6 Key Moments From the Past 90 Years of Product Placement

Hershey Bars of 1927's Wings to Black Mirror's cereal quest

(L. to r.) Product placement is used in James Bond, Stranger Things and E.T. Getty, Netflix

Over the years, product placement has been become a character signifier, cultural touchstone and even meta commentary. These are some of the notable examples.


Wings, the first film to win an Academy Award for “Best Production” (later called Best Picture), featured several prominent close-ups of Hershey’s chocolate bars.


Starting with Goldfinger, James Bond was virtually synonymous with dry martinis and his Aston Martin DB5. The producers later incorporated cars from Audi, Bentley, Jaguar and many other automakers into the series.


Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial set a new bar with multiple placements, including Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces in a pivotal plot point. Sales of the crunchy confection reportedly tripled within two weeks of the film’s debut.


Besides being a two-hour Chevy commercial, Michael Bay’s Transformers featured 65 brands in total, a record broken by Transformers 3 four years later.


Morgan Spurlock’s documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold took an ironic look at the business of brand integration—funded entirely by product placement.


Netflix’s experimental narrative Black Mirror: Bandersnatch asks viewers to choose which brand of cereal the protagonist should eat, seen by some as an initial step toward programmatic product placement.

This story first appeared in the April 15, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.