by Abe Sauer
Last 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.
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?
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 RushLimbaugh.com, apparently for free. Rush then gave away personalized “Rush” iPods as a marketing tool. Finally, in an interview with Newsbusters.org in 2008, Rush said of his iPhone, “I love it. My life has changed.” Yes, Apple fanboys, Rush is one of you.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.