The earliest example of product placement . . . involved films from 1896 created by Auguste and Louis Lumière for François-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke, the Swiss representative for the Sunlight brand of soap sold by Lever Brothers (now Unilever). One film shows a cart bearing the Sunlight name parked on a street, Mr. Newell said, and another shows "people doing their wash."
"Greatest Hits of Product Placement"
The New York Times, Feb. 26, 2005
When I was an NBC page in 1957, the big daytime show was "Bride and Groom" airing from Studio 8H (originally built for Toscaninni and the NBC Symphony). Every weekday a couple was married live and in black-and-white. Always on the set was a pleasant little fellow who looked like the actor William H. Macy. As I recall, his name was Tony Rhodes, and he was in charge of getting the wedding gifts--none of which the program paid for.
Fast-forward to November 2004 and the wedding of Star Jones, a hostess on the ABC show, "The View." Jones received donated invitations, tuxedos and bridesmaids' dresses. The "official airline of our wedding weekend" was Continental. These folks were hoping for plugs and public mentions. The fact that the media reported this story--and mentioned the suppliers--amounted to a PR coup.
Today, product placement is a hot guerrilla marketing tactic--projected to be a $4.24 billion business in 2005. For example, featured brands in the Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn romp, "The Wedding Crashers," are:
7-Up, Apple, Baltimore Orioles, Budweiser, Cadillac, Count Chocula, Habitat for Humanity, Harvard University, Jelly Belly, Johnny Walker, Log Cabin, Moët & Chandon, Nike, Oprah Winfrey, Pepsi, Rhode Island School of Design, Toys-R-Us, Wrigley Field
Television placements drive the networks nuts, because these are quasi-commercials for which the producers and syndicators get paid and the networks receive nothing.