The 10 most hilariously unsubtle product placements in music

I love watching music videos. It’s probably due to the fact that I’m a bit of an art geek – as well drawing and painting, I love films, fashion and essentially anything that involves creativity and eye-catching visuals. I’m also a sucker for pop culture – having grown up in the after-MTV-effects era and feeling reluctantly caught up in the hashtag generation, I will always enjoy a good trashy music video. 

My music taste is not very refined, so to speak. I grew up listening to mainstream crap – old school R’n’B, hip hop and lots of good old pop tracks. I have no problem in admitting that I’m still stuck in that teeny bopper phase – my knowledge in music doesn’t really go beyond the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna, and for now I have no interest in expanding it. If there’s one thing, however, that I do notice a lot more now that I’m supposedly an adult is product placement. I can’t say I know that much about product placement to begin with, but surely it’s supposed to be subtle? Maybe I’m just too picky but I’m starting to believe that product placement can be anything but subtle in a music video – in many cases, it’s hilarious. Whatever happened to subtlety, I wonder? This year more than ever I’ve been highly amused by the blatant in-your-face advertising seen in a number of mainstream music videos – I couldn’t help but come up with a greatest hits list (and yes, it goes from bad to worse)…

10. Alicia Keys – “Tears always win” (see it here)  I actually think that Alicia Keys is a great artist so I’m being a little partial by putting her in the 10th place, because this really isn’t much of a subtle moment. It’s a nice video – a simple, straightforward narrative with good photography and great props. But damn, that focus on Keys’ Longchamp bag when she’s packing her things for work?! It’s all a little too calculated and gives the video a little less credibility, but I guess even Alicia Keys could do with a bit of love from Longchamp.

9. Ciara – “Body Party” (here) This one isn’t actually that bad – as the song’s title might suggest, C is at a too-cool-for-school party and hey, there just happen to be a set of Denon headphones elegantly placed on a table. It’s not exactly relevant as such but it sill manages to blend in relatively well…

8. Pitbull featuring Key$ha – “Timber” (here) One can always rely on Pitbull for an unashamed touch of product placement! His new video feels like an homage to the art of twerking (you did well, Miley) and naturally features an approximately 1 second long shot of Voli Vodka, completely out of the blue and out of place. The Voli team couldn’t even get Pitbull himself to hold the bottle – I guess that can be classified as subtle for a Pitbull video.

7. Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell and T.I. – Blurred Lines (here) One of the most unnecessarily talked-about music videos of 2013, it not only has three hot semi-naked models prancing around in strange pieces of fabric that are apparently underwear, but also a bottle of Remy Martin, which Mr.Thicke seems very happy to be holding. He evens pours himself a drink. And yes, the drink is in the video’s explicit version as well as the apparently non-explicit version. I’m not too sure why Remy Martin would want to be associated with a 40-something year old man who likes to have topless girls half his age frolicking around him whilst singing pretty disgusting lyrics but bad publicity is better than no publicity, I guess. After all, they were happy to work with him again in his next video, “Give it 2 U.”

6. Rihanna – “Pour it up” (here) Rihanna and subtlety don’t really go together, do they. In her possibly raunchiest, rudest video to date, she gives Miley a run for her money in what could be considered a how-to manual for twerking, drenched in Chanel jewellery. I find this oddly confusing – Chanel is one of the most expensive brands out there and is practically a synonym for luxury. And whilst I’m normally a fan of blingtastic, eighties-friendly jewellery, the pieces in this video are even too much for me, and anything but expensive looking. Because of this, they do fit in with the stripper look in the video, and even with the whole ‘concept’ behind the song (if it’s possible to say that a song by Rihanna has a concept) – the obsession with logos ties in perfectly when RiRi is singing “Money on my mind, money money on my mind.” Ultimately though, surely Chanel could do better than this? I’d love to know what Karl Lagerfeld has to say on the matter (if anything). I guess it’s hard to say no to RiRi.

5. Katy Perry – “Roar” (here) I’ve got to hand it over to Katy Perry – the girl is hilarious. It might just be brilliant marketing but she really doesn’t seem to take herself seriously at all. So I wouldn’t expect any less from her when it comes to product placement – in the first 20 seconds of the video “Roar” her easy-on-the-eye co-star takes a selfie of himself on a Nokia phone. Katy follows his lead at the end of the video, taking pictures of herself and of/with a cute little monkey. It’s blatant advertising but because it’s Katy Perry it’s also a total piss-take. Smart girl.

4. Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull – “Live it up” (here) Let’s not forget that before J-Law there was J-Lo, who will always be cool in my books – even if she’s no stranger to product placement. In her latest video there’s plenty of that, and I couldn’t actually decide what was more obvious – the 2-second-long shot of her Ice watch, or her tactfully flicking her hand straight after showcasing the watch to then show off her Nokia phone. Now that, my friends, is hilarious.

3. Iggy Azalea featuring T.I. – “Change your life” (here) I gotta say that I’m pretty much an Iggy Azalea fan – the girl is ridiculously talented. “Change your life” is, overall, a feast for the eyes – it’s sexy and ultra-stylised, with plenty of hot fashion moments to chose from. But I seriously felt like I was suddenly watching an ad for mascara when the camera steadily focuses on Barry M’s Lash Vegas and Iggy then putting some on. Criiiiinge. In all seriousness though, the Barry M team must be proud.

2. Britney Spears – “Work Bitch” (here) Oh, Britney. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from her. A new, super unoriginal video with – wow – S&M references, containing not only a visual shout-out to Planet Hollywood and Britney’s perfume range (well that’s understandable), but also a submissive (?) girl

with a Beats Pill wireless speaker. Is it supposed to remind us of the animated characters created by Beats by Dr Dre to advertise these pills? In any case, it’s brilliantly terrible.

1. Jason DeRulo featuring 2 Chainz – “Talk Dirty” (here) I wasn’t far from feeling frustration when seeing this video. It feels like the thought process behind it was “Let’s have a hot girl dressed in a typical Samba/Carnival outfit drink a bottle of Neuro.” And that’s it. This happens not once, but twice in the video. Well, there’s actually no drinking the second time around. There’s actually even less of a thought process behind it – “Let’s put some Neuro bottles in the background. We’ll focus first on the bottles, then on the girl.” It really does feel like the most forced, yet pointless bit of advertising ever. Then again, that’s what makes it so hilarious.

I don’t have a degree in advertising (I wouldn’t mind having one though, it’s all pretty fascinating)
and have no idea about how truly effective product placement can be. I’m
specially intrigued about its role within the music industry – is having a pair of headphones in a rapper’s video really going to have an impact on sales? Specially when it’s done so badly? I definitely don’t feel like getting another Longchamp, switching to Nokia and drinking Neuro. But they’ve got me thinking about it, which is a start to the brainwashing process.

Ultimately, it’s probably 100% hypocritical of me to take the piss out of product placement, since fashion blogs are all about product placement! I could argue that product placement is not the same as using props – but at the end of the day, it’s probably all the same. Not that I’m against product placement as such – I just think subtlety is underrated.


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