Product placement has always been a huge part of science fiction, because it's just not the future without big-name brands. But in the last couple years, it's gotten way out of hand. Just check out our list of recent examples.
Eureka and Degree Antiperspirant
What is it? In almost every episode of this Syfy Channel show, Degree Antiperspirant makes its presence known. In most, it's just someone using the product in the line of duty. But in one case, Degree sponsors a consumer products lab, which features prominently in this mock commercial for a new type of Degree antiperspirant.
Does it fit the story? Sure. In this case, it's a story about products, so it makes sense to showcase these products. And a commercial products lab sponsored by a company also fits reality.
Would people buy it? Not sure. It's a fictional product, but watchers of Eureka are probably also antiperspirant buyers. So audience members probably will buy Degree products.
Does it still exist? Well, the fictional product never existed. But the company still exists.
Knight Rider and Ford
What is it? In the revived 2008 Knight Rider series, the semi-sentient car, KITT, is a Ford Mustang. But it is also equipped with the ability to transform into other forms, coincidentally a variety of Ford models. In this clip, which prominently features the Ford logo, KITT transforms from a Mustang into a Ford F-150.
Does it fit the story? Sometimes. It makes sense that a sophisticated future-car would have some transformation abilities. But it's hard to believe that the optimum form for KITT would happen to be another Ford model in every single case.
Would people buy it? Maybe the F-150, but only a precious few are likely to buy the Mustang featured in the show.
Does it still exist? Yes. Most of the models shown are currently available, including KITT's normal form, the Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang. But the show also acts as a general ad for the Ford motor company, which still exists.
Star Trek and Nokia / Budweiser
What is it? In the latest Star Trek movie, at one point, a stolen car is equipped with a car phone that plays the classic Nokia ring tone. Later, in a bar, a Starfleet cadet orders a "Bud Classic," a future Budweiser product.
Does it fit the story? No. This kind of product placement is supposed to reinforce the connection between the world we are seeing and the real world. But in these cases, I found myself pulled out of the movie, distracted by these products. In an otherwise entirely immersive film, these examples did more to hinder than help.
Would people buy it? Maybe. People will still buy Bud. And Nokia did more Star Trek tie-ins off screen as well, so that might boost sales. That is, if there's no backlash against sloppy product integration.
Does it still exist? Certainly, no one is buying car phones anymore, but integrated dashboard phone interfaces aren't entirely gone. And "Bud Classic" doesn't exist. But both companies are still doing all right.
Transformers and Chevy
What is it? In the first Transformers movie, Michael Bay showed off a variety of GM cars. In the new movie, he's apparently teamed up with Chevy to showcase their newest cars. This commercial is actually edited by Bay to tie in with the movie, since the movie will be the first look at some of Chevy's upcoming offerings.
Does it fit the story? Yes and no. Sure, there have to be cars. It's a Transformers movie. But I suppose the logos don't have to be so prominently displayed.
Would people buy it? Sure. There's some excitement over these models, which might indicate some future sales. Time will tell if the Transformers stigma hurts this at all.
Does it still exist? Yes. The Chevy Volt is an electric car supposed to be essentially getting its debut in this movie. Some of these models come out next year.
Smallville and Stride Gum
What is it? Smallville resident Pete Ross gains super powers from chewing kryptonite infused Stride gum. It's true. He gains stretchy powers from the altered gum, found at a One Republic concert in an abandoned Stride factory.
Does it fit the story? Yes. It's goofy, but not because of the Stride gum. Though apparently the writers of Smallville developed the plot point about gum in conjunction with Stride. Maybe not a perfect fit...
Would people buy it? Sure. Stride gum is a popular gum, and I don't think there's gonna be any real fear of actual Kryptonite-infused gum leaking into the market.
Does it still exist? Yes. Stride gum not only still exists, but it's branching out in its product placement, even sponsoring internet videos.
Wall-E and Mac
What is it? While it might just be an inside joke and not a product placement, Wall-e is filled with little Mac nods, including a post-apocalyptic theater constructed from an iPod and Wall-e making the Mac start up sound when he recharges, as in this clip.
Does it fit the story? Sure. The iPod theater certainly does, since it wouldn't surprise me if a cleanup robot stumbled on a few still-operable iPod video screens. But the Mac sound for Wall-E's start-up makes less sense... We can chalk that one up to inside joke.
Will people buy it? No. This model of iPod video doesn't exist anymore. And people don't buy Macs for the start up sound. It's certainly a nice shout-out, but it's probably not an effective ad.
Does it still exist? Not the iPod video. And Wall-e never really existed as a product. Mac as a company certainly still exists.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dodge
What is it? Parts of this episode of the Sarah Connor Chronicles felt more like a commercial for the Dodge Ram than an episode of a science fiction television show. Montages showcased all of the features of the new Dodge Ram model, and the car helps our heroes on their fight against robot oppression.
Does it fit the story? Not exactly. The car does, but the sequences featuring the car really draw the viewer out of the story.
Will people buy it? Sure. The car does its part in the resistance, and it seems to run well and be well featured in the show. Anyone on the run from robot assassins will be convinced that this is the car for them.
Does it still exist? Yes. But not The Sarah Connor Chronicles. That show's run is over, sadly.