Prepare To Time Travel
When people think of product placement, they often think of scenes from today's day and age. Spotting Cheeto's in the background of a grocery store, a Starbuck's cup in a library, or Nike apparel in a gym scene. But what about movies that take place years in the past? What about years into the future?
Although the idea of placing a product in a film that takes places in a different era seems nearly impossible, filmmakers and brands have found ways to create unique partnerships that benefit both the production and the brand. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how successful product placement has aided in creating the past and predicting the future in three successful movies.
Making Brands Visible In Every Era
Product placement in modern TV and film isn't too hefty of a challenge to take on: add a couple brands in the background here, have a character wear "X" clothing and prefer "X" drink. But what about when a film takes place 100 years earlier... or 100 years into the future? This is where the creativity that product placement was founded on thrives. Filmmakers have to get innovative.
Placing brands in eras other than the current decade seems to be a daunting task, but throughout time, we've come to find that with a little creativity and innovation, products can be placed in more ways than one would think.
Place the Product, Old Sport
1. The Great Gatsby / Moet & Chandon
To start our list, we're going back to a boisterous era of prosperity, fast cars, speakeasies, jazz and wild youth. That’s right… the roaring twenties. What better film set in the 1920s than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby was full of product placement with luxury brands that fit perfectly into the era and wild parties hosted by Jay Gatsby. Party guests drank Moet & Chandon champagne by the bottle, magnum, case, fountain pyramids and even by the Balthazar, hugely over-sized bottles that are rarely seen outside of Gatsby scale feats. The placement was so prominent that Moet & Chandon was contacted multiple times by journalists asking the “elephant in the room” question… How much did that cost you? The answer? Nothing.
The logic behind this placement came from the film’s costume and production designer, Catherine Martin. Martin kept her logic simple: historical accuracy. While Fitzgerald’s novel did not specify the brand that Gatsby’s guests drank endless amounts of, Martin came to conclusion, with very good reasons, that it was Moet & Chandon. At the time, the company was an early pioneer in the exports of champagne to countries such as the US, UK, and France. In doing this, Moet & Chandon put themselves at the forefront as the drink of choice that stood out for its excellence, prestige and perception.
Great Scott, Look At That Product Placement!
2. Back To The Future Trilogy / Pepsi
The story of how Pepsi landed in each one of the three Back to the Future films is enough to be a story in itself, so buckle up (or, should I say, hop on your hoverboard) and enjoy the ride. It all started when Bradford Brown, co-founder of Davie Brown Entertainment, befriended the prop master for Back to the Future. This resulted in references to Pepsi during the film, such as Marty’s conversation with a confused waiter that didn’t understand Marty’s order of a “Pepsi Free” (soon to be rebranded as Caffeine Free Pepsi) in 1955.
By the time Back to the Future Part II came around, Pepsi gave Brown a zero-base budget. From here, Brown could spend whatever he needed to create a Pepsi for the next millennium. They wanted a Pepsi that had its traditional benefits and flavor, but more nutrients.
“So it would be the perfect meal”, Brown said. “And that led us to, ‘Gee, if it’s a perfect meal, why don’t we call it Pepsi Perfect?” The original bottle for Pepsi Perfect was made by a father-son duo in their garage. Costing around $12,000 a piece, Brown needed around four or five dozen for the film, still unknowing how prevalent the bottles would even be in the film. After seeing the bottle, filmmakers liked how different the bottle was and practically created the scene around the bottle.
To take this placement a step further, Pepsi fulfilled the desires of Back to the Future fans around the world by releasing 6,500 bottles of Pepsi Perfect into the real world. In 2015, Linda Lagos, the current Senior Director of Marketing at PepsiCo, said that planning for this release began over a year before the release date, and the idea had been floating around the company for even longer.
Davie Brown President Tom Meyer reflected on the campaign and expressed how the opportunity to take something fictional and make it come true for fans was too good to pass up. "I just think it is incredibly special to deliver on a lot of people's desires and dreams to have a Pepsi Perfect in real life," Meyer said. "To be able to actually deliver on the dreams of people who almost 30 years ago fell in love with not only with the movie but also Pepsi Perfect. That's a really special opportunity and we're getting to live it right now."
And finally, we make it to Back to the Future Part III. This film was a little bit more of a challenge to place Pepsi, as majority of the film takes place in 1885 and Pepsi was not invented until 1898. However, filmmakers were still able to get the red and blue logo on screen through a billboard at the Pohatachee Drive-In as Marty prepares to leave 1955.
Tasting the Future of Product Placement
3. Blade Runner 2049 / Johnnie Walker
For this placement, were jumping 30 years into the future and getting a little taste of the year 2049. Upon the release of the long-awaited Blade Runner 2049, Johnnie Walker collaborated with filmmaker Denis Villeneuve on a limited-edition release: Johnnie Walker Black Label The Director’s Cut.
The inspiration for this partnership came from Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie Blade Runner. This film was set in 2019 and included a visual taste of 21st century Johnnie Walker in a geometric shaped bottle. Along with most fans, Villeneuve remembered seeing the 21st century bottle in the first film and commented on the unique privilege to collaborate with Johnnie Walker on designing a completely original, custom bottle for the new movie that captured the complex and mysterious world of Blade Runner 2049.
Ready to take this placement a step further? The unique, fast-forwarded bottle wasn’t made only to package Johnnie Walker Black, but a special blend that fans could relate to and whiskey drinkers would love. “I was truly inspired by Villeneuve’s artistic vision for Blade Runner 2049 and how it could come to life in this new blend,” said Master Blender Jim Beveridge. “I learned that filmmaking is much like blending—you have to constantly be committed to creating the best possible outcome. Johnnie Walker blending tradition dates back to 1820 and I’m honored to carry on the legacy and collective memory of our other past blenders to ensure that the same whisky enjoyed today can be enjoyed responsibly in 2049.”
Focusing On Brand Awareness
Although product placement in films that are set in different eras present a challenge, with the right amount of creativity, the partnership can reap just as many, if not more, benefits as a normal placement. When viewers watch the Moet & Chandon champagne bottles being popped and poured for wild party guests in Gatsby's mansion, they are reminded of the level of prestige and quality that this champagne had even in the twenties, and lasted for decades to come.
In the Back to the Future films, fans are able to see Pepsi appear from decade to decade and watch as the timeless brand evolves to stay relevant, no matter the year. Taking it a step further, fans of all ages had the chance to get their hands on Pepsi Perfect and step into the adventures of Marty McFly. In Blade Runner 2049, fans and whiskey-lovers had the chance to have a taste of the future from the unique bottle seen in and created specifically for the film.
The most important aspect in all of these placements is the emphasis put on brand awareness. While viewers may not be able to step in any grocery store and get their hands on the unique Pepsi Perfect bottle that McFly sips from in "the future", viewers will remember Pepsi and its timeless effect the next time they see the modern logo in their own grocery store, in any decade it may be.
To learn more about product placement, check out some of our other blogs written about even more retro placements, costs, and product placement in other countries!
- How Brands Use Retro Product Placement To Stand Out
- Podcast Episode 15: Why Retro Product Placement in Movies and TV Works
- How To #29: How Much Does Product Placement Cost
- Product Placement in Ireland
- How British Product Placement Law Is Different
Are you interested in learning more about how product placement can benefit your brand? There are so many product placement options for brands seeking a brand integration in films - to learn more, download our Product Placement 101 infographic.