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  2008 brandcameo's Product Placement Award   2008 brandcameo's Product Placement Award  Abram Sauer  
2008brandcameo's  Product Placement Award Brandcameo Award for Overall Product Placement: Ford

Picking up from where our last awards article left off, Ford—for the third straight time—topped all other brands, appearing in 30 of the 52 number one films at the US box office from January 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008. Ford’s 57.7 percent appearance rate in top films is a marked increase over its 18 of 41 appearances in 2005 (44 percent) and 17 of 41 in 2006 (41 percent).

Given the widespread need for cars in almost every film, Ford’s prevalence is not surprising, often coming in background or inconsequential shots—New York taxis, for example, are almost always Fords. But one area where Ford is making more than background strides is the prominent inclusion of its “oldy” new Mustang design. The new model has more-than-meets-the-eye showings in the recent hits Transformers and I Am Legend. The classic model, on which the new one is based, plays huge roles in The Bucket List and American Gangster. Furthermore, the Mustang is just revving up onscreen. With its prominent starring role in the upcoming testosterone-driven Death Race, and next year's Transformers 2, the model is back in a spotlight it hasn’t seen since 1968’s Bullit.

But the yet-to-be-seen onscreen ROI of Mustang’s efforts won’t come early enough to stop Ford’s at-press-time financial woes (year over year sales declines of 15 percent). Nor will it come in time for Mark Kaline, Ford’s global media manager, who was responsible for Ford Motor Company's Global Brand Entertainment team, which handles all Ford product placement for the brand stable. With Ford for 11 years, Kaline was written out of the Ford script in a recent marketing department retooling.

Brandcameo E.T./Reese's Award for Achievement in Press Coverage: Transformers

Mentioning E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has become a clichéd prerequisite for media coverage of anything product-placement related. Watch it here. This award recognizes the film whose product placements, justifiably or not, received the most scrutiny.

Although Iron Man and Sex and the City gave it a good run, Google News shows that in terms of total news volume about “product placement,” nothing during the period from Jan. 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 (or for that matter, during any time that Google has ever tracked news volume from 2004 to present) out-produced Transformers during the first days of its July 2007 release.

Brandcameo Award for Best Off-Screen Support: Iron Man

Audi’s R8 played an impressive role in Iron Man. And to blur the line between film and reality, Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. arrived at premiers in the same R8 model. Plus, the actor publicly showed off his special edition 18K gold-plated LG cell phone, just like the one used in the film. But to win this award, Iron Man went the extra mile. It wasn’t enough to have Tony “Iron Man” Stark scarf a few BK burgers straight from the bag. Taking product placement to a whole new level were Iron Man star Robert Downy Jr.’s comments to Empire Magazine stating that it was a trip to Burger King that convinced him to clean up his life. Though, in true product placement tradition, the brand doesn’t always get to control how it is placed: “I have to thank Burger King. It was such a disgusting burger I ordered. I had that, and this big soda, and I thought something really bad was going to happen."

A Spotlight on brandcameo Numbers

A total of 52 films were number one during their respective weeks at the US box office during the period of January 2007 through June 2008. Several films reigned for more than one week.

In these films, brandchannel spotted 1,251 brands. This works out to approximately 24.1 discernable brands per film, completely average for the millennium. (In fact, an average of 23.5 b/p/f is so common we figured the math was wrong; it is not.)

From 2001 to the present the numbers are:
2001: 25.1 brands per film (30 films)
2002: 21.6 brands per film (30 films)
2003: 20.1 brands per film (38 films)
2004*: 16.7 brands per film (30 films)
2005: 23.5 brands per film (37 films)
2006: 23.5 brands per film (37 films)
2007: 24.9 brands per film (32 films)
2008, Jan – June: 22.1 brands per film (20 films)

* The low ratio in 2004 is because several number one films, including those during a stretch from early May through mid-June (Van Helsing, Troy, Shrek 2, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), had no placements at all.

These ratios may differ from what we printed in previous brandcameo reports. We often receive suggestions of placements we might have missed, and the numbers are updated accordingly.

No two brand appearances in a film are equal. Measuring product placement value and impact continues to be very subjective. Our margin of error is dependent on films seen in the theater versus DVD. While tracking brands on DVD is easier than tracking brands on the big screen, the benefit of tracking in theatres is that if the brand placement doesn't make an impact on those of us actively looking for it, chances are it isn't registering with the audience much at all.

For the first time, brandchannel hosted a global survey on product placements that recognized seven distinct awards from the following year, August 1, 2007 through July 25, 2008. A total of 883 product placement enthusiasts responded. Below are the results with analysis.

The Welcome to Reality Award for a fictional brand or product you would most want in real life.

Winner: Stark Industries - Iron Man
It's possible that the newly found benevolence of Stark Industries attracts viewers because large-scale hyper-technical weapons makers do already exist. But it was close, with Stark’s 24 percent of the vote edging out Superbad’s Gold Slick Vodka (21 percent) and Wall-E’s Buy-N-Large (20 percent). Semi-Pro’s Flint Tropics will not be going pro, with less than 6 percent of the vote.
Remarkable Write-Ins: Wayne Corp. (The Dark Knight); Duff Beer (The Simpsons)
Noteworthy: Despite its 13.5 percent fan base, Bee Movie’s Ray Liotta Honey has a 100 percent desirability rating from this writer.

The Scene Stealer Award for the brand that took the spotlight from its human co-stars.

Winner: Ford Mustang - I Am Legend
The blueprint for good product placement: Steal scenes that would otherwise be forgettable. Don’t overpower a plot or actor so as to be too obvious. Be memorable for your obvious role, not for your obvious “placement.”
Remarkable Write-Ins: Audi R8 (Iron Man); Mountain Dew (Mission Istanbul); Planet Hollywood (21); iPhone (Sex and the City)
Noteworthy: Mustang clobbered the competition with 41percent of the vote. But there’s more: Unlike some other winners, the ‘Stang was multi-laterally championed across age groups, gender and nationality.

The Bomb Award for product placement that ruined the enjoyment of a scene.

Winner: Nokia - Cloverfield
Remarkable Write-Ins: Apple (I Am Legend); iPod (Wall-E); Burger King (Iron Man); some variation of "everything" or "all" (Sex and the City)
Noteworthy: Hardly lopsided—Nokia/Cloverfield: 19 percent; Symantec/The Incredible Hulk: 16 percent; Sony/Vantage Point and Fox/The Simpsons Movie: 15 percent—this was all about the advanced subtleties of audience expectation. Those over 31 years of age—the more “refined” viewers—voted placements as “bombs” in much higher percentages in films that they may have “expected to be better.” For example, while about 35 percent voted bombs for both Vantage Point and Cloverfield, about 10 percent more voted for Fox in The Simpsons Movie. Those under 31 showed no such imbalance.

The Most Mouthwatering Award for placement most likely to prompt an immediate purchase.

Winner: Louis Vuitton - Sex and the City
Remarkable Write-Ins: MV Agusta F4 (The Dark Knight); Audance (Fan Chun); Lamborghini, incl. various spellings (The Dark Knight)
Noteworthy: This award skewed heavily by gender and it could be said that a couple of the placements here hit their target demos. Louis Vuitton’s winning 26 percent of the total vote was nearly 70 percent female. While Harley Davidson (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) managed 20 percent of the total vote, 77 percent of those votes came from men. Even better for Harley, three-fourths of its total votes came from the desirable under-40 crowd.

The Perfect Fit Award for best product placement chemistry.

Winner: Manolo Blahnik - Sex and the City
Remarkable Write-Ins: Apple (Wall-E); Fender guitars (Alvin and the Chipmunks) Noteworthy: Ten percentage points ahead of its nearest competitor (Iron Man’s Audi with 27 percent), it’s not surprising that that the brand arguably owes half its name recognition to Sex and the City would be the winner. Yet again, this award comes with heavy gender skews. A whopping 90 percent of all female respondents for this question voted “Manolo.” Meanwhile, 80 percent of male respondents voted for any of the four alternatives.

The Odd Couple Award for most seemingly ineffective product placement.

Winner: LG cell phone - Iron Man
Remarkable Write-Ins: TicTacs (Juno); Apple (I Am Legend); Apple (Sex and the City)
Noteworthy: With no runaway winner here—LG/Iron Man (23 percent); Timex/The Simpsons Movie (21 percent); K-Mart/Resident Evil (20 percent)—the most interesting statistic comes from a big “loser.” Collecting only 7.5 percent of the total vote, the perceived poorness of the Marlboro placement in Superbad may be more about audience opinion than actual effectiveness. But also, from gender to age to nationality to profession, Marlboro voters broke down as an almost exact replica of the master survey profile.

The Film Whore Award for movie that most “sold out” for product placement.

Winner: Sex and the City
Remarkable Write-Ins: Transformers; “any James Bond film”
Noteworthy: Garnering as many votes as all the rest of this category’s choices combined, Sex and the City receiving this award is about as surprising as the film’s plot points. From the survey data, there are two interesting points.

Similar to the results from the Perfect Fit Award (see above), Sex and the City’s “Film Whore” award reveals some gender bias, though maybe less than expected. Of the total number of men who voted for any of this category’s five films, 50 percent voted for Sex and the City, a percentage only slightly higher than all the demographic votes for this award. In fact, from a gender, age or profession perspective, Sex and the City received a high but demographically-equal 45 percent to 50 percent of the vote.

But the same is not true of the results by nationality. While Sex and the City was the overall favorite “whore” for all demographics, it was especially favored by the European Union. While the film averaged about 45 percent of votes by all combined nationalities, 65 percent of EU nations voted for Sex and the City. And while a few of the countries produced no more than five to eight total entries, the percentages are maybe more telling of opinions about the film’s unmistakably American lifestyle than just the brand appearances. Take away votes from the UK and Germany and the EU, and Sex and the City's vote count jumps to 78 percent.

The percentages are damning: Spain (63 percent); Austria (67 percent); France (75 percent); Switzerland (75 percent); Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands, Portugal, and Norway (100 percent) (!). For comparison: Japan (57 percent); Taiwan (25 percent); Indonesia (33 percent); Malaysia (33 percent); Philippines (50 percent); Korea (50 percent); Argentina (38 percent); Brazil (38 percent); Mexico (52 percent); Hong Kong (0 percent); Canada (53 percent).

Indeed, if there is one product placement story for this year, Sex and the City is it, highlighting all of the strange elements of the industry. After appearing in a big role, Bag Borrow or Steal saw a membership increase of 217 percent with website views up 300 percent and demand for “borrows” up 400 percent. Meanwhile, the field’s missed opportunities were highlighted when demand for a book from the film, Love Letters of Great Men, was revealed to be fiction. (It is now being published.) Critics argued that the film was nothing but a commercial. Fans pointed out that the first dialogue in the movie mentions that life is all about “labels.”

The target of product placement praise and derision, the film inspired self-appointed high-minded critics to poo-poo it enough to fill another pair of Charlotte’s vacation shorts. For many, holding an opinion on product placements in Sex and the City has very little to do with ever having seen the film.

The Method Behind the Madness

From July 25 to August 1, nearly 900 brandchannel readers in 90 countries answered our seven-question online survey and identified one brand or film that best fit the criteria for each inquiry. Respondents could recognize any brand featured in a film that topped the US box office between August 2007 and July 2008.    



Abram D. Sauer has written about brands and branding trends since 2001. Visit for more of his work on branding and product placement.

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2008 brandcameo's Product Placement Awards
 Sorry, but you forgot the Best one: Apple in WALLY. 
Matthias Eylers, Strategic Planner, SelectNY - August 18, 2008
 I am studying product placement as part of a marketing focus. I do not understand how any of these product placements actually can translate into real sales? How do the brands know if these appearances were worth it? I doubt that Planet Hollywood can know if it was worth it to be in 21. Did anyone who saw Cloverfield actually want to get a Nokia? it seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors. 
Lucas, Marketing Student - August 22, 2008
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