If you’re over a certain age, product placement is something you’ve likely grown accustomed with seeing all the time in movies and TV shows. In honor of his new documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, filmmaker Mogran Spurlock shared his Top 5 “Most Absurd Examples of Product Placement” with New York Magazine. His own documentary is an examination of branded content, which is something we’ve seen on screens for decades:
To drive the conversation and create what Spurlock calls a “doc-buster,” Spurlock has been selling any and all rights to the movie. At The Greatest Movie’s world premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival (it opens in New York and L.A. on April 22), a man stood up during the Q&A and offered Spurlock $20 to name his question “The Greatest Question Ever Asked.” Spurlock accepted, and Zack Reader’s name is now in the credits. Since that screening, the initial seventeen brand partners have been joined by others, including Petland Discounts, where you’ll soon be able to buy the Greatest Goldfish You’ll Ever Own. Spurlock even bought the naming rights to the City of Altoona, Pennsylvania, which will be known as POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Pennsylvania, for 60 days effective April 27.
According to Spurlock, product placement goes back to Thomas Edison, who, after he invented the motion-picture camera, would shoot movies of people on a train with advertisements for his own products on the side of the train. It can also be seen with novels; in 1873, Jules Verne sold naming rights to shipping companies for Around the World in 80 Days. These days, product placement comes not only in the form of blatant paid plugs, such as the one for the Nissan Rogue in an episode of Heroes that inspired The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, but in more subtle forms. Mane n’ Tail, a human-horse crossover shampoo featured in The Greatest Movie, for example, insisted that Spurlock include a disclaimer stating that they hadn’t paid for product placement. But they still gave him enough product to make the bits featuring Mane n’ Tail possible.