A History of Product Placement in Film and Television

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A History of Product Placement in Film and Television
Peter Rush Product placement in the marketing world has become more and more evident in the past few decades. More specifically, product placement in the movie industry has been one of the most successful ways to advertise products. Oftentimes, products are associated with a film, or vice versa. Such is the case with Reese’s Pieces candies and Stephen Spielberg’s film, “E.T”. While it is a very expensive way of companies to advertise their brands, it is one that pays off immensely if executed properly. Although it seems as if product placement in film and television is a relatively new way of marketing products to the public, it has been around as early as the late 1800’s. On December 28, 1895, pioneering French filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumiere exhibited their films in the basement of a Paris cafe to the first paying audience for projected motion pictures. In developing their "Cinematograph," a machine that combined a camera, processor, and projector into a single unit, the Lumiere brothers had also, in effect, invented the motion picture audience. The running time of a Lumiere film was limited by the amount of film that their Cinematograph could hold, which was about 50-60 seconds. The content was often moments, supposedly, of real life: a train arriving at a station, pedestrians walking on a city street. But many of their films were staged, including a very early one featuring a performance by Frank Claire, the father-in-law to both the Lumiere brothers. Claire owned a brewery in Lyons, and in the film, “The Card Game” (Lumiere, 1896); he carefully pours a bottle of his beer for two companions. If the bottle had a label, it was not visible, but in this film the initial steps toward the combination of film and commerce are evident. Within 6 months the first examples of product placement would be filmed. In the spring of 1896, the Lumiere brothers entered into a distribution and



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