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Spider-Man was released on May 3, 2002 when I was 11 years old. It grossed over $403 million in theaters (IMDB).  The film, by my most likely low estimations, includes well over 20 explicit product placements. This does not include the covert product placements that I didn’t recognize. From Rolls Royce to Cup of Noodles, this movie is drenched in product placement.

Screen shot of movie trailer (above) seen on www.youtube.com

This movie has become many children’s favorites. Its rated PG-13, however, after being out for so many years it is certain that children younger than 13 are watching this movie. So, if children are watching this movie, how does the heavy handed product placement influence them? This is a very important concept to study, and it is very hard to say for certain, but it is possible to make inferences.

For some of the products featured in Spider-man, I believe that the company uses the basic persuasion technique association as explained in Media Literacy Project’s article “The Language of Persuasion.” Association tries to connect a product with a idea, feeling, or emotion that is favored by the audience. The purpose of this is, if it works, the audience will remember the emotions they felt and, through the process of emotional transfer, associate it with the product.

In Spider-Man, one scene that sticks out blatantly as product placement in everyone’s mind is the Dr. Pepper scene. Peter, after discovering he can shoot webs out of his hands like a spider, goes to his room to practice. He sits a can of Dr. Pepper on the table and then shoots his web at it and whips it back to grab the drink. It’s also notable that he smashes or breaks everything in the room almost except for the drink

Spider-Man likes Dr. Pepper (as seen on http://worstproductplacement.com)


Please watch the video on youtube.com.

The owner does not allow this video to be embedded.

By looking at this as association, we can begin to see why Dr. Pepper would want to be included in this particular scene in relation to younger children, boys in particular. The drink is associated with new found powers, with exciting experiences, and with growing up. By looking deeper into the film, the subtext becomes know: Spider-Man is about puberty. The scrawny awkward kid is becoming stronger and bigger, with new abilities and interests. This scene in particular is very essential to the character and his abilities, and hopefully I don’t need to go into too much detail about the puberty references in this scene (this guy does in the second paragraph). Dr. Pepper has now associated itself in every young boy’s mind (even if they may not know it) as, “the drink to have when I’m going through awkward changes in life, because it will make me like Spider-Man,” simply by association.

When 0:03 seconds of product placement in Spider-Man is valued at approximately $2.5 million (based on a study by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc.,  a media analyzing company), I think that it is important to see what the implications of product placement has on children. If we can pick out these subtle references and associations in the media of our children, we can A) understand why children want the products they do and B) help children to avoid making irrational or unintentional associations about products and the ideologies that marketers attempt to create.