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Inevitably products that are on sale pop up all the time like cars, whisky and phones. If the props department happens to use an Audi, Jack Daniels or an iphone, do they get in touch with them and see if they can get them to pay for it? Or threaten to use their competitors products?

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Good question. I've noticed quite a few times where the actors are holding products, but with the labels not showing. Though you can clearly tell a coke can even if the label isn't showing. For those times the labels do show, I wondered if they were sponsored or not. –  DustinDavis Aug 2 at 21:55
    
Good question, but maybe a little broad, as I imagine that every production studio has their own way of handling these things. And the answer to "Is every appearance of a product in a movie sponsored?" is clearly no, and finding a single counterexample should be easy. But knowing this site, I am sure someone will come up with a good answer to cover the whole topic. –  atticae Aug 2 at 22:13

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Is every appearance of a product in a movie sponsored?

No.

Free promotion for undisclosed reasons

You'll see plenty of movies where characters use Apple products, however Apple have claimed (via the Washington Post) that they aren't paying for it:

Apple said it does not pay for product placement and would not discuss how its products make their way into television and films.

Though DailyTech claims they achieve this by giving the products to those producing the film:

While most companies have to pay to have their products featured in a TV show or film, Apple has managed to do so for free by simply offering as many free iPhones, iPads, and Macs as needed.

Famously, FedEx didn't pay for the use of their brand in Cast Away, as noted on the Wikipedia article.

Parodies and references

We've also had a related question about mocking companies in Idiocracy, and from the interview posted it sounds like they weren't paid for the (almost) use of their names.

Self promotion

There are also cases where a studio can advertise their own products for free, for example Sony Pictures Entertainment (and their child company, Columbia Pictures) often show off Sony products in their own films, such as The Smurfs and Casino Royale.

Other examples would be when a character is watching TV (usually the well-timed news broadcast) and the News channel is one that the studio own. For example Fox's 24 will only ever show Fox News or Sky News (in Live Another Day), both of which they own.

Do they get in touch with them and see if they can get them to pay for it?

Presumably, yes, if they need the money. Financing films is hard, and independent film-makers have nothing to lose by trying, though I have found plenty of articles saying it's very unlikely companies will be willing to contribute to a film unless they have a reasonable expectation of making their money back (for example having famous people working on the project that will draw an audience).

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Seinfeld creators always claimed they didn't get paid for mentioning all those brand names on their show (sometimes basing entire plots around them); they simply thought they were funny little slices of Americana. –  Walt Aug 3 at 13:19

I worked for Ben Affleck's studio LivePlanet (Project Greenlight, The Running Man) for a year. We did have a few sponsorships for each of our shows. In general, we just went to great lengths to exclude any brand references, because in made-for-television content, conflicts with sponsorships can be a problem.

For example, if one of our shows happened to pan across a Coke can, but the television network had a lucrative Pepsi ad deal, we might have to go back and blur the can or even edit out the scene. It's much easier to just keep all brand references out.

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