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When a script calls for a consumer product, and no one has offered the producers a Product Placement deal, a television program must resort to making up a brand — or, in some cases, obscuring a real brand so that it can't be identified. Another technique is to make a lookalike label that doesn't show the actual brand name — for instance, a bright-red soft drink can inscribed, in white letters, "Cola".
Under Canadian broadcast regulations, product placement is considered a form of payola and is strictly forbidden. To prevent even the appearance of product placement, real brand names can't be shown on locally-produced TV shows. Dramas, comedies, and even cooking and home improvement shows have to block out the brand names of the items they use or replace them with Brand X (TV sports and news/current affairs programs are exempt, the first because the advertising can't be controlled and the second because news programs may have to report a story specifically about a product, and also because they can do whatever they damn well want). These rules don't affect imported shows, though, but "Canadian content" regulations limit the amount of those that can be shown.
In the UK, product placement was forbidden until February 2011, but there's also the issue of "undue prominence", wherein a particular brand is, outside of any product placement agreement, given excessive exposure (Mitchell and Webb noted this in great style with the conclusion that a porn scene about a satellite TV installer would have to be a gang-bang to ensure no single brand was given undue prominence). DJs on BBC radio will add that "other brands/suppliers of [product] are available" if someone says to buy their book on Amazon or Google for information, practically as a running gag.
Sometimes fictional products can become story elements in and of themselves, either as part of the "world background" of a show, or as running gags.
Films with blatant product placements, such as the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, usually have them obscured when they are syndicated.
In addition to Brand X, some movie and TV producers may choose to use discontinued products as a point of style. Quentin Tarantino is known for using boxes of discontinued cereal in his movies, such as "Fruit Brute" (Which has since been recontinued). Wes Anderson used a discontinued brand of European cigarettes in The Royal Tenenbaums.
At one time this was a universal practice in advertising, allowing a marketer to compare his product to a competitor without actually naming the competitor and reminding the viewer of why he might prefer it. The competitor would often be referred to as "the leading brand", giving rise to the question, "if your product is so good, why is the other brand leading?" In the last two decades, advertising has gotten bolder, and it is more common to see a real competing product in an ad than not — or at least a minimally veiled reference to a competing product (ie, a detergent box with the basic design and color scheme of Tide, but no logo). The practice of explicitly naming the competition was arguably begun by the great McDonald's/Burger King ad wars of the late '70s and early '80s (specifically, in a Burger King commercial starring a then-four-year-old Sarah Michelle Gellar). There was also the Pepsi Challenge where Pepsi ran ads showing in blind taste tests, people preferred Pepsi over Coke.
However, in some cases it may be mandatory. For example, in Germany it used to be against the law to compare your product to a competitor's product when it was identifiable. Even now, the "laws against unfair competition" allow only verifiable objective comparisons without diminishing the competitor, legally regulated to a point where advertisers rather take a pass on comparisons than risk exposing themselves to lawsuits.
In some kinds of advertisement, items other than the one advertised that would normally be used in its own branded packaging will be found in some kind of neutral or unbranded packaging. The most common examples of this are advertisements for cereals, in which milk will be poured from clear glass jugs rather than the carton or bottle it is sold in. It is probable that this is done in order to reuse the advertisement in different countries as much as for avoiding giving exposure to those other products.
Incidentally, the notion of using fake brands that resemble the real brand (Using a pear instead of an apple, for instance) is being seen by marketers as something that improves awareness of the real brand. Amusingly, they're calling it Product Displacement.
A Super Trope to Bland-Name Product, Acme Products (any generic corporation that seems to supply everything a character, or entire cast, uses), A.K.A.-47.
Not to be confused with the band Brand X or Russell Brand's series on f(x).
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Apple Computer Parodies
Many computers in fiction (especially cartoons) will prominently feature a logo consisting of some kind of fruit, usually a pear, as a reference to Apple Computer's various products. Some of them (especially during the early iMac's time) will also bear a strong resemblance in other ways:
Many of these will cross with Bland-Name Product by being called Pineapple brand computers.
Although they look somewhat different from the iMac, the Navis in Serial Experiments Lain are made by Tachibana General Labs (Tachibana translates to Mandarin Orange). Of course, there are also some non-disguised references to Apple computers, such as a (small) picture of an iMac with an Apple advertising slogan.
In Digimon Adventure, the brand of laptop Koushiro used was never named, but it looked like an iBook and had a pineapple symbol on it; this led to it being nicknamed the "PiBook" in fandom. Averted in the Short Anime Movies, which all use real computers running a Windows 95 variant and are accurately branded as such.
The newspaper comic FoxTrot does this with the "iFruit" brand, whose computers were originally shaped like the fruits they're named after. At one point, Andy attempts to collect them as she would collect *ahem* "Bitty Babies".
The Cheat's computer in Homestar Runner is obviously a tangerine iMac DV. See below.
Which is later replaced, in the "redesign" e-mail, with either a G5 or first-generation Intel iMac.
Kevin & Kell has "carrots" whose logo is, of course, a multi-coloured carrot with a bite taken out of it. Steve Jobs is, consequently, a rabbit.
So does Stephan in Ozy and Millie, and his thoroughly resembles a tangerine iBook.
There's another show/film where the brand name on a "pear" computer was plainly visible: "Bosc." Points to the set-dresser who thought that one up.
Pear computers show up as a running gag in shows produced by Dan Schneider, such as Zoey101 and iCarly. The latter expanded the Pear product line with other parodies of Apple products, including the PearPod, the PearPhone, and the PearPad (which is literally a pear-shaped tablet.)
A Sam & Cat episode lampshades this further, by having Sam point out that a show on TV can't use Pear computers, so they have to use Banana instead.
"Pear" notebooks show up in an unknown German TV series. In the same show, someone is looking things up on "Realpedia".
Probably the ur- and most famous example predates the iMac by over a decade: the Banana Junior computer from Bloom County, which became a character unto itself.
One episode of Megaman NT Warrior showed Dr. Higgsby using a laptop with a strawberry logo.
One episode of Maya And Miguel featured yet another laptop with a pear icon.
In one episode of Axis Powers Hetalia, Sealand is excitedly noticing that Iceland is being auctioned off while using a laptop with two cherries as its logo.
Grand Theft Auto IV features advertisements and an in-game website for Fruit Computers, whose logo is a bowl of fruit and released a phone that looks exactly like a banana-shaped iPhone.
Which (in GTA's usual outrageous sense of humor) has an app that can tell if you're pregnant when you pee on the phone.
Every GTA game since III has done this, all of them with suggestive or violent names, such as "Burger Shot" (Burger King) and "Sprunk" (Sprite).
The online RPG ForumWarz has a store called Plum Computers with 3 products: the iPrune (standard desktop unit), the PruneBook (a laptop) and the PruneServ (a server).
There's an episode of the Disney version of Doug where the characters are locked in the school during a snowstorm and the Rich Bitch of the group pulls out a laptop to try to communicate with the outside world for help. While the laptop itself was pretty indistinct, the desktop environment it exhibited was unmistakably Apple's Classic Mac OS, with a Beet (a running gag in the series) in the place of the Apple on the top-left corner of the screen.
A Legion of Super-Heroes issue had Brainiac 5 decrying the primitive technology of 20th century computers. The computer's logo was a half-peeled banana, and the slogan was "Computers with appeal".
The BBC Radio 4 comedy Mind Your Own Business had Satsuma computers, which were derided as spending too much time being friendly, rather than just doing what they're told.
Of course, in the UK, as well as Apple, there was Apricot Computers, Acorn Computers (creators of the BBC Micro) and Tangerine Computer Systems (creators of Oric 1 and Atmos, an early rival to the Sinclair Spectrum).
League of Super Evil has Rotten Core, a manufacturer of gadgets and devices for villainous operations who has hardware designs and a retail presence very much like Apple.
Excel Saga had "Across 2000" (a parody of Windows 2000).
In Futari wa Pretty Cure, Honoka has applied "PRE-Q BAN" brand adhesive bandages to at least two different people's minor wounds (this is a pun: "Pretty Cure" is sometimes known as simply "purikyua" [pronounced more or less "pre-cue"]).
L and Light apparently both own laptops with bananas on them.
Also, if you look real closely, the search engine that Light uses is called "Generic". (It looks an awful lot like Google Image.)
L has an obvious iMac in addition to his obvious MacBook, though to me the logo looked more like a twisted-up "I."
The opening credits of Princess Nine include, in what is presumably Koshie stadium, advertisements for "Mitsuhishi", "Sont", and "Ranasonia", in fonts highly reminiscent of the Mitsubishi, Sony, and Panasonic brand-names.
Fictional fast-food brand "Amigo Tacos" is used as a throwaway name in an early episode of the anime El Cazador de la Bruja. The name is brought back several times in later episodes, gaining a logo, official waitress uniform and annoying commercial jingle. Eventually an entire episode is set in an "Amigo Tacos" restaurant.
"WcDonalds", a stand-in for the rather obvious, is a fast-food chain non-specific to any particular anime (the chain has made appearances from InuYasha to the American-produced Megas XLR). Much like the above immediate example, anime "Brand X" brands are often created simply by switching or reversing a letter from their real-world counterparts ("Somy" and "Parasonic" have been known to pop up from time to time in various animes).
WcDonalds' most recent appearance, as of early August 2008, is in the new Rumiko Takahashi short anime It's A Rumic World, where it appears in its rarely seen fully spelled out form.
Zeta Gundam, however, has "McDaniels" hamburgers, complete with clown mascot. Since both of these are Universal Century shows, we have to assume that McDaniels and Wonderland Burger exist in the same universe and are competitors.
It's even made an appearance in Japanese porn, as an elaborate restaurant set with obsessively detailed uniforms for the young ladies involved to wear (or not wear, as the case may be).
Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu had Haruka excited to get a "PDS" or "Portable Dream Station". The visual representation made it some sort of crossbreed between a PSP and a DS.
Skip Beat! has a Wos Burger (after Mos Burger, a popular Japanese chain).
The anime Prince of Tennis had the main character drinking Ponta, though in the original manga it was actually Fanta.
Gravitation has Zenny's Restaurant. Like Denny's but more Zen.
One Piece has the fake clothing brand Criminal as well as the Doskoi Panda brand which includes everything from shirts to footballs. Doskoi Panda even has two knockoff brands, Dosko1 Panda and Cyberpanda.
In the third Angelique OVA, there is a product logo that reads as "SQNY" ...but only if you are well-versed in the series' stylistic font which makes you wonder if this was just a dorky Easter Egg.
The Sky Crawlers features such products as Pops-Cola and Treasure soft drinks (with logos that resemble Coca-Cola and Pepsi respectively), Green Label beer and Leopard cars.
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ has an episode where Judau and Elpeo go shopping at "Ralph-Larren", a popular clothing boutique.
Initial D had "Danrep", "Nisno", and the famous "TORENO" (which later became Trueno after they got the license)
Lovely Complex has Koizumi's home console "Blay Ztation 2", where she plays her visual novels.
The U.S. [adult swim] release of Code Geass censored out the Pizza Hut logos that were used as Product Placement in the Japanese version. Online rumor has it that the U.S. branch of Pizza Hut didn't want to continue the product placement because "it's a show about terrorism." Cheese-Kun, the Japanese Pizza Hut mascot, was kept uncensored.
While later installments, such as the Rebuild movies, are more likely to use actual product placement, the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series used this all over the place; for instance, Asuka's game console of choice was marked "SECA".
Wata Mote has loads and loads of them: the obligatory WcDonalds, Cola-Cola, SterTully Coffee, Hera Hera Douga, search engine Yahuq!, football videogame Winners Eleven, and so on.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing In the episode where Heero deactivates the missiles at the New Edwards base, there's an "Intel Outside" sticker in the control room.
Parody product and magazine names abound in the comic strip FoxTrot.
There's a strip where the brand name on a bag of chips changed in every panel.
The DCU has lots of these, some of which only appear in one story (or in stories by one writer), while others get taken up across the board. The cola brands Soder (Brewed and bottled in Metropolis) and Zesti (a Gotham City favorite) have both had stories focused on them.
Big Belly Burgernote who, judging from its mascot, is based on the California chain Bob's Big Boy is the DC Universe's answer to fast food joints. Which allows parodies and in one instance, using a dead fat man for cover in a gun fight.
Hitman featured another burger joint called "Bucket Burger", which was also rife with parody(for example, almost everyone in the restaurant except for the title character and his buddy are obese slobs).
The DCU's leading current events magazine is named "Newstime".
More DC examples; WGBS is a media outlet in Metropolis, run by an evil nut job. LexCorp, of course, has its fingers in everything. WayneCorp is an easy one to go to when a writer needs a brand name. Then there's SunDollar coffee...
One or two issues of Birds of Prey reference Barbara Gordon and other characters bemoaning the ineffectiveness of the Curtains 98 operating system.
Originally averted with the Martian Manhunter's fondness for Oreos. Once it turned out he was literally addicted to them, they suddenly became "Chocos".
In the comic strip Bloom County, Oliver Wendell Jones's Banana Junior 6000 computer bore a suspicious, if bright yellow, similarity to the original Macintosh. Except, of course, for its self-awareness, feet and propensity for troublemaking.
The Spider-Man special "Skating on Thin Ice" features a cover where a group of young kids finds Spider-Man's secret stash of Beer-brand beer and Cigarettes-brand cigarettes, as well as a vial, syringe, and bottle of prescription tablets.
Don't forget the very popular "Beefy Bob's" burger joints, good enough for superheroes on a low-profile date. The city also has an ample supply of "Astro-Mart" convenience stores.
In Mark Tatulli's comic strip Heart of the City, the title character often plays with "Karlie and Ben" dolls.
Almost everything in Watchmen is created by Veidt Enterprises or some sub-company. Of course, there is a more sinister reason behind this: the sales of these products help finance Adrian Veidt's plot.
A Disney Adventures comic involved Doug buying a "Brandexx" jacket, which becomes popular for a while until someone else starts wearing "Branday" which then becomes popular at "Brandexx"'s expense.
Loch Lomond whisky (Captain Haddock's favorite brand) in the Tintin comics. (When The Black Island was redrawn in color, Loch Lomond replaced what was Johnnie Walker in the black-and-white version.)
Hilariously parodied in a French comic, Contes à dormir debout. A father is telling an updated version of "Aladdin" to his daughter:
Father: A package fell off a truck from a famous brand of Swedish furnitures. Daughter: "A famous brand of Swedish furnitures"? Are you calling it like that because you can't say any names? Father: Of course not! Everyone speaks like that. Now, let me have a glass of this cola drink...
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is full of these — Jhonen Vasquez seems to be fond of this trope, as it appears in Invader Zim as well. Taco Hell, the 24/7 with its Brain Freezies, the list goes on.
Sam & Max's world is filled with bizarre products, especially in the storyline set in a grocery store. About the only recurring brand, though, is a mediocre generic beer called "Cheap, Foul-Smelling Beer".
In the German comic Werner: Played straight by fictional brands such as Coma Pils and parody brands like Happlage & Schnappe or Kastrat. Averted with most brand names, though, particularly vehicle brands and models, both existing and defunct (Horex, Harley-Davidson, Lanz, Hanomag, Bentley, Honda, Allgeier...), and beer brands (Flensburger, Faxe, shoving a bottle of Beck's into the fourth wall).
Quentin Tarantino includes not only discontinued products, but Brand X references in all his films (most notably "Red Apple" cigarettes and "Big Kahuna" burgers) as a way of implying that they all take place in the same Verse. Or he's just too lazy to invent more of them.
Parodied in Coming to America: Cleo's restaurant "McDowell's" seems like one of these, but it turns out that McDonald's also exists in the movie's universe, and they're desperately trying to build a case against him.
In Repo Man, every single consumer good is in plain white packaging with the name of the item in block letters across the front, such as "Beer", "Potato Chips", and even "Food." This runs into Aluminum Christmas Trees, since generic products in the early 80s did actually use this kind of remarkably plain packaging. Of course, they weren't nearly so omnipresent as in the film.
Return Of The Killer Tomatoes: At the start, the characters all use the relentlessly generic items, until about halfway through when the film's "director" suddenly appears on-scene and announces that they don't have enough money to finish the flick, so they're selling product placements. From then on, the placements become ever-more numerous, overt and obnoxious. During a lengthy spiel for some Californian motorcycle dealership, the hero finally breaks down and asks the director if they have enough money to finish the thing. Pan over to a shot of the director partying down with hookers, booze, etc. "Huh? Oh. Yeah. Go get 'em guys.."
In the 1989 film Batman, the Joker announces his lethal tampering with Gotham City cosmetics with a mock commercial. Walking up to a living bound and gagged victim (a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen reads "Not An Actor"), he exclaims, "Uh-oh! He don't look happy. He's been using Brand X!" ("Oh No!") Then he walks to a corpse with a hideous Joker grin and says, "But with new Joker Brand, I get a grin, again and again!"
The movie Small Soldiers shows that the main character's younger sister collects "Gwendy" fashion dolls. They are later recruited and animated as cannon fodder by the sentient action figures, after a request to go on leave with the plastic beauties is shot down.
Proper nouns are missing from this movie. It seems to exist in a generic alternative universe in which nothing has its own name. The Oscars are known as "these awards" or "the awards." After Pia and her first lover leave a movie, they have this conversation: "I liked him better." "I liked her better." No him or her is identified. This is the kind of conversation that results when a screenplay says, "They leave the theater and briefly discuss the movie," but the screenplay doesn't care what movie they saw.
Toy Story couldn't get the rights to blow up an (original) G.I. Joe action figure, so they used "Combat Carl" instead.
However, they otherwise avert it: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Ken, Barbie, Slinky, andTotoro (I think I may be missing some) were all used with permission of the respective copyright owners, as acknowledged at the end of the credits of each film.
Zig-Zagged with Barbie; for the first movie, Mattel refused to license the character to Pixar, and the script was written without her. Needless to say, they offered no opposition when Pixar approached them for the second film.
How High has BUFUnote A play on the "FUBU" clothing line — "By Us, Fuck You!"
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters: The Video Game might count, but he might not.
In Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, Roland and his companions from Earth find themselves from time to time in parallel versions of Earth distinguishable only by the fact that the popular brand names of consumer products are different (Nozz-a-La Cola, Shinnaro cameras, Takuro automobiles, etc.)
Consistently mentioned in a few of his other works (The Stand and Kingdom Hospital, for example) for the sake of The Verse.
In The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham, the main character works for the EBC (English Broadcasting Company). It gets extensively lampshaded — a Running Gag is that every character is introduced saying "don't you mean BBC?", and later gets subverted, when the government takes over the media and the narrator explicitly mentions that the EBC and BBC are now one and the same.
In Orwell's How the Poor Die, he names the hospital at which he was treated "Hôpital X." According to The Other Wiki, the Hospital was "the Hôpital Cochin."
Several in Sarah Dessen's novels, including Ume.com (Facebook) and Gas/Gro (7/11 or QT). The Facebook imitator even has a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Mark Zuckerberg (i.e. a nerdy guy who started the site in college).
Animorphs both averts and invokes this trope. Jake having a Sega game console is mentioned,(though it's just a 'console' in the re-release to help with relevance issues) but there's the fictional internet provider Web Access America, which seems to allude to either America Online,Microsoft, or both.
The all-monster world of City of Devils features a number of products, several of which gets vintage-style advertisements in the back of the novel. These include Pharaoh brand bandages for mummies, Ocutol drops for crawling eyes, the Oldsmobile Brainwave for brainiacs, and the Para-sol for vampires and gremlins.
Live Action TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Trick orders a "medium diet soda" at a drive-thru window without actually specifying what soda in the Season 3 episode "Faith, Hope & Trick".
The Brady Bunch: In the episode "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor," where the Bradys are chosen to star in a television commercial for the laundry detergent Safe, all the soap names are "Brand X." Besides Safe, other detergents the Bradys have used (to varying levels of success) included Champ the Dirt Fighter, Clear & Bright, Help and their current detergent, Best. In the wind-up segment, the Bradys are given – as a consolation for their work – dozens of crates containing Safe.
One of Robert Reed's points in his negative critique of this episode was that the use of the "soap names" – which Carol names off, in discussing with Mike on whether to star in the commercial – were clichéd (or in Reed's words, an "obvious writer's technique").
In the later episode "Law & Disorder" (aired a season later), Bobby can be seen dumping a whole box of Safe into the washing machine. (He was trying to wash his good suit after dirtying it while trespassing in an abandoned house to rescue a classmate's kitten.)
When the MythBusters use an off-the-shelf consumer item in examining a myth, they usually cover it with a plain white wrap featuring the "MythBusters" logo in black. (In one episode, while testing a myth about using vodka to clean a bathroom, the tester actually wrote the words "Brand X" on the wall.)
One of the few times they ever break from this practice is in the "Diet Coke and Mentos" testing, using the name of both soda and candy directly, in part because everyone in the world knows the phenomenon by that name and calling it the "Diet Soda and Candy" episode would have seemed patently absurd. The decision seems to have been made only during post-production, however; while graphics and the narrator use the brand names often, anyone actually on-camera always says "diet soda" or "candy" and all the labels are still taken off.
In addition, certain chemicals mentioned in narration are censored due to fears the audience will try to recreate the experiments at home; instead of "bleep", the audience hears a random animal noise. Lampshaded entertainingly in at least one episode:
Kari: OK, we're gonna add a half ounce of [hee haw] to an ounce of [cock-a-doodle-doo] slowly! Narrator: When you add donkey to rooster, you get a violent reaction.
One specific example involves Adam holding up two bottles of chemicals for the camera, with — of course — blurred labels.
Adam: This ingredient is made of blur. And this has some blur in it too. Blur is very dangerous. You don't want to mix blur with blur.
In the above examples the chemicals being mixed tend to be dangerous when brought together; the example with Kari is used to make gun cotton, while the "blur with blur" were some of the additional components used to make properly reactive thermite. Besides being particularly dangerous to try at home there are probably federal and local laws governing/forbidding their use and procurement without licences. (Regarding the thermite components: Aluminum powder and iron oxide were already mentioned, so these aren't the two items; plus, at least one of the substances indicated is clearly a liquid of some kind.)
They also blur out commercial logos on people's clothing. In one memorable example, this (evidently) included the manufacturer of Kari's diving suit, turning her entire chest into one big blur.
Which is considered a felony in at least 49 states...
They sometimes use other methods to block out logos, such as duct tape (which appeared on the front of Tory's baseball cap several times).
During the episode about drunkenness myths, despite the labels being obscured, it was still clear that Jamie was drinking Gray Goose vodka, and Adam 12-year-old Glenlivet scotch.
For the first several seasons, the manufacturer logos on the regular M5 Industries fleet vehicles were unobscured. The big GMC box truck even had a former owner's company name plainly visible (the vinyl letter decals had been removed, the sticky residue hadn't and was gray with grime. Must've driven Jamie up the wall.)
What about the Home Depot orange buckets used in multiple episodes? Sure the logos might be out of focus, but anyone who has seen one of those buckets in a store will recognize them immediately.
The kids' magazine programme Blue Peter used to have a craft feature which usually required cereal boxes, empty drinks bottles and so forth... all with the names obscured, because the BBC, being publicly funded, didn't allow any commercial product placement. Sometimes it was patently obvious what the obscured brand was — only the lettering would be blanked out on a cornflake box, leaving the Kelloggs' rooster visible. Famously, most projects included "sticky tape", known to everyone else as Sellotape or Scotch Tape, and "sticky-backed plastic" (known to everyone else as Fablon. "Sticky tape" is now called Sellotape, though, now the producers have realised that the name was well and truly genericised. "Sticky-backed plastic", however, stuck so deep in the public psyche that now it's used as the name for the stuff instead of the brand.
Another instance of the BBC not allowing product placement was duly mocked in an episode of Top Gear, where the three presenters (and The Stig) participate in a 24-hour endurance race in their modified BMW. As a final touch, they wanted to put product placements all over their car, but BBC regulations prevented them from doing so — so they made up their own, including such products as Peniston Oil and Larsen Biscuits (which appears as "Penis" and "Arse Biscuits" when the door is open).
Jeremy Clarkson: It makes Irish stout taste like a chocolate milkshake. Paul Merton: Is Irish stout some kind of relation to Guinness? Ian Hislop: The BBC frowns on product placement. Guest: What's that can of Pringles doing on there then? (points at the Wheel of News, which sure enough has a Pringles can on it) Merton: Maybe he'll refer to them as one of Britain's most popular concave crisps.
Another example of this was on arts and crafts show, Make Shift. One of the presenters was making some kind of food product, using "a chocolatey caramel nougat bar". Or a Mars bar to the rest of the world.
I Bet You Will (reality show dare on MTV) uses "I Bet You Will" paint, etc.
When characters on '80s American sitcoms read magazines, the back cover frequently had an ad for "Walt's Wintergreen" gum, which bore a resemblance to Wrigley's Spearmint ads of the time.
LOST uses a similar approach with the Dharma Initiative food supplies, with most of the food being in blank white packaging labeled with the Dharma logo and a description of the food inside. (E.g. "DHARMA Ranch Dressing")
Truth in Television: in real life, government/military supplies and rations (as well as supplies and rations from some non-profit or school groups) follow this convention (this is actually where Lost got the idea in the first place) though there are notable exceptions; M&Ms (specifically invented for military rations) and other durable commercially available foods will be supplied in their commercially available packaging.
Oddly, in the flashbacks and in other aspects of the show, where there is ample chance for product placement, there is none. Hurley, who has a self-confessed food addiction, never eats Brand Name Food. It's always some made up brand. Is this done on purpose? Hmmm...the trees are shaking.
The Chef At Home seems to be a casualty of this. All of his ingredients are in glass jars, and he refers to them as such.
Alton Brown on Good Eats also used "That drink powder" in an episode about pickles. He had a guy in a red glass burst through a wall in order to "tell" us what it was. Alton then remarked "Aren't you supposed to be a pitcher?"
Alton Brown is also a big fan of Brand X and "Greeking" (as the process is more formally called). In a "behind the scenes" episode of Good Eats he explains the process behind "Greeking." That said, it's always obvious what grocery store he's shopping at (either Kroger, Publix, or Harry's/Whole Foods, depending on how old the episode is), and episodes before season 5 don't bother with the greeking.
Cooking Shows in general do this somewhat frequently — Rachael Ray even went so far as to have completely redesigned packaging (presumably with in-jokes known only to the staff) for numerous seasons of 30 Minute Meals. Averted, however, by Giada De Laurentiis, who is a very big fan of Trader Joe's products.
Likewise, Food Network Challenge frequently has challengers working with "puffed cereal treats". Rice Krispies didn't even jump on the bandwagon when they broke a world record sculpting with the stuff.
Notably subverted in Freaks and Geeks when characters were shown drinking "Faygo" brand cola, which really exists but is hard to find outside the upper Midwest.
Actually, I live in Kentucky and Faygo brand sodas are easily found around here.
It's within the cachement area: Faygo is a Detroit-based brand. This is why it made sense for the characters to drink it on Freaks and Geeks: the show is set in suburban Detroit, and the stuff is fairly popular in the area (i.e. it's Local Color).
Lampshaded in an episode of House. House, while being hypnotized by Chase, expresses his dislike for "'Beer' brand beer" when presented with a row of generic bottles. There are also bottles of "Liquor" brand liquor. (This could be interpreted more as a statement about which details people tend to remember. He didn't care which alcohol it was, so he didn't remember it as a specific brand.)
House: There's nothing worse than drinking Beer brand beer.
Of course, he didn't remember much else either, as everybody was a faceless.
The Middle Man uses Captain Ersatz of recognizable products and gives them names that are different but still similar enough to invoke familiarity with the actual product they're spoofing or implying.
On CSI, many crimes or events happen at the Tangiers hotel/casino, which doesn't actually exist.
The Tangiers was originally created for the gangster film Casino as a stand-in for The Sands (though unlike its real world equivalent, the Tangiers was demolished in the wake of the mob trials, which precludes the possibility of any continuity with CSI). What's strange, though is that CSI has also mentioned The Sands on occasion, and also the Rampart (although the fictional Rampart was demolished in season 7, while its real life counterpart still stands.)
This was subverted in an 80s science/maths TV series (How 2?) starring Carol Vordermann, which regularly featured jars of "chocolate beans." On one occasion, it was commented: "We won't name [the product] as we've already given Smarties too much free advertising".
In addition to the Pear computers (see the Apple section above), Zoey 101 and Neds Declassified also greeked laptop computers using stickers with the logos of their respective fictional schools.
Chuck works at "Buy More" (Best Buy), who is in competition with "Large Mart" (Walmart).
Large Mart also has a strong resemblance to Costco. The Nerd Herd is comparable to Best Buy's Geek Squad.
Chuck also debadges non-Toyota cars.
Cans of soda on The Big Bang Theory are clearly designed to mimic real brands, but with HD one can clearly see that they are drinking "Diet Cola" (styled like the Diet Coke logo), "Z-un" (styled like the 7-Up logo), and a brand with literally no name but a perfect copy of Sprite's interlocking-fruits symbol.
The BBC's policy is actually quite inconsistent. For every instance of a Brand X there's a passing reference to an actual product, often an alcoholic beverage, that's too fleeting to qualify as Product Placement.
Firefly has 'Blue Sun' products just about everywhere. They might be a bit more significant to the plot than normal examples, though...
The X-Files has the Cigarette Smoking Man, among other characters who smoke, preferring the extremely popular but fictional Morley brand of cigarette. There is even an episode of the show titled Brand-X featuring the company that makes the cigarettes. Morleys apparently get around, because they are used all over the place in television, even amongst series that have no connection to each other. The Other Wiki has a list of them.
The Masters of Horror episode "The Screwfly Solution" had plenty of examples, like "East Coast Airlines" and "Flazzle Cola" (in a red can, no less), and in the shop scenes they make sure to keep the camera zoomed out (though a Budweiser sign comes up in the edge of the shot, so they forgot at least one thing). They also have nameless "Kidney Beans" cans and an internet search engine with no marker at all.
Though this trope doesn't apply when referring to their bankroller — for instance, reporters will have NBC branded microphones, with anyone else being with unlikely-numbered news organizations such as Channel 23 or News 46. There was also an interesting exchange during a bust when mobsters were caught flat-footed watching TV:
Det. Briscoe: "MSNBC, huh? Your father would've had the game on."
Of course there are two things consistent about the L&O universe; that the equivalent of the Post is the Ledger (which was also the paper in the short-lived newsbiz Spin-OffDeadline), while the all-encompassing New York University/Columbia University campus is known as Hudson University.
Law & Order also had the New York Sentinel, its version of the New York Times.
Law & Order fairly consistently used the name "B-Friendz.com" for their version of Facebook and MySpace, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit used "Another Youniverse" for their "Second Life" analog.
Averted in the 2010 Spin-OffLaw & Order: LA, where Facebook was name-dropped in the very first episode, while in previous episodes of the series generic substitutes like "Youspace" were used in its place.
Nearly completely averted in Survivors. Hung looter in a Netto? Check. Decomposing corpse in McDonald's? Check.
Kodak — Calling a kind of slide projector a Carousel was apparently Don Draper's idea.
American Airlines, an attempted grab for their contract of that airline, which is trying to get good publicity back after the Flight 1 disaster of 1 March 1962. In the show, Pete Campbell's father is a victim of that crash.
Mohawk Airlines, who are bumped off the client list for the American Airlines attempt.
The American Cancer Society, after Don Draper's desperate grab after losing Lucky Strike
Also worth mentioning is that the show isn't averse to actualProduct Placement: a bottle of Smirnoff has crept its way into the series as a semi-permanent fixture in Roger Sterling's new office.
DVD commentary reveals that the production team always uses period-accurate real-world alcohol bottles, with one exception: A real brand is never used in a drinking-and-driving situation. Mad Men being Mad Men, there are a lot of these.
Odd example on Peep Show — Jeremy refers obliquely to a real-life advert for a popular cold and flu remedy, while Mark is shown pouring said brand into a cup, with the logo obscured... at which point Jeremy offers to "bring your Lemsip in for you". Didn't seem to be a lampshading, or deliberate joke — just odd.
It may be that mentioning the semi-genericised Lemsip is acceptable, but that showing Lemsip-brand Lemsip was undue prominence. In some countries, there's a rule against showing a product and mentioning its name at the same time. So there's no problem if they're mentioning Lemsip, they just have to obscure it.
Yet more BBC, in The Apprentice many of the candidates have worked for major companies in the past, but it is described as stuff like "developing markets for a major international coffee company."
The way they rebranded products on Full House was amusing (Mountain Do, Shesta Cola, Sarf Color-Safe Bleach, Ail Laundry Detergent, to name but a few).
Variant that overlaps with Expy in "Terror of the Autons" - the murderous Ugly Cute Auton doll is clearly supposed to be one of the Troll dolls that were a big fad in the 70s, but with the design altered.
In early episodes of the new series, Rose tries looking for information about the Doctor on search-wise.net, a domain name intentionally reserved for use as a Brand X search engine.
Additionally, Rose works for the fictional department store 'Henricks.'
In the episode "Doppelgänger", the case hinged in part on two different brands of cigarettes: Triboros, and Llamas (the latter in a package resembling Camel cigarettes).
While not a product, one of the members of NCIS is showing around a bunch of boys, where he and all of the boys are wearing the standard tan outfit with handkerchief over the neck and troop number in red and white, of the Boy Scouts of America, but in the show, one of the kids admits they are a Junior Ranger.
On FlashForward, badges are generally removed from cars — a common enough practice, but this show is particularly blatant, in that Ford cars have a conspicuous oval gap where the badge was taken out.
In a variation, when Life After People did an episode on food, they specifically address the Urban Legend that "this cream-filled snack cake" would remain edible for thousands of years. Presumably the makers of Twinkies didn't want their product associated with images of decaying meat or roaches and rats taking over abandoned supermarkets, as the program dutifully avoids naming "this snack cake" or showing its label.
Wizards of Waverly Place has an episode near the start of the second season where a frisbee is referred to as a "plastic flying disk". Possibly a lampshading, since the phrase is gratuitously awkward compared to several they could have used instead.
Spicks And Specks blurred out the branding of a Mr. Whippy icecream van when it was playing Greensleeves. The ABC prohibits product placement, but it's been the target of lampshading every now and then.
Starting in Season 2, Glee introduced a coffee shop, possibly a chain, called the Lima Bean as a date location for Kurt and Blaine. It's both a reference to the place where the show is set (and its correct pronunciation) and a pretty obvious stand-in for Starbucks.
JAG: 2nd season episode "Heroes" had a hamburger chain called Beltway Burgers. This restaurant continued into NCIS.
Chopped gives generic names for the mystery ingredients, such as "Puffed Rice Cereal" for Rice Krispies. Packaged products are also usually repackaged in generic Chopped containers or, in the case of sealed cans and jars, have any identifying labels replaced.
In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray complains that it took Daddy three days to assemble a beautiful Swedish bed for daughter Ally. Evidently IKEA didn't pay nearly enough for a plug.
The brand(s) of beer on the tap at Cheers was never named, although there were fleeting glances of the packaging of at least one real beer brand.
The Good Wife has ChumHum, a Google-like search engine. Subverted in that it's later mentioned that Google also exists in the show, but no one is shown actually using it.
Possibly a case in Gracepoint when compared to the original British show Broadchurch. Early in the show, the police are trying to keep it from the public that the boy's death is not an accident. Ellie accidentally lets this fact slip to her nephew, a reporter, who immediately posts it online. The British show has the nephew use Twitter (causing David Tennant's character to enter the police station screaming "Bloody Twitter!"), while the American show uses a fictional online news site instead.
When licensed NASCAR products are released to mass retail, the logos of beer companies are replaced with generic logos including the driver's name, due to U.S. law prohibiting the advertising of alcohol to minors. This is not the case with high-end "adult collectibles," however.
There's a cigarette lighter shaped like Rusty Wallace's Miller Lite car with the brewery's logo replaced by his first name.
The high-end collectible market isn't immune to cigarette advertisement restrictions though — the L&M logos are missing from some models.
When Mark Martin's sponsorship was switched to Viagra, the notice "Ages 21 and up" on the Revell model box where the "tahrs and awl"-sponsored-car kits had "Ages 10 and up". If you need Viagra before 21, you're probably worried about things other than family-unfriendly logos...
There is a Listerine commercial that actually says that "people prefer it two-to-one over the leading brand." To be fair, this can be interpreted charitably to mean "the leading brand made by a competitor." But if it's possible for "the leading brand" to mean this, then that might be the answer to the question, "Why isn't your brand the leading brand?" Maybe it sometimes is the leading brand!
One way ads get around this dilemma is to say "the next leading brand".
In the classic, "Ancient Chinese Secret" commercial for Calgon water softener, the product is demonstrated with a box labeled simply "Detergent".
The original version "Lola" by the Kinks features the line "where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca Cola," which had to be edited to "cherry cola" for radio release in the UK; American radio seems to play both versions though.
The song "Fabulous" from High School Musical 2 originally contained the lines, "Fetch me my Jimmy Choo flip flops/Where is my pink Prada tote?/I need my Tiffany hair band/Then I can go for a float". In the video game "Sing It", "Jimmy Choo" became... eh, something... else?, "Prada" became "leather", and "Tiffany" became "sparkly".
Pink Floyd's "It Would Be So Nice" originally contained the line "Have you ever read the Evening Standard?" As this was the name of a legitimate English newspaper, they were forced to re-record the line with the fictitious 'Daily Standard.'
Interesting in that "Muzak" is itself the name of Muzak Holdings LLC which defends its trademark against genericizing of the word for "elevator music." Barney Miller, for example, used the word and it's censored out of syndicated reruns.
One episode of That Puppet Game Show involved Ian offering Eddie a chocolate bar, which just said "Chocolate" on the wrapper. The weird part was that the wrapper was purple and the word was written in a swirly handwriting font, so it looked almost exactly like a Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar.
Several BBC Radio 1 DJs, as a result of the BBC not allowing product placement, often say things like "generic MP3 player" rather than iPod. Some do this so frequently that callers also use such phrases.
Radio comedians Hudson And Landry often made use of "Ajax" companies, like Ajax Airlines or Ajax Mortuary.
LEGO has a small few recurring instances of this trope, most prominently the Octan petrol company, whose branding was pretty much everywhere in LEGO City and racing games and sets up until 2001, and still crops up on occasion. LEGO also averts it in that they regularly produce licenced promotional sets based on real vehicles used by real companies, the most commonly recurring being Shell and Maersk.
LEGO used to make regular sets featuring Shell (or Exxon in the United States, from the late 1970s to about 1985-86 when Shell sets became available stateside). Back when they made HO-scaled vehicles, they included Shell and Esso branded vehicles.
Performance parts in Video Game Forza Motorsport 4 are a generic brand, unlike 3, where most of the ports were "made" by a certain manufacturer, such as K&N making air filters for certain car brands.
Generally justified, as 4 features a lot more niche and unique cars where no real company would design aftermarket parts for them. However, said niche cars often use engines or are actually built from other cars (for example, the Bertone Mantide is just a Corvette ZR 1 with a lighter, radically designed body), so the reason why aftermarket companies were removed besides advertising billboards remains unclear.
Thirsty for some Cielo Mist? Or perhaps a One-Up? Persona 3 has 'em for the low, low cost of 120 yen!
Persona 3 was filled with them, Every vending machine had some type of American drink just to show how well Atlus actually translates the games. Some of the most memorable ones were : (Dr. Salt: Salty soda. Popular, but an acquired taste.) (Mad Bull: The most caffeinated drink available.) (Starvicks: Famous coffee, mixed with cough syrup.) (Fountain Dew: A disturbingly yellow soft drink.)
The painkillers in Max Payne are referenced by name in Max Payne 2: "Interfectum 600mg: a serious painkiller for serious pain".
A truly vast number of freeware games — especially Japanese games — open with ripoffs of old video game loading screens. For example, "Kobami" from La-Mulana.
SimCity buildings fall under this. There's the Kong Tower, Quigley Insurance, Byall Means Travel Agency, Wright and Daughter, Dragon Dr., Justin Brown Plaza, Bob's Grease Pit, Curtin Fabrics, and Pump & Scoot Gas just to name a few.
And let's not forget the dreaded Wren Insurance building!
The Sims, by proxy, is also full of this by way of the brand names of all buyable items. This actually gets averted down the line, thanks to a tie-in deal with IKEA.
As an added note, using the random Sim generater in the Sims 2 Debug mode will cough up Sims with ramdomly-generated names that include some Brand X last names, like Curtin, Byall, Wren etc.
Heavy Rain features "Asthma" brand inhalers, among other things.
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist had a quest that involved a tube of "Preparation G." In addition, Freddy mentioned to his "faithful Indian sidekick" that one of the perks of the position was all the "Rustler's Stove" chocolates he could eat.
The various full-heal foodstuffs in Shin Megami Tensei IV are based on real-life Japanese food items, with the bartenders even calling them ersatzes. For example, the bartender in Ueno gives you an ersatz croquette based on the ones from the "Niku-no-something" grocery store.
Homestar Runner uses "world" products almost exclusively, with a few exceptions, like Mountain Dew (which invariably appears with the 1973 logo). Interestingly, most of the products, both names and the products themselves, sound sensible at first but on second reading turn out to be complete gibberish ("flavor taste-style chewing powder" ...?)
Notable Brand Xs include the Cold Ones series of beers; especially the Coldson Lite, who looks like a can of Coors Lite, yet whose name resembles Molson. Interestingly, Molson and Coors have since announced that they were merging together.
This is doubly subverted with the Tandy computers. Tandy was a real brand, once, but Strong Bad's "Tandy 400" computer resembles nothing ever produced by it. Furthermore, its logo is a multicolored star with a bite taken out of it. In case the parody wasn't obvious yet, this same logo is later seen on obvious Macintosh lookalikes.
...and sometimes it's part of the joke: In sbemail "caffeine", Strong Bad gets Strong Sad on a caffeine rush by "drop[ping] a couple of heaping spoonfuls of Sanka into [his] orange juice." Sanka is, of course, well-noted for being a decaffeinated coffee.
Averted in Penny Arcade, where main characters Gabe and Tycho talk about the latest real-life video games constantly.
Misfile has beer bottles and cans labeled "BEER". The author has stated that he doesn't drink and didn't want to depict any particular brand.
This heavily narmed-up comic strip by Dan Nuckols has a particularly charming example in which a character is seen reading pornography, but the author doesn't care to name the pornographic publication, nor is he comfortable depicting anything remotely suggestive on the cover. The result is a dull brown magazine with "PORN" written on it in big black letters.
In The Order of the Stick strips 6 and 31, the party sees Durkon as a pack of Band-Aids, and a mind flayer sees Elan as a can of Diet Coke. When these were redone in higher resolution for the book Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, Durkon became "Bandages" and Elan became "Diet Cola".
In strip 711, Haley buys from cosmetics company Aton (A parody of Avon).
Kim Possible has, in addition to its thinly veiled celebrity archetypes, a slew of in-world brands: Mexican fast-food establishment Bueno Nacho, big-box retailer Smarty-Mart, fashion boutique and clothing line Club Banana, and so forth.
The makers of the Over the Hedge animated film decided to use only fictional brands (such as "Spuddies" canned potato crisps) for the junk food that was so important to the plot.
In the world of Metalocalypse, almost every single store or service is named after a real world extreme metal band, if not after Dethklok itself. Thus, Finntroll Groceries, Dimmu Burger (a pun on Dimmu Borgir), a restaurant called "Burzum's", the Gorgoroth hardware store, etc. etc.
Futurama has Slurm soft drink, which is central to the episode "Fry and the Slurm Factory". Also, Lightspeed Briefs and Mom's Old-Fashioned Robot Oil. It also uses parody brands, such as Admiral Crunch and Archduke Chocula on "The Series Has Landed" and Sonya speakers on "Amazon Women in the Mood".
Don't forget Burger Jerk, Fishy Joe's, or Chizzler. It's debatable, depending on what you hear, whether Molten Boron is a brand or a state. "No one does/nt/it like Molten Boron".
Another example is the product "Third and Third and Third" in the episode "I second that Emotion", a parody of "Half and Half."
Several shows are "sponsored" by made-up brands and products, including Arachno-Spores, Thompson's Teeth and Glagnar's Human Rinds.
Don't forget Mombil.
And Fry's beer of choice, the aptly-named "Lo Brau".
Both of which, interestingly, became real brands during the run of the movie (The Krusty Burgers were rebranded Burger Kings.)
They lampshaded this in a conversation between the cop, Lou, and Chief Wiggum which was also a parody of the "royale with cheese" scene in Pulp Fiction. Lou mentioned eating at a McDonald's in Shelbyville, but Wiggum had never heard of it, despite there being 2000 locations in the state.
Lampshaded again in a another episode where it turned out Krusty was paying the mob to keep other fast food chains out of Springfield.
There's also Laramie cigarettes. The brand did exist, but it's been discontinued since The Fifties.
In the episode "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield", several TV brands are shown: Panaphonic (Panasonic), Magnetbox (Magnavox), and Sorny (Sony). It's implied they were knockoffs, however.
As well as Bart referring to a "flying novelty disc" instead of a Frisbee.
In a different episode, Lisa yearns for trendy electronic devices from electronics company Mapple, run by Steve Mobs. In the beginning of the episode, she gets a discarded myPod from Krusty.
"MegaLoMart", a parody of Walmart and to a lesser degree Sams and CostCo, from King of the Hill.
Beavis And Butthead worked at "Burger World," whose sign is obviously a McDonald's sign with the arches inverted.
The Powerpuff Girls had, well, a number of different cereals combined into one brand: "Lucky Captain Rabbit King Nuggets". The mascot for this brand seems to be a mash-up of Lucky the leprechaun, the Trix rabbit, Captain Crunch and King Vitaman.
Even the slogan is Brand X: "Ridiculous Lucky Captain Rabbit King! Lucky Captain Rabbit King Nuggets are for the youth!"
Not to mention the chemical used in the opening sequence of the series is literally called Chemical X.
The Flintstones were probably parodying the practice, in an episode where Fred and Barney enter a sponsored baking competition/commercial. When Fred and Barney's cake wins, they end up being disqualified when Barney inadvertently reveals they used brand X flour. As the emcee frantically explains afterwards, they can hardly declare the winner to have used one of the competing brands.
Brand X serves as the primary antagonists of Food Fight, a film focused on product mascots in a grocery store. Part of the film's message appears to be robbing food of an iconic mascot removes its soul.
Oaties cereal (a very obvious parody of Wheaties) is another example.
Fictitious counterparts of CNN appear under various approximate abbreviations (ZNN, CNC, NNN, etc) in countless TV series, films, and other formats. This has its own trope page, Alphabet News Network.
If a military peacekeeping force is needed it will often be the Allied Nations as a thinly disguised stand in for UN forces, down to using the same white vehicles with blue lettering and blue berets/helmets.
Truth In Television
In The Eighties, "Generic" products distinguished by plain white labels and simple black or dark blue lettering were commonly available for a brief time; and were popular due to their lower cost. Some of these were actual name-brand products sold under what the industry terms "white-label" packaging. (Example: generic "Beer", as see in Repo Man, was typically Lucky Lager.) The minimalist look was replaced later in the decade by "store brand" product packaging.
For a short while, there was a pop group called Brand X.
In the Czech Republic, in reaction to just about any advertisement for washing powders comparing their product with a "common washing powder", one company actually started making a washing powder of that name.
Ditto for Russian washing powder with the same name, if it's not the same company.
Many companies have made knockoff biscuits that look like Oreos. Julie's Biscuits actually labels these as Stereos.
The most famous Oreo "knock-off", Hydrox, actually came first.
Another notable Oreo knock-off is the Egyptian one made by that country's cookie giant BiscoMisr, whose "Borio" cookies even have Oreo-like packaging◊.
At least one commercial for Wilkins Coffee (made by Jim Henson and starring proto-Muppets Wilkins and Wontkins, features Wontkins telling Wilkins that he'd like "Brand X." Wilkins then brands Wontkins with an "X"
You can order "lager" at bars in and around Philadelphia, and the only clarification the bartender might ask is "bottle or draft". The brand you will get is Yuengling (not a bad deal, considering that Yuengling is a pretty good beer as American non-craft beers go).
There was a cable internet company in the US around the year 2000 literally called "Brand X." They challenged a Federal Communications Commission interpretation of federal law that was bad for its business, and now "the Brand X case" is a thing for administrative lawyers.