Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

The 14 Most Remarkable Apple Product Placements

I HAD TO WONDERLast week, I looked at the grotesque dominance of Apple product placement in TV and film. Now let's take a look at the most noteworthy Apple product placements of all time.

Short Circuit
Though not onscreen for long, the Apple Macintosh placement in Short Circuit may be the computer's first ever onscreen un-boxing. Today this placement is more important from a historic perspective.

My Mom's New Boyfriend / Law Abiding Citizen
Largely unseen and mediocre films-but with unforgettable Apple placements. These films are simply random examples of both the pervasiveness of Apple product placement and how that placement is so often situationally preposterous: a bank of Macs in an FBI office? A city's district attorney team working with Macbooks?



Rush Limbaugh
When Rush talked up Apple and the Mac OS X on his show, is wasn't a paid plug. Limbaugh said: "I'm sorry you Windows people, but you might as well be back in the Stone Age here." He even posted a direct link to Apple's Mac OS X Tiger page on, apparently for free. Rush then gave away personalized "Rush" iPods as a marketing tool. Finally, in an interview with in 2008, Rush said of his iPhone, "I love it. My life has changed." Yes, Apple fanboys, Rush is one of you.

Imagine That
More than just the glowing Apple logo on the backside of a laptop, an extended scene in 2009's Imagine That features a father and daughter bonding over the shared excitement of playing with the Mac operating system feature Photo Booth. While most Apple product placement is just product prop, this was a true system promotion.

Blade: Trinity
When the iPod was on the cusp of becoming a mass market darling, Jessica Biel's vampire slayer sexed up the white earbuds for the boobie-obsessed Maxim mainstream who, until then, still largely saw the device as an exclusive accessory of music-snobs and gadget dorks. Demonstrating just how much a splash the iPod made in the Trinity film is this 2004 Jessica Biel interview with Movie Web:

You didn't get free iPods for the movie?
Jessica Biel: No. Apple/Mac didn't give us anything. They were really stingy.

So it wasn't intentional product placement?
Jessica Biel: I don't know, but David said the other day people think we must be getting so much free stuff but we didn't get anything.

How many people have asked you the iPod question today?
Jessica Biel: I think three.

blade 3 mac

Sex and the City
The total value of the exposure Apple got from this series is incalculable. Apple's role as the diary of diarist Carrie Bradshaw is the most influential Apple product placement of all time and probably one of the ten most influential product placements of all time period. When addressing product placement, the media relies heavily on the E.T. / Reese's Pieces example, but it should really reference this instead. On the aspirational path from Boondocks, Nebraska to Manhattan, wannabe Bradshaws everywhere saw a Macbook as a first stop. In their glamorshots, the likes of Julia Allison and Meghan McCain ape Carrie's Macbook poses. Of course, today, old Sex and the City Apple placements are noteworthy in that they demonstrate how Apple realized the advertising potential and flipped its logo "upside down."
sex and the city mac
allison mccain mac

The non-Apple placement that launched a thousand articles. Wall-E is surprising only for the amount of attention Apple received despite how little the brand's products appear. Wall-E cemented the design aesthetic of shiny, clean and white-and in the process was called the ultimate subconscious Apple product placement.

Wild Hogs
Exemplary of how Apple product placement can go too far. Dumb movie. Dumb attempt to capitalize on the "cult of Apple" for a joke. But unforgettable and perfect for getting the online Apple community buzzing-and demonstrating Apple's transition to a desperate and aging Baby Boomer brand.

From the A.M. (Regis and Kelly) to prime time (Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock) to late night (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), there is no comprehensive, reinforcing Apple commercial like a full Thursday spent watching NBC. And more than any of its colleagues, 30 Rock's Apple love is beyond the pale, from the glut of desktops and laptops in almost every episode to the repeated use of the iPhone in the plot. The show is watched by cultural elites and those who want to be them (see also: Sex and the City) and reinforces their belief that Apple-just like snarky, absurdist sarcasm-is cool.

Legally Blonde
Released during Apple's push of its sherbet line, Elle Woods' Mac is particularly notable in that whole swaths of the film demonstrate her using it. There's even a scene with her standing in line in the store, her soon-to-be-unboxed iBook in her arms. But even more important is that many of these Apple placement scenes came at the expense of the Apple's PC peers, leaving the black monolithic borg machines, and their owners, looking dowdy by comparison.

Usher's song, with the lyrics "My Mac is in my backpack / I'm surfing on the sites / I'm chatting, this ain't cheating / Just telling myself a lie," were a new medium for Apple placement. While hardly a placement that will move product, Mac's inclusion here demonstrates that in the entertainment world, there is no other computer brand, and everyone is a follower. Just try imagining Usher rhyming "Dell."

Another key placement during Apple's berry Mac period. While garishly designed by Apple's modern sleek standards, these early Macs were perfect for product placements because their fluorescence screamed out at the audience, often upstaging the actors themselves. Additionally, the spastic design of the iMac perfectly fit Zoolander's absurdist world of in-the-face fashion.

Products involved in the Twilight saga of films basically get a window to print their own money. There are whole sites dedicated to scrutinizing the brand and source of every product appearing in the films. When Billabong's "Hannah" jacket was spotted on the Bella character during the New Moon filming, it caused a run on stocks and the $60 jacket soon showed up on eBay, going for many times its retail price. And alongside Edward's Volvo, no product is more associated with a Twilight character than Bella's Macbook and iPod.


Abe Sauer writes the annual Product Placement Awards at Brandcameo.

29 Comments / Post A Comment

ProfessorBen (#1,254)

But aren't these?

SemperBufo (#1,849)

Gizmodo? Is that you?

Matt Langer (#2,467)

Lest we forget: shopgirl wrote all her emails to NY152 in "You've Got Mail" with a Powerbook G3.

David Cho (#3)

Never forget.

From the A.M. (Regis and Kelly)"

Is an ABC show.

garge (#736)

My local nbc news affiliates use macbook airs with big stickers over the apple, if you need a replacement image.

Bittersweet (#765)

Not to get all nitpicky, but I think The Office uses Dells.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@kitten: This is true. My mistake.

lululemming (#409)

Was this written from inside the iBook repository?

Ribs (#2,690)

Thank you, this is important. One small punctuation adjustment- "Yes! Apple fanboys, Rush is one of you."

HiredGoons (#603)

"reinforces their belief that Apple-just like snarky, absurdist sarcasm-is cool."

For the record: I never thought I was cool.

Not one of these placements was responsible for my purchasing an Apple product. In fact, I probably refrained from buying longer than I might have, had they not appeared therein.

HiredGoons (#603)

esp. Twilight.

Cultural Elite Fortnightly didn't tell me I had to see that! :(

lululemming (#409)

Oh, it was in the platinum edition.

Ben Dreyfuss (#3,944)

Independence Day and Mission Impossible don't make the cut?

lululemming (#409)

It's the 14 most remarkable Apple product placements Abe can think of.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Ben: Those were important from a historical perspective but both were really so short and forgettable to viewers to make any lasting impact. Plus, that was during the period when macbooks or powerbooks looked like any other black laptop. The (then rainbow) apple logo was merely a tiny thing on the inside hinge below the screen.

@lulu: Yes, last week I put together a 7 and a half minute video of hundrends of apple product placements over the last several decades and then this week could only manage to think of 14.

noilly (#3,193)

also, wall-e's start up sound is the mac chime

LondonLee (#922)

And the robot Eve looks like an Apple product.

HiredGoons (#603)

"I'm sorry you Windows people, but you might as well be back in the Stone Age here."

Again, technologically speaking.

Intellectually, Rush Limbaugh is in the Pleistocene Era.

rula (#3,558)

Sex and the City definitely wins.
Their shilling for TiVO was over the top as well. Patricia Field must have gotten a cut for all the shoe designer plugs.

Abe Sauer (#148)

The thing of Apple in SATC is that it was one of the over the top placements that was probably MORE accurate than almost any other. Status obsessed NY writer who invests as much in style as substance owns a laptop with far more power than she would real;y need? That's Carrie Bradshaw. Meanwhile, are we to believe that in 2001 Elle Woods attends Harvard Law school and uses a computer that has a shitty compatibility with MS Office systems etc etc?

HiredGoons (#603)

@God I hate SATC. That made me feel good Abe, keep making me feel good.

Abe Sauer (#148)

My, has your avatar lost weight?

woodyallen (#3,979)

Does no one remember the movie Blank Check?

About a kid who stole a bunch of money and told his parents he had found a rich mentor, who he named Mr. Macintosh, which he made up because he was using a Mac computer when asked for the man's name.. for the remainder of the movie, the fictional, computer inspired Mr. Macintosh was referred to in just about every scene.

Early 90's, the Duffster was in it.

This is what I always think of when I think of Apple today.

el smrtmnky (#986)

they could always go with one of these

hazmathilda (#839)

I never thought I would see That Woman on This Website.

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