How Product Placement Works

By: Katherine Neer

Product Placement in Books and Video Games

Product placement isn't just for movies and television anymore. You'll find it in books, music videos, video games and on the Internet. Let's take a look at how product placement is being used in these other arenas.

Read All About It!

To some, especially if you haven't seen it, product placement in a book or a video game is pretty difficult to imagine. Where exactly would they place the products? It turns out there's plenty of opportunity for this manner of advertising. Let's start with books. -->Imagine a well-known company commissioning an equally renowned author to write a book that prominently features its brand and products. Sound a bit far-fetched? It's not. The world-famous jewelry company, Bulgari, paid noted British author Fay Weldon to write a novel that would feature Bulgari products. The commissioned work was to be given as a present to an elite group of Bulgari clientele. Not only did Weldon agree to the deal, but she eventually took her work public. "The Bulgari Connection" has met with skepticism and praise from Weldon's colleagues and fans alike. Undoubtedly, Weldon has set a precedent that other authors and publishers will follow.


It turns out that even a modest amount of investigation can unearth several other product-prominent published works. Actually, one of the largest genres to feature product placement is children's learning books. Here are just a few examples of what you can find at your local library or bookstore:

  • Skittles Riddles Math, by Barbara Barbieri McGrath, Roger Glass
  • The Hershey's Kisses Addition Book, by Jerry Pallotta, Rob Bolster
  • The M&M's Brand Counting Book, by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
  • Twizzlers Percentages Book by Jerry Pallotta, Rob Bolster
  • The Cheerios Christmas Play Book, by Lee Wade

After reading these titles, you may be assuming that the companies are merely sponsoring the book and that the content is pretty standard fare -- possibly not even incorporating the product into the content of the book. Think again. In "The Oreo Cookie Counting Book," the back cover reads:

Children will love to count down as ten little OREOs are dunked, nibbled, and stacked one by one...until there are none!

A quick flip through the pages confirms that Oreo cookies are indeed featured prominently on every page!

Product Placement in Video Games

As they continue to become more and more realistic, it's actually pretty easy to understand the advertising possibilities available within today's video games. The USA Today article What's in a name: Product placement in games states:

Play Crazy Taxi and a lot of your passengers will ask you to take them to Pizza Hut or KFC (both owned by Tricon Global). Dive into Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza...and you'll see Zippo lighters and Motorola cell phones. UbiSoft's Surf Riders has G-Shock watches and banners for Mr. Zog's Sex Wax, a surfboard wax.

According to USA Today, product placements in video game software have been around since the 1980s. Back then, Sega was placing banners advertising Marlboro in its auto-racing arcade games. Apparently, Sega's still onboard with product placement. In Sega's Super Monkey Ball, the bananas sport Dole Food Company stickers. Surprisingly, this kind of product integration isn't about the cash. Just as product placement in movies promotes credibility and realism in the movie, it does the same thing in the video game -- making the "environment" of the game more lifelike.