The movie, Friends with Benefits (2011), is a romantic comedy starring Justin Timberlake, as Dylan, and Mila Kunis, as Jamie. The movie is full of product placement. There are constant images of Sony electronic appliances, which include the Sony Experia cell phones, Sony TVs, and Vaio laptops. The couple also plays a game on the Sony Playstation.
I find it interesting that, although Sony plays a large part in the movie, Apple still managed to appear in the movie at perhaps the most pivotal moment of its plot. When Jamie and Dylan swear to each other that they will refrain from forming emotional attachment while having casual sex, they pause for a few moments to place their hands on an iPad, with the Bible app open, instead of a traditional Bible. It is interesting that Apple is such a large company that it can squeeze its way into a movie largely sponsored by one of its biggest competitors, especially in a scene that is so crucial to the movie. Perhaps this happened because Apple’s products have a good reputation; therefore, featuring the iPad in the movie will help add to its ethos.
As Louis Giannetti says in his book, Understanding Movies, “some filmmakers have the ability to get us swept up by a character’s values even when we don’t hold them in actuality” (406). In other words, when the audience sees their favorite actors using a Sony phone or and Apple iPad in a movie, they are likely to also like the products. The viewer can develop an appreciation for the products they see in the movies they watch because there is a pre-established credibility due to the actor’s fame or reputation for being well-liked and “cool”.
Apple’s monopolistic sneakiness aside, I want to further explore GQ’s product placement in the movie. GQ, also known as Gentlemen’s Quarterly, is a men’s magazine that focuses on food, movies, fitness, and most of all, sex. The covers of GQ usually feature women dressed in little-to-no clothing or a handsome male sporting a stylish get-up. In Friends with Benefits, Dylan accepts a job in New York City at GQ after Jamie, his headhunter, takes him around the city to convince him to take the offer. The GQ logo is featured throughout the film on numerous occasions. The most entertaining use of the logo is when Dylan creates an advertisement for GQ by using video footage of a New York City flash mob.
The entire plot revolves around Dylan’s job at the magazine, which is what makes GQ’s product placement stand out the most to me in the film. The flash mob scene is one of the most famous and memorable scenes in Friends with Benefits, and when the GQ ad repeats this scene in the advertisement, it makes the logo memorable to the audience. It was almost an actual advertisement for GQ in the movie – I thought it was very tastefully done and clever. Somehow, because the company is so engrained in the plot of the movie, the product placement was less obvious and distracting than that of Apple and Sony, which seemed to disrupt many of the scenes.
Product placement in films is very important because it creates substantial revenue for the production and ultimate success of the movie. It is important to remember “audiences pay attention to ethos and to the values that it represents. Before we accept the words (or image) of others, we must usually respect their authority […] or at least acknowledge what they stand for” (Lunsford 56). Therefore, if a movie is going to include product placement, they need to make sure that the company’s image matches the image that they are also trying to portray. In Friends with Benefits, I think the sexual image of GQ matched the plot, which was about two friends that share a sexual relationship. Lunsford also notes that when watching product placement in a film, audiences are “making an argument based on the character of the company” (53). The companies featured can help make or break the movie’s ultimate credibility.