10 Examples of Product Placement on Stranger Things
Don't you hate it when product placement gets in the way of a good series? Or maybe you don't even notice? We've been crunching the numbers and we've come up with a list of the ten brands that got the most airtime in Stranger Things Season 3. And if you think we saw Coke the most, you might be surprised!
Of course, Stranger Things has included a couple of close-ups; like Joyce Byers hitting the gas or Dustin standing next to the robot but other than that we can’t call it classic product placement in contrast to some of the OTHER brands shown in the series.
So, here are the top 10 coolest instances of promo on Stranger Things.
So let’s start with the brand the has the LEAST screen time, barely scraping into the top 10 - PENTAX, with an overall screen time of almost a minute.
Pentax is Jonathan’s magic MacGuffin. We’ve seen him taking pics since season one, and while it didn’t exactly turn out the way Jonathan planned the camera helped him and Nancy start looking for Barbara and eventually brought them closer. Who’d have thought? Pentax - helps a romance really DEVELOP!
So, in Season Three we see, like, 3 close-ups of Pentax cameras when Jonathan takes pics of the rabid rat at an old lady’s house. And we saw Pentax binoculars when Dustin and Steve are looking for evil Russians in the Mall. And it looks like Jonathan was using a Pentax K1000 and YOU can get the same one on Amazon now for around only 130 bucks.
Sharp is a well-known Japanese company that manufactures electronics. In the whole of the series, three Sharp items make it to the screen: a microwave in episode one, a radio in episodes one and 3, and a cash register in Scoops Ahoy. In total, Sharp has scored almost one and a half minutes of screen time so far.
Though we’re pretty surprised that the writers decided to go with Sharp in the first place. We don’t want to undermine the company's products in any way, but there are just so many other electronic devices that could be used to identify the whole decade, like... Apple Macintosh, the Motorola cell phone aka the “BRICK”, and the progenitor of all modern PC games - the ZX Spectrum. The good thing is that they didn’t forget to include the Sony Walkman. We can spot Nancy holding a SONY Walkman Portable Cassette Recorder. Now let’s move to some JUICIER 80’s references…
8. Burger King
Burger King's total screen time is a bit over 2 minutes. And besides appearing 5 times as a background sign in the shopping mall, the coolest instance was of Hopper holding a Burger King take out bag in his mouth.
Though a spokesperson from Netflix clearly stated that there was no OFFICIAL product placement in season 3, Burger King and Stranger Things did end up sealing a cross-promotional deal. After the premiere of the most recent season, Burger King started selling "Upside-Down Whopper" sandwiches in a handful of cities across the US, and even brought back the restaurant’s original 80’s paper package.
The franchise is not among the most heavily featured in terms of product placement but we think they’re more interested in quality rather than quantity, having appeared in a couple of iconic movies with vast audiences, like Back to the Future, Transformers, and recently in Blade Runner 2049, as well as their most iconic moment - Tony Stark ordering a cheeseburger first thing when he returns from captivity in Iron Man.
By the way, this Marvel miracle meal wasn’t actually the writer’s choice. RDJ snidely admitted in Empire Magazine that he was grateful to Burger King because it was while eating in one of their restaurants in 2003 that he realized how trashy his life had become and decided to quit drugs for good! So it was HIS suggestion to reference his own life-changing experience in the movie... by ordering a Burger King cheeseburger!
The store is featured mostly just in episode five when Joyce, Hopper and Alexei are trying to make it back home and we see some hints of Seven-Eleven like the big cap with the logo in episode 6. That gives us two and a half minutes of screen time, in total.
Seven-eleven already has its own “regular customer” aside from Stranger things. We can often spot Nelson having a Double Gulp in HBO’s Silicon Valley. Seriously, it happens in almost every single episode. There’s also Creed 2 where we see the purest and the most classic example of product placement framed in this shot of a road sign. There’s a Super Big Double Gulp drink that recently made it into the Breaking Bad film sequel El Camino.
But no matter how big the 1988 64-ounce Double Gulp was, the real titans of product placements in Stranger Things are the cars.
Cadillac is #13 on the list of the top 100 Brands in 2018 movies, but it isn’t even the biggest automobile brand on the list, with positions 3 through 8 are taken up by other car manufacturing brands.
The 1984 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible appeared in episode 5 when Hopper had to commandeer... or better to say STEAL the vehicle next to THAT seven-eleven store. No wonder Hopper was so excited - it was a rare opportunity to ride a still hot-off-the-assembly line Cadillac! And that overall excitement of driving a Cadillac Eldorado took up 3 and a half minutes of screen time.
The longest and the latest example of Caddy product placement was in Green Book - yep the turquoise 1962 Cadillac DeVille was practically a character all of its own in the movie, though technically they used three models of the same car… And when talking about famous examples of Cadillac product placement, we obviously can’t forget about Clint Eastwood’s Pink Cadillac OR the Eldorado Caddy from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Chevrolet managed to outdo Cadillac by just 30 seconds on Stranger Things Season 3, scoring almost 4 minutes of screen time. Most of that screen time was divided between Hooper’s 1987 Blazer SUV that served out its watch with an epic explosion and Billy’s classic 1979 Camaro.
Chevrolet ended up as the fifth most visible brand last year. The most iconic Chevy appearances in movies and TV series include a 1973 Chevy Malibu in the movie Drive. And then there’s a yellow 76 Camaro that’s better known as Bumblebee aka “the best wingman” from Transformers. And, of course, Supernatural’s trademark black ‘67 Chevrolet Impala.
And from just four minutes of screentime, we're taking a big leap to almost five and a half minutes of product placement. The Stranger Things Wikipedia page for season three lists fifteen main cast members but we’re sure that many fans will agree with us when we say that we can legitimately add COCA-COLA to the list.
So coca-cola appeared ELEVEN times in Season Three (which may not be a coincidence!) compared with a mere three times in season one. We reckon there are two reasons why the soft drink is EVERYWHERE! Coca-cola is a core MacGuffin in the series. Remember that moment in episode eight of season 3, when El is trying to get her powers back by lifting up the can of coke? That’s not JUST product placement! It’s an homage to the third episode in season one, when El is forced to use her powers for the first time in the lab. So maybe it’s… a callback to earlier product placement?
Coke is indeed that invisible character, a symbol that represents not only American culture but also Eleven’s deepest fears and the torture that she was forced to undergo during the experiments. So despite coca-cola being an example of product placement, it actually has a much deeper meaning.
Our second reason for Coke's extensive representation on the show is actually as a MOCKERY of the Western habit of consuming soft drinks. Lots of us got mad because of abnormal quantities of coca-cola in the frame but doesn’t it quite reflect our society? So was it really that much of an exaggeration?
Well, on top of that Coca-Cola and Stranger things also made a partnership agreement, since the series paid homage to Coke’s infamous debacle with New Coke. Back in the day, New Coke was so poorly received that the company had to pull it from the shelves only a couple of months after it went on sale.
Besides the new design of Coca-Cola connected to the Upside Down, they also brought back the ORIGINAL New Coke that was launched in 1985 - when the events of the season take place. As the president of Coca-Cola Stuart Kronauge told CNN Business, the company went digging in the archives to reproduce the original design and found the old recipe to recreate the taste. And while Pepsi looks on enviously, let's move on to the ultimate winner when it comes to on-screen TIME.
Hopper and Mike were the only two characters who wore Casio watches in Season 3 but the brand still managed to score almost 8 minutes of our attention in total.
Mike wore a Casio CA53W-1 - every geek's dream watch in the ’80s. You could calculate any math problem right on the go. Plus, it could also store phone numbers. So, yeah, basically the culmination of style and functionality at that time.
And it seems like Hopper is most likely wearing the iconic Casio A158W. We can even spot Dustin wearing the Casio F-91W back in Season 2. Besides Old Focals and Ray-Ban, Casio made it to the top of the most visible accessories brands of the last year. For example, we can also find Casio watches in JURASSIC WORLD 2 and even on Amy’s hand in the Big Bang Theory.
1 and 2. Adidas and Reebok
Well, we’re obviously not counting down the screen time for brands like Adidas and Reebok! That would be like counting down how many times they showed us the characters' legs - these brands feature in just about every full-body shot.
Once again a Netflix spokesperson stated that there was no OFFICIAL product placement in season 3 which means they didn't get paid by the brands to promote their products. However, there's a massive detail hiding behind this statement.
Stranger Things may have caused a revolutionary change in the product placement market on television. Instead of getting money for adverts, the series made a bunch of partnership deals for cross-promotions, that may, in fact, change the way product placement works on the medium as a whole.
Take a look at this. So besides the Burger King and Coke collaborations, Stranger Things also partnered with H&M and launched a global Stranger Things collection, complete with retro logo T-shirts and swimwear. And if you were looking for an authentic Eleven or Dustin look from season 3 - here you go - Levi’s replicated this epic 80’s look for their collection.
Baskin and Robbins took it even further! Can you believe that they turned a store in Burbank in California into a real-life Scoops Ahoy for two weeks?! They even designed special flavored ice creams including the B&B website which says QUOTE:
“The Demogorgon Sundae served in a waffle bowl that "frightfully resembles" the monster. Flavour of the month - Elevenade Freeze that’s made of ice cream plus Minute Maid Lemonade.”
And they even had a Byers' House Lights Polar Pizza Ice Cream Treat that looked like a candy pizza with M&Ms resembling the iconic Christmas lights from the first season. Freaking AWESOME.
This revolutionary approach to advertising works unbelievably well: it creates this STUNNING connection between the show and the audience and brings elements of the characters on-screen life into OUR reality. Isn't that what we always wanted when watching your favorite series? In fact, this may be the start of a whole new era of television marketing!
To wrap things up, it would be silly of us not to give credit to some of the pioneers of product placement on Stranger Things - Eggo Homestyle Waffles. Yep, a couple of episodes into season one were brought to you by Eleven and Eggo Waffles. El stole a bunch of boxes in season 1 and we also saw Hopper cooking some for her in season 2. And once again El stole Eggos when looking for her mom. And of course, we saw a whole FRIDGE full of waffles in season 3 episode The Bite.
So what do you think? It product placement a necessary evil, too obtrusive or just a normal part of making a show? We personally think that the Duffer brothers were just trying to catch the attention of Millennials Gen X-ers who grew up around that time and make us feel a bit nostalgic about our own childhood, but also show Gen Zs what it was like to be a kid in the ’80s.