A groundbreaking product placement was born when Pan Am teamed up with Hilton in the epic sci-fi opera 2001. Now, Pan Am is dead, but Hilton is alive and well, and this time the brand is co-starring in George Clooney's film, Up in the Air, with another high-flying brand, American Airlines -- just in time for the holidays.
But don't fret, product placement conspiracy theorists; American Airlines isn't spending a fortune to brainwash you into flying on its planes. Dawn Turner, manager of promotions at America Airlines, told the New York Times:
"We did not spend any money. We don’t have any money to spend — you read the headlines, right?”
In addition to providing the movie with planes, American Airlines also allocated resources to help promote the film:
"In November, the airline provided a 767 jet for a press junket, with about 50 journalists boarding in New York. While en route to Los Angeles, they saw the movie and interviewed one of its stars, Anna Kendrick." The film's producers were thankful for American Airlines, because to use a fake airline, in their words, would have "taken people out of the storytelling and been an odd distraction."
And that's true.
History, however, shows that using real brands in films does not always resonate well with audiences. For example, the 2004 airport-centric film The Terminal was criticized for its attempt at realism by featuring Starbucks, Brookstone, and Burger King. (It also, incidentally, spotlighted United Airlines, which paid nothing to be in the film.) Earlier this year, post-apocalyptic film The Road received backlash when the appearance of a real can of Coca-Cola took viewers out of the scorched storyline.
What do brands really gain from product placements in movies? The truth is nobody knows for sure.
It's all up in the air.