Drink brands want to be ‘unplaced’ from film

First published in November 2012


NEWS-BITE | Marketing Comms | Product Placement: Product placement is big business in Hollywood, and paying to have products featured in prominent TV shows is taking off over here too since a change in the rules governing the practice. But what if you want your product unplaced?

In the new Robert Zemeckis directed movie ‘Flight’, released in North America at the start of the month, Denzil Washington plays an alcoholic pilot who is seen drinking while in charge of a plane and driving a car. During the film the character is seen consuming Budweister and various vodka brands, including Stolichnaya. Unsurprisingly, given the subject matter, none of those brands are especially happy about appearing in the movie.

Rob McCarthy, VP of Budweiser at brewers Anheuser-Busch has told reporters his company was not consulted about the use of its product in the film, adding: “We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, on demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters”.

William Grant & Sons, distributors of Stolichnaya, also said they weren’t consulted about the film, and that: “Considering the subject matter of this film, it is not something in which we would have participated”.

But other than issuing statements distancing themselves from the movie and its lead character (which could draw the public’s attention to their brands in the film, cameos that might have otherwise gone unnoticed), it seems there is little the makers of the featured drink products can do.

Daniel Nazer of Stanford Law School told the Associated Press: “[American trademark laws] don’t exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies and TV shows that might happen to include real-world items. It is the case that often filmmakers get paid by companies to include their products. I think that’s sort of led to a culture where they [brands] expect they’ll have control, [but] that’s not a right the trademark law gives them”.

Neither director Zemeckis nor the movie’s producer Paramount have as yet commented.