Product placement is the inclusion of a branded product in media, usually without explicit reference to the product. Most commonly, branded products are featured in movies, television shows and video games. The practice is considered a type of pull marketing, designed to increase consumer awareness of the brand and product and strengthen demand.
Product placement can be much more cost-effective than other types of marketing. Apple, for example, claims that they never pay for product placement -- they just provide devices. In 2011, Apple products were featured in 17 of the top 40 box office hit movies in the United States. In that same year, Apple devices also appeared in 891 TV shows. The Brand Channel website ranked Apple #1 in 2011 for number of product placements. Dell, Chevrolet and Ford tied for second place; Cadillac, Coca-Coca and Mercedes-Benz tied for third. The top film for product placement was Transformers: Dark of the Moon, with 71 identifiable brands or products featured.
Product placement can also be a plot device. Writing in the Washington Post, Sara Kelauhani Goo reported that in early episodes of the hit television series 24, good guy characters used Apple computers while bad guy characters used either PCs or unbranded computers.
See a brief history of conspicuous product placement in films: