Alrighty. I noticed when watching Red Planet the other day, that there is advertising on the suits worn by the ground crew that travels to the Martian Surface... enter image description here

In that shot, you can see Toshiba, GM, Nokia, and Hughes.

In Mission to Mars, you can see advertising on the ground vehicle... enter image description here

Now... I get the idea of advertising on sports figures/vehicles. The public are watching them, so you slap some logos on them to drive home brand recognition. However... the only people who would be seeing these logos in the universes detailed by these two movies, are the members of the crew on the ground on Mars. There are no public spectators to see this advertising.

If we look at it from the point of view of it being a movie, rather than being immersed in the story, then the advertising is for the people watching the movie... and ONLY for the people watching the movie. Wouldn't that be blatantly breaking the fourth wall?

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    I think an in-movie reason is that the astronauts are meant to be sending video back to Earth that will be broadcast to the public. But it is absolutely possible for product placement to break the 4th wall. George Clooney did it in 1988: youtube.com/… Jul 3, 2014 at 1:53
  • @WillFeldman ... while I agree this is "an" example, it was meant to. It's called comedic effect and was meant to be cheesy. There are other examples as well (though thinking of such at this present moment is eluding me). Jul 3, 2014 at 12:01
  • In the TV show Defiance, it appears that the only vehicles to survive the apocalypse/terraforming are Dodges. In the game Defiance, those are the only kind of 'regular' cars you can buy as well.
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 3, 2014 at 15:50
  • I guess you'd wonder how inclined companies can be to see their logos on their products, no matter if noone can see them in space. There's still a chance some people see them and placing a logo doesn't cost anything, it brands your products.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 3, 2014 at 16:20
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    It's only visible to the astronauts in space when they are in space. In promotional photos, videos, mission updates with video that will be broadcast to the public, they will also be aired.
    – JohnP
    Jul 3, 2014 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


I think the only time you can say product placement legitimately breaks the 4th wall is if the movie is explicitly set in an alien world which is different from ours in such a way that the product couldn't exist.

The examples you posted are certainly distracting, unnecessary corporate greed, but both movies appear to be set in a near-future human setting in which those corporations exist just like their real-life counterparts, so I wouldn't say they count

I've had a look through the TVTropes listing of Product placement in movies but I actually haven't found any which are flat out impossible. Though some are quite improbable:

  • Budweiser Light survived the nuclear apocalypse before the founding of the Federation in Star Trek (2009) and is quite popular with the main characters.
  • The special glasses the Men in Black wear which prevent your mind getting wiped by their Neuralyzers are made by Ray-Ban. You'd think they'd need some kind of secret government mechanism in them to make it work, but no.

More arguable examples are movies set in the distant future where current products are still around, for example:

  • Everything Will Smith owns in i, Robot is product placement for products which are (from his perspective) 31 years out of date.
  • The only thing that dates the masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey are the product placements for companies which no longer existed by 2001 such as Bell Systems.
  • McDonalds is still around and exactly the same in 2263 in The Fifth Element.

What I'd consider a genuine fourth wall breaking product placement would be something like these fictional examples:

  • Han Solo ordering a Coca Cola in Star Wars (a galaxy far far away)
  • Terra in The Stranger (a planet on the same orbit as Earth at the other side of the Sun) being covered in Burger King billboards. *cough* Fantastic Four *cough*
  • Rhetons in The Phantom Planet (tiny people who live on an asteroid) are Coo-coo for Coco Puffs.

I know that's not a lot of actual examples, but really it seems there aren't a whole lot of films about worlds which are very alien to us, and it probably has something to do with executives worrying that audiences won't be able to empathise with characters and settings which are so different from us.

  • I agree with what you say would be a legitimate break of the 4th wall... I just still believe that these examples fit in that definition. Humans are on an alien planet, advertising the products they use. While I agree that putting Kawasaki on the side of the Kawasaki built Mars Rover would be "normal"... advertising the kind of lubricant on the side is different. Maybe GM made the space suits, but Toshiba only made the electronics (as critical as they are, we don't see AC Delco logos on the outside of our Ford cars, next to the Ford Logo).
    – Bon Gart
    Jul 15, 2014 at 20:24

I don't know if this is what you are getting at, but if you watch the Wayne's World movie, you will see scenes of explicit product placement breaking the fourth wall.

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    This is the only legitimate break of the 4th wall mentioned. The rest do not break the 4th wall, they're just obvious examples of product placement in movies. Jul 3, 2014 at 17:49
  • What I was getting at ...in Die Hard 5, when John and his son are observing the hotel from a distance at first (where the key is), they are standing in front of a Subway restaurant... the sign is HUGE above their heads. That doesn't break the 4th wall, because it makes sense to be there. It struck me that "people" in the serious world of those two movies wouldn't normally see that advertising, thus it was meant for the audience alone, and this it was breaking the 4th wall on purpose.
    – Bon Gart
    Jul 3, 2014 at 20:11

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