By on April 21, 2020

2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS red – Image Source: GM

The tedium of self-isolation reached depraved new depths this past weekend, as your author, finding himself all alone with nothing to do, took advantage of the government-imposed privacy to indulge in a shameful solo act. An occurrence that was sadly all too common in his teenage years.

That’s right — with the lights turned low and blinds drawn, yours truly engaged in something he’s not too proud of, and wouldn’t normally divulge to any other living soul. He watched a truly terrible movie… and didn’t turn it off.

No, not “so bad it was good,” nothing like that. This thing was a complete stinker — a colossal turdfest that only kept this writer’s interest because, among other things, it happened to be a commercial for General Motors.

Not an official one, obviously, but a clear — painfully clear — attempt to sway moviegoers’ buying decisions with targeted product placement.

Product placement is a marketing gimmick as old as time, and it’s capable of doing great things for the product featured within (think the second-gen Dodge Ram in Twister), but it can just as easily be a comically clunky effort that goes over like a raunchy joke at a funeral. And this turkey of a flick was indeed just that.

If you haven’t seen The Last Stand (2013), starring a former California Governor best known for saying “you’re fired” to a terrorist caught on a wingtip missile in a far better movie, please don’t waste your time. You’re likely to have more fun watching other unofficial GM commercials like Transformers, Transformers II, and, rolling back the years, Live and Let Die.

This flop (I’m told it broke even at the box office), which loitered in the studio vault for God knows how long before its release, centers around an escaped Mexican drug lord attempting to break back into his own country after eluding the combined might of the FBI (seen, laughably, escorting the imprisoned cartel boss to his date with the death chamber in a fleet of black, whining, first-gen Chevy Bolts). Only one still-bankable, Silverado-driving actor — playing the sheriff of a dusty Arizona border town — can stop him.

Did I mention the drug lord accomplishes his flight to the border in a C6 Corvette ZR1 (“Cyber Gray Metallic,” the spotter in the FBI chase copter relays, helpfully, to agents on the ground), with numerous shots of him downshifting even with the speedo pegged at 200 mph? It’s that kind of movie. It’s also worth noticing that, after taking cover in a wild firefight (that for some reason features Johnny Knoxville) behind a Chevy Sonic, our hero Arnie goes after El Chapo 2.0 in a borrowed Camaro SS, dueling with the wayward ZR1 in a cornfield on the Arizona-Mexico border.

Citizen Kane it ain’t.

The best product placement is subtle, followed up by the kind that at least doesn’t annoy the viewer. Then there’s the kind that hammers home the message with a sledgehammer, instilling a newfound disdain for the products on display.

Can you think of some truly awful movie product placements? Autos only, please.

[Image: General Motors]

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45 Comments on “QOTD: Lamest Product Placement You’ve Seen?...”


  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Hey I liked that movie. And as soon as you lay eyes on the Camaro you know very well they’re going to rip it to shreds. The ugliest, most poorly styled Camaro ever conceived deserves nothing less.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Easy, James Bond driving a BMW Z3, a favorite of middle-aged housewives going through their version of a mid-life crisis

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I don’t remember much about the 90s show VIP, but I do recall Pamela Anderson’s ditzy character daily driving a Viper RT/10 which always struck me as pretty ridiculous.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Let’s see…Bumblebee was originally a VW Beetle, not a new Camaro. (Thanks GM!)
    The only network TV show I watch is “The Amazing Race” and their Ford product placement is pretty much in your face…bonus points if the gnome has to ride shotgun.
    I recall Val Kilmer driving a pre-production Volvo C70 in “The Saint” for all of 10 seconds…but it sure looked like no other Volvo at the time.
    And didn’t Bond drive an early 80s Thunderbird at one time? Ouch…
    (And PLEASE fix this site – with all of the pauses and hiccups with the site trying to load all of the ad BS, it took well over 5-10 minutes to type this. This needs fixing!!!)

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      The Living Daylights had Bond in a Lincoln Mark VII for about five seconds, but I think it was supposed to be a rental since he was off duty. Other than that, the only early 80’s Thunderbirds I can think of was one driven by the Soviets in A View To A Kill.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Last Stand – just watched the last half of that dud for the first time last week. Ugh.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    How about the show Viper?

  • avatar

    Greys Anatomy…all the docs drive Audis. Shonda probably bought a beach house on that one.

    The Chicago PD series – If you work for Chicago PD you get a nice SRT as your work car. (OK, there IS a legit cop car market for them, not SRT)

    My favorite is the old Highway Patrol series with Brodereick Crawford-It’s all Chrysler, back in the day of big wings…..occasionally an E type Jag is tossed in…but the wings….the wings….also with Leonard Nimoy usually cast as a mobster, even though he must have been 25 years old.

    In all product placement scams, the placed car is never wrecked. The brain is faded, but I seem to recall Jurassic Park where the family in the product placed Mercedes SUV is amazingly not hurt or injured in their big Benz while the dinos go nuts. May be another film, again I’ve been in the house too long…

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I stopped watching Hawaii-Five-O after the resurrection pilot once they schilled with Witch Barra Motors. What was once Lincoln-Mercury supplying cars in the original ended up with advertising for one of the worst products made now – the Shamaro – a cramped and hideous reskin of a pathetic Cadihack ATS. This change would be like Magnum PI switching from Ferrari to a Toyoduh Supra. Very bad taste.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    I was going to mention Live and Let Die. Hilarious chase across some bridge down south. I forget what James (Roger Moore) was driving but every other car on the bridge was a 73 Impala/Caprice.

    …And oh yes, the Last Stand was a terrible movie. I don’t really recall the blatant-ness of the product placement. Maybe because the rest of the movie was so awful.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      IIRC the last stand was Arnie’s first post governor movie…

      You can’t hardly blame Hollywood for being cautious, they didn’t know if he was still a bankable star .

      -Nate

  • avatar

    Horrible Bosses, VW Jetta.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    Not on topic with the product placement, but as an Apollo program buff I went to see Apollo 18 when it was in theatres. I rarely go see a movie in a theatre and this one stunk to the high heavens. So what would a reasonable person do? Buy the DVD just in case I was wrong the first time. God this is a bad movie! How the heck do you justify a ‘found footage’ movie when the footage is supposedly found on the moon??? I’m all for suspension of belief but there are limits.

    Now back to the original programming…

  • avatar

    What annoys me more than anything is when they tape over manufacturer logos because they DIDN’T get corporate sponsorship. ie, home renovation shows. They feel the have to actively hide what kind of truck or car or whatever the people have chosen to drive. What’s the freaking point? People drive all sorts of vehicles in real life! Are the networks really holding out for that manufacturer to pony up so they can give them “exclusive” imagery?

    • 0 avatar
      1500cc

      I wonder if it’s not so much spite (for not getting a sponsorship), but rather not wanting a Chevy logo showing up in case local affiliates or syndication down the road wants to run Ford commercials, and Ford might balk if they see Chevy logos.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      @Anthony Magagnoli
      Yeah, that one baffles me too.

      To the pointlessly blurred out vehicle badges, add the obvious Apple laptops with black tape or some other sticker covering the logo on the lid. I don’t recall what show it was, but somebody puts a sticker of a pineapple over the Apple logo. At least that one was good for a chuckle.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Planes, Trains & Automobiles used a K Car rag top because the dialog line ” faulty engineering” meant no one would give them a car so they bought one instead .

        The original Vanishing Point move made Chrysler want to forget all about the cars they loaned out…

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          namesakeone

          I was thinking the opposite on every episode of Mythbusters that involves a car; I think they cover (or remove) the logos to prevent the manufacturers from getting bad publicity when their vehicles are crashed, blown up, etc. (Or actual bad publicity, such as with the episode exploring the theory of the Porsche 928 being more aerodynamic in reverse.)

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Last winter, I finished watching the entire Route 66 series on Retro TV. The show was sponsored by Chevrolet and shot entirely on location. Aside from Todd and Buzz (later Linc) tooling around in a current year Corvette, all the cars that moved were Chevys except for rich people who drove Cadillacs. The show ran from 1960 through 1964 and featured some now famous actors with the main characters sort of passing through and getting involved with the drama whether they wanted to or not. I was too young to watch it on when it first ran, but got to appreciate it 50 years later. I don’t know how effective the product placement was since all of the cars except the Corvette were more or less background. The shots of the Corvette driving across country with the top always down were pretty cool though.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    GM definitely went through a phase of badly-done product placement (the ones Steph mentions). Audi did a much better job with Iron Man.

    Does anyone really enjoy Citizen Kane? (One of the first things I did as a young adult living away from home was rent that movie – I didn’t get it.)

    Speaking of Beetles, as a preschooler I used to fall asleep in the afternoons listening to a 45 recording of Walt Disney’s “The Story of the Love Bug” on Dad’s nice stereo. Just found it on youtube (perhaps I’ll stay awake this time).

    Most automotive advertising is directed at “Deficiency Needs” on Maslow’s Hierarchy (a little bit of Safety, but heavy on Love/Belonging and Esteem).
    Life tip: That new truck isn’t going to solve your attachment issues.
    [And neither is that presidential candidate – LOL.]

    GM definitely did some imprinting on me with their Epcot Center exhibit in the 80’s. Jerks. :-)

  • avatar
    bufguy

    Although Pierce Arrow was long gone before these two movies and had no input into their selection, it was sad to see that once proud marque ferrying 12 kids in “cheaper by the dozen” or being used to cart the a band around the country in “the Glen Miller Story”

  • avatar
    Maymar

    My wife used to watch Bones for the sake of having some kind of background noise and because there’s a thousand interchangeable episodes. They had a deal with Toyota for several seasons, which the product itself is reasonable enough (although an FBI agent driving a loaded Sequoia for work seems a little bit of a stretch), but the occasional forced dialogue showcasing some feature was especially egregious. One particular episode had two characters marveling at the lane departure warning in a Sienna, and then pulled over and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving since they were swerving around trying it out (which, really, probably sends the wrong message about how great that feature is). A bunch of the USA Network shows about a decade ago were also really bad for the stilted “I am so excited to talk about this minor feature with my friends and colleagues”.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I almost posted this exact thing! The Toyota placement in Bones was truly awful. It was mostly a fun, well-written show, and then they’d randomly go from the normal dialog to 30 seconds of, “OH. THIS PRIUS. IT HAS GOOD MILEAGE. YES. IT IS A PRIUS WITH GOOD MILEAGE.” and then… normal show again. They once spent a solid 10 seconds showing a character adjust the electric seat. I know that was back around 2010, but still, an electric seat was just *not* that special!

      Then the deal must have ended, because Booth switched to a totally badgeless generic black government BOF SUV.

  • avatar
    ajla

    These Scion commercials played on Cartoon Network between like midnight and 4AM. One of them includes a talking butt with a gun.

    youtube.com/watch?v=0fvOg13V5mI
    youtube.com/watch?v=g5znj-L6AIg

  • avatar
    loner

    Worst for me, by far, was the Acura/Avengers mash-up. Gah!

    Best was Audi/Transporter franchise.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Twister.

    A 113 minute long Dodge Ram commercial featuring a pickup that was more indestructible than an M1 Abrams tank with self-healing body panels and windshield.

    Liability only.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The original Hawaii Five O had Mercuries the remake had Chevies. Matlock had Fords (Crown Vics and the daughter an Explorer), Mannix after the first season had a series of Chrysler products–Darts and Challengers. Peter Gunn had Plymouth Fury convertibles. Rockfort had Pontiac Firebirds and GMC trucks. Bewitched had Chevies and My Three Sons had Chevies and then Pontiacs. Brand placement of vehicles was more common in the past than it is today) and car companies sponsoring specific shows was more common in the past (ie. Bonanza and Bewitched were sponsored by Chevrolet). Many TV shows today buy older less valuable vehicles for scenes with wrecks,
    explosions, shoot outs, and any scene that requires the destruction of a vehicle.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I thought the post was great. Well-written!

    Couldn’t care less about car product or ice-cold cans of Pepsi as product placement in movies. It’s the usual commercial horse manure. Been going on since Moby Dick was a minnow.

    I liked this phrase: “with numerous shots of him downshifting even with the speedo pegged at 200 mph” Yeah, you couldn’t accuse movie directors of having the first clue about reality — soundtracks of engines are usually the worst, bearing no semblance to reality. Then there’s the period movies with incorrect period cars, all three of them continually driving through the background of scenes, for that genyooine look and feel.

    What interests me is — what was the first movie ever where some hulking star got squealing tars on a dirt or gravel road? Because after that, they all did! Hey it was a new and exciting sound effect! I plowed furrows hundreds of yards long on the gravel road we lived on with a ’60 Plymouth Fury and four barrel Golden Commando en-jine, and never heard the faintest squeal ever. Even on the two-ply rayon crud tires of the ’50s and ’60s.

  • avatar
    Super555

    Twilight film with that goofy Volvo hatch model. The choice of the 95 year old HIgh School attending vampire crowd.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    How about all the nice clean Hyundais rolling through the zombie apocalypse? I only thought of this because I saw a Hyundai Tuscon Walking Dead Edition yesterday.

    I realize The Last Stand was a terrible movie. The director, Kim Ji-Woon, has made several good movies in Korea though, in particular The Quiet Family, A Tale of Two Sisters, and one of my all-time favorites, I Saw the Devil.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I know it isn’t JUST autos, but I thought “Days of Thunder” was all about product placement–then again, so is NASCAR.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I was thinking the opposite on every episode of Mythbusters that involves a car; I think they cover (or remove) the logos to prevent the manufacturers from getting bad publicity when their vehicles are crashed, blown up, etc. (Or actual bad publicity, with the episode exploring the theory of the Porsche 928 being more aerodynamic in reverse.)

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I remember seeing a Chevrolet Metro in a Big Lots commercial. I’m not sure if it was product placement, though.

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