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We were watching The Goonies (1985) tonight and I noticed that in the initial scenes one of the characters is rather prominently holding a Pepsi in his hand.

goonies pepsi product placement

I know product placement has been a marketing technique used in movies for a long time now, and I doubt Goonies was the first movie to do this -- but what was the first movie to truly popularize or highlight getting paid for placing a product in a movie?

Also, any historical background / context on product placement in movies, or movies that made notable early marketing deals which resembled product placement, is welcome.

I'm trying to understand how this started, since the future of advertising seems to be this seamless paid integration of products into plots, rather than separate ads.

  • You could make an argument for en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Greatest_Movie_Ever_Sold it truly highlights getting paid for product placement – Sam Saffron Feb 10 '12 at 4:24
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    I've always heard that Minority Report was a pivotal moment, because the movie was so expensive, and the ads were so prominent and paid for so much of the movie. – Steve D Feb 10 '12 at 7:15
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    @user429 Minority Report was a pivotal moment for future graphical interfaces. – LarsTech Feb 10 '12 at 13:05
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    You know, this is a good question - I'm not arguing that, but I almost wonder - there are SO many up-votes on this, and there are other equally good questions out there, that I wonder if the up-votes are truly because the question is that stellar,of if it's Jeff's rock-star persona. "OMG, Jeff Atwood asked a question on OUR SE Beta site!!!!" ;-) But +1 from me, too, because it is a good question. – David Stratton Feb 11 '12 at 20:22
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    Not your answer, but perhaps of interest -- I was struck the other day by by the blatant and extremely crude product placement for Cheerios in Superman: The Movie (1978). A box of the cereal is the focus of two or three screens, lovingly lit as the music swells, logo always to the camera. I will never remember the name of the actor who plays the young Clark Kent, but I certainly know what he ate for breakfast. – Michael Stern May 1 '12 at 14:30
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In the documentary "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" (a film specifically about the topic of product placement), director Morgan Spurlock notes that one of the first recognized product placements was in the 1919 Roscoe Arbuckle comedy The Garage, in which a Red Crown Gasoline logo was displayed on screen.

I expect watching the documentary would more than likely provide insight into product placement's rise in popularity in tv and film.

Source: Product Placement on Movie Screens

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Wikipedia has a list of examples of product placement in movies. There it points out to the already mentioned Buster Keaton's Gas Ad. (although there is no definitive proof that this product placement was paid for). Other following mentions go to Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), and perhaps interesting from the artistic point of view is Wings (1927), the first to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (It contained a plug for Hershey's chocolate.)

And over on Sociological Images there's a nice summary of a 6,5 min video, which confirms that the first known product placement was in 1919. Among other intersting facts, since the question asks about general background:

  • Hershey’s paid a million dollars to make Reeses Pieces a plot point in E.T.
  • Michael Bay’s Transformers has the record for most product placed in a single film with 47.
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According to Wikipedia, product placement is almost as old as film, showing up even in the 1927 silent film Wings and Fritz Lang's 1932 film M.

Wikipedia: Product placement Early examples

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    that's OK but I'm looking more for a historical survey of when it became popular, the watershed events, most "influential" product placements, etc. Though maybe you're right, this question has no reason to exist if the Wikipedia article is the definitive answer, etc. – Jeff Atwood Feb 10 '12 at 4:26
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    There's actually a book on the topic - amazon.com/Product-Placement-Hollywood-Films-History/dp/… – Kevin Dente Feb 10 '12 at 4:29

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