Product Placement in David Lynch Productions


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Product Placement & Art House Film-making

The neo-noir filmmaker, David Lynch is known for avant-garde work that is  haunting, captivating and will stick with you for days (for better or worse.) As his catalog exists in the world of the obscure and cult classics, you wouldn't think of David Lynch as being brand-friendly. In fact, Lynch has gone on the record multiple times and stated that the does not support product placement.

However, in the interviews Lynch is specifically referring to the act of productions receiving financial support in exchange for product placement. But if you look through his work, you'll actually find many examples of product placement. In this blog, Hollywood Branded examines the role of product placement in the world of David Lynch films.

Product Placement in David Lynch Films

The Tense Relationship Between Lynch & Placements

Famously, when asked how he felt about product placement, David Lynch replied, "it's bullshit." In later interviews, this comment was brought up in reference of the fact that Lynch has also directed several commercials for brands and he was asked if he had changed his mind on the subject. Lynch again confirmed that he had not and clarified that when he directed commercials, it was just for the money but when he directed films, he did not want his artistic integrity compromised.

And this by the way, rings very true. To date there is no example of Lynch accepting funds for placing brands in his films. As an artist whose work is not mainstream or known for breaking records in the box office, Lynch has found other ways to fund his productions. For instance, while science fiction is not particularly Lynch's forte, he did direct the screen adaptation of Dune in 1984. Why do a sci-fi movie if you don't like sci-fi? Because the studio agreed to fund his next film, Blue Velvet if he agreed to take it on. (Side note: if you haven'r seen Dune, many people including Lynch himself would tell you - don't bother.)

product placement guide

So if David Lynch doesn't like product placement and has never accepted funds in exchange for it, it's safe to assume it doesn't happen in his films, right? WRONG. In fact, product placement can be found throughout Lynch's most famous films.

True, Lynch did not accept payment or any financial support for these products and how they were placed. Yet all the same, you can see luxury car brands, high fashion and electronics brands to name a few. And while Lynch maintains his street-cred for not selling out or having the integrity of his work impacted by these placement, it's still product placement.

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In fact, arguably the end result is exactly the same. As we've said many times throughout this blog and tell all our clients: good product placement doesn't feel like an advertisement. It champions when it succeeds in subtlety. More specifically and most importantly of all, good product placement helps tell the story.

Twin Peaks: The Return

You can find brands you know and use daily all over Lynch's latest return to television, Showtime's Twin Peaks: The Return. One major tell that Lynch does not accept payment for these placements is the fact that he has major competitors of Microsoft and Apple in the same production. Typically, fee-based deals include exclusivity. You can bet that Lynch's production would never agree to exclusivity for free placements and frankly, the hype behind this final season was so large that it makes sense both brands would jump at the opportunity, even knowing the other would be as well.

Below are some prime examples of product placement. Notably, these placements are REALLY good. Clear logo exposure suggests that while many artists will disavow the process of incorporating brands into their work, the brands do in fact help tell the story, If they didn't, Lynch wouldn't have kept them in.

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Mulholland Drive

You can also spot brands prominently throughout his 2001, Mulholland Drive (this was actually Naomi Watts breakout performance.) Take a look at the way household items depict everyday life as effectively as a luxury car brand portrays a spoiled rich kid director.





Blue Velvet

While Lynch had certainly made a name for himself with his debut in the art house release, Eraserhead, it was the film Blue Velvet (starring Kyle Maclachlan, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern) that really established Lynch's style and solidified his place in film history. 

Incidentally, the film also has some of the most prominent product placement of any of his films giving several verbal mentions to beer brands, a topic that comes up several times. 

Check out this first exchange

Or the most famous and often quoted verbal mention of all:

As David Lynch is an artist who has always been vocal about artistic integrity and never known for doing anything for commercial appeal, it's understandable that he would balk at fee-based deals. Though while it may be popular to denounce product placement, the reality is that paid or not, almost all productions do have some form of it involved at some point.

When you see fake brands and logos that are made to look like another brand, it takes you out of the film and reminds you that what you're watching is just a movie. Whereas Lynch's work is known for an unnerving and uncomfortable sense of reality in his surreal work that can only be achieved by holding a mirror to our world that portrays us and the brands we use in everyday life.

Products Placed In Other Films

Want to learn about the role product placement has played in other famous films? Check out these other blog posts we've written:

Interested in integrating your brand's product into a film or TV production but don’t know where to start? There is more to product placement than you'd think! Learn about the key tactics to best fit your brand and download our Product Placement 101 Infographic today to start learning more!

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