E.T's Favorite Candy
A Rachel L'Antigua Critique
Product placement, the proverbial paradox of the film industry, can both bring in revenue, and offend viewers if too blatant. Product placement is primarily perceived as the strategic use of products in film scenes for the ultimate purpose of viewers buying or using the placed products. (How Product Placement Works, Katherine Neer). It would be difficult to find a movie these days that doesn’t have some sort of product placement within it. Some directors purposefully make product placement blatant for nothing other than some shoots and giggles (keeping it G for all my readers out there). However, other directors carefully craft products into scenes so that they will be observed primarily through the viewer’s subconscious. For the sake of this review, I decided to study the use of blatant product placement in one of the only good things that came out of the 80’s: the film, E.T.
Before I begin my review, please do yourselves the favor of watching this scene from perhaps the greatest alien film of all time:
And this advertisement produced by Hershey’s:
It should come as no surprise to movie buffs that Steven Spielberg was the first filmmaker to use what we now refer to as product placement. Spielberg meticulously premeditated scenes that would show E.T being lured by a young boy, Hansel and Gretel style, with a chocolate candy. Spielberg believed that teaming up with a candy company would be mutually beneficial for both his film and the company. What a smart man Steven Spielberg is. According to Spielberg, he initially approached Mars, Inc. with the idea that he would showcase M&M’s in E.T if Mars, Inc. would promote the film. Mars, Inc. declined, but Hershey’s was only too happy to oblige. According to Jeff Steinbrunner (Cracked), “the waddling little monster didn't bother the people at Hershey, who were hoping to bolster their Reese's Pieces line. An agreement was made to produce a million dollars' worth of advertisements for the film, and they plastered E.T.'s face right on the candy's packaging. The product is never mentioned by name in the film, though customers still had no problem identifying it by the package, as proven by 65% spike in Reeses Pieces sales after the movie hit theaters.”
After reviewing both this scene and the advertisement, I have been able to identify the use of the ethos, pathos, and logos appeals. The use of the ethos appeal through Spielberg’s close ups of the orange, yellow, and brown candies. The camera meticulously shows the candy and the bag so that the viewer can tell that the candy is, indeed, Reese’s Pieces. If the bag hadn’t been shown so prominently, the candy would have been less believable, and therefore, less credible.
The pathos appeal that this Reese’s Pieces placement created is obvious. For example, the advertisement created by Hershey’s twenty years after E.T was released shows that Reese’s Pieces is now connected with a feeling of warmth and “America”. Spielberg used a regular “American” candy to make the film feel more realistic and to conjure up fuzzy feelings of home.
The logos appeal used through this product placement is that Reese’s Pieces are tasty and that everyone likes them. In fact, if an extra terrestrial alien likes the candy, then logically, everyone will.
In conclusion, Spielberg’s daring and strategic use of product placement in the film E.T deserves a three out of three rating. Not only did he do a fantastic job of interweaving feelings of normalcy and home, but he also made a pretty penny doing so.