him. This could possibly provide a better sense of redemption and restored admiration for the brand, but then again, Peloton may just want to just try and leave the incident in the past.


Spinning The Narrative

In all of the scenes, the branding of SoulCycle can be seen in an organic yet in-your-face way, which suggests that they may have paid for the placement. The fact that production seemed to make an extra effort as not to show the Fiji Water logo supports the suggestion and is a good example of trade-based product placement.

schumer x i feel pretty x soulcycle x fiji water

Photo: STX Entertainment | I Feel Pretty

soulcycle x i feel pretty

Photo: STX Entertainment | I Feel Pretty

emily Ratajkowski x i feel pretty x soulcycle

Photo: STX Entertainment | I Feel Pretty

soulcycle class i feel pretty

Photo: STX Entertainment | I Feel Pretty

Regardless, the person who approved the use of the brand and location use for the film was probably fully aware of the scripted events, unlike Peloton. 

It's possible that it's because the placement felt organic, and there weren't many other major brand moments in the film. Additionally, it could have been seen by audiences that these incidents could be overlooked for how essential they were to the plot. Audiences could rationalize that it wasn't SoulCycle's fault or the attitude of the staff that resulted in these mishaps but Renee's confidence in herself that led to these negative experiences.

Not to mention, it doesn't hurt that Renee (Schumer) is seen at the very end of the film unaffected by her previous bad experiences at SoulCycle since audiences see she goes again. The last time we see her is with a determined look on her face, and the film ends on a high note which leaves viewers feeling that way too when they think of the brand. 

i feel pretty x amy schumer x soulcycle

Photo: STX Entertainment | I Feel Pretty

For Peloton, it isn't as simple since audiences were left to mourn the loss of a beloved character but also feel the pain Carrie is going through.

Carrie & Mr. Big + death + Pelaton

Photo: HBO Max | And Just Like That

It isn't a quick fix, as the loss of a loved one usually isn't, and so audiences are left to continue feeling that way through the majority of the season. Unfortunately, Mr. Big being on a Peloton in his last moments leads not only Carrie and her friends but the viewers to also blaming the Peloton bike he was riding for his death by its association with him.

But there's always a way for brands to rebound since. We, the consumers, will just have to wait and see how exactly Peloton will do it and if And Just Like That will offer any assistance.

product placement and promotion 101


Want To Learn More?

Product placement can be tricky but if done well it can be fun and rewarding! Check out the blogs below that touch more on product placement and how other brands are doing it.

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Topics: Product Placement & Branded Content, SVOD Content - Placement, SVOD Content - Hollywood, Film/Movies, Pop Culture

Sarah Kistler

Written by Sarah Kistler

 

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