Product placement is a bad, bad thing. It was pioneered by crappy 1950's TV shows (cue countless 90's parodies along the lines of "Captain Indestructible saves the world again, and has time to smoke a sweet, sweet, refreshing Laramie cigarette") as an unsubtle extension of sponsorship. It was elevated to an artform by Hollywood films from about the late 1970's onwards, where corporations were prepared to stump up big bucks to get their logo on screen, and preferably have their product become integral to the plot.

If you want to see large amounts of product placement, check out the Back to the Future series, E.T., Mac & Me, Inspector Gadget (notice how many of these films are aimed at kids... hmm).

FedEx seem to throw a bundle of notes (which arrive overnight no doubt ... :) to a studio every year to get themselves heavy product placement in a Summer movie : two that I can remember were Runaway Bride and that thing where Tom Hanks crashes a plane (the trailer for which contains their logo and livery in nearly every shot).

It should also be noted that although Wayne's World "spoofed" product placement, they obviously got paid for all the product placement in that scene. Pretty crafty eh? And Austin Powers 2 makes it abundantly clear what Mike Myers's real views on product placement are (i.e. "more of it please!").

A mix record created by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist and released in 2001, in an edition of 6000 copies, by (or at least credited to a possible non-entity billed as) One29 Recordings. Product Placement is the followup to Shadow and Chemist's popular mix Brainfreeze, which was derived from a live collaborative DJ set the two performed at The 45 Sessions, a party thrown in 1999 by the San Francisco-based Future Primitive Sound Session. (Product Placement was also the title of a short US tour the two DJs undertook in the winter of 2001.) Brainfreeze spawned no fewer than three spinoff CDs, which included and thereby revealed most (but likely not all) of the ultra-rare 70's funk singles that were mixed. There have been no such collections created for Product Placement, and my net searches have turned up no cheat sheets, so I can only hit the highlights given my complete lack of knowledge of obscure collectible breakbeats.

Brainfreeze was named for the one big gimmicky find at its center. We don't have the pure star power of "Dance The Slurp" this time, but they try to make up for it with quantity: Product Placement is named for the commercial, promotional and just plain strange tracks littered throughout. Two versions of Coke's old "It's The Real Thing" jingle are mixed together into a loping jam full of melodic scratches, and the more obscure drink Strike Cola makes a musical appearance. There is a brief collage devoted to motocross for some reason, including what sounds like the Peanuts gang and a low-rent Burroughs impersonator. The graphics on the disc, and much of the color scheme, is sourced from the (presciently?) repetitive promotional cut "Milk: The Basic." (Is there anything that didn't have a celebratory funk single cooked up for it in 1973? They never do reveal the basic what.) An overexcited announcer spends a while making vague threats about an unprecedented radio campaign to make people thirsty. In what is perhaps the most disturbing find on the album, the ethnically diverse preteens dressed in chef's whites on the cover of "Cookin' With Gas" bring you... well, you'll see.

The start of the second track of Product Placement is actually devoted to a further deconstruction of Brainfreeze, composed of near-soundalikes (with alternate vocals and lyrics) of component tracks from that disc, or other arrangements entirely. These serve to illuminate the way 70's funk artists reprocessed each other as surely as hip-hop reprocesses them today, and it serves as a signal from Shadow and Chemist that, original-breaks CDs notwithstanding, they are still a step or two ahead of the crate-digging competition.

Like its predecessor, Product Placement is a witty, smart, and masterful display of the craft of the DJ as critic, as historian of both hip-hop and its source material, and as satirist (in a double-edged sense embodied by blues artists and funksters throughout the 20th century - you can tell the most acid truths if you get people dancing). It is another remarkable achievement by a team that has lucked upon one of those effortless collaborative combinations. The pictures are funny, too.

Product placement is often criticised for being a secretive and subliminal form of advertising that brainwashes hapless moviegoers. But is it really so bad? There are benefits of this practice that are all too often overlooked.

Cost reduction.

The average cost of a Hollywood movie is between 30 and 40 million dollars. (Terminator 3 cost $175 million.) By acquiring props and locations from a corporation the production can save vast sums of money that can be spent elsewhere (for instance better visual effects or actor’s salaries). It is a common misconception that companies pay to have their products shown. In 95% of cases the company will simply provide the product. These items can range in size from Cars or boats to clothes or drinks cans. In the movie “Gone in sixty second” dozens of vehicles were provided free of charge. Imagine the costs if each car had to be purchased at the full price! (I'd guess about $5 million) Similarly, shooting in a pre-built location such as a restaurant or shop removes the expense of building or renting a specialized location.


In the early days of film making prop masters would provide the production with generically labelled products, such as “chocolate” or “soap.” This lack of realism surely draws attention to itself so much so that the integrity and quality of the film suffers. In real life we use real products so why not in the movies? “Cast Away” is a good example of a film being criticised for giving a product too much exposure. Some even went as far as to describe it as a 2 hour Fed Ex commercial. I admit, the service received a great deal of exposure but what was the alternative? Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring planes and trucks and creating a new logo to emblazon on them? Whilst sacrificing authenticity as a result? In fact, Fed Ex were initially reluctant to be involved with the film as they were unsure if their service would be portrayed in a positive light. This is understandable if you think about it. In the movie a Fed Ex plane crashes into the ocean killing the crew and destroying all but a few of its packages! Ultimately the company agreed to be involved thus saving the production a hell of a lot of cash and making the movie more realistic and therefore better.

Nobody benefits from gratuitous product placement, even the corporation. If the integrity of the film is compromised by an obvious placement then the film won’t be as good, less people will watch it and less people will see the products the film contains. If anything it is the corporation that is taking the risk. If their product is portrayed in a bad light then sales could suffer. My point is that studios and filmmakers exploit companies just as much, if not more so, than companies exploit studios. Everyone is a winner and that includes the audience.

Have you ever tried to go and fuck yourself?
Easier said than done
but now
from the makers of
go piss up a rope
why don't you kiss my sister's black cat's ass?
comes something so
an innovation so
this product
the purest product
of laboratory weapons-grade purity

you will have an answer when they ask
Hey boy, you got any fire?
Well, you're going to need it
you red-headed son of a bitch.

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