Product placement in movies often gets a bad rap; moviegoers view obvious plugs as shameless cash grabs that pull them right out of the story. However, when used appropriately, product placement can add to the reality of a film, and in many cases the studio doesn’t actually see a dime from it. This appears to be the situation with Robert Zemeckis’ Flight, a movie that uses real brands of beer and liquor on screen to depict Denzel Washington’s struggle with alcoholism. Some of the companies behind these booze brands are now taking issue with their inclusion, saying that they were never asked for permission. Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser, are even asking to have their logo removed from the film. Hey, who knew that being associated with alcoholism could be bad for business?
Rob McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser, issued the following statement clarifying their stance on the matter:
“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.”
The interesting thing is that they can ask politely but they actually have no legal recourse in the matter. Movie studios do not have to get permission to use a real world product in a movie and companies cannot necessarily control how their brand is used on screen. The only way that they could take legal action is if audiences might believe that the company paid to have their product appear, thus indicating some form of endorsement.
Either way, using a fictional product would probably have been less effective in this situation and if Paramount blurs out the logo that will be extremely distracting. I’m hoping they just stick to their guns and leave the film the way it is. It’s not like Budweiser was singled out above any other form of booze (and believe me, there is plenty of it in the movie). Do you think it’s unfair to use a product without permission? How do you feel about product placement in general?