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Stranger Things S4 and the Subtle Art of Product Placement

Updated: May 1, 2023

I don’t know about you but the Sony Walkman brought back a lot of memories… All I’m missing is the Nokia 3310 with its Snake II and I’m back in time.

Coca Cola placement in Stranger Things

Product placement: the weird uncle of advertising that nobody wants to sit next to at a wedding

Call it annoying, roll your eyes if you need to but you have to admit that some product placements are not only natural, they even feel necessary at this point.

Can you even imagine Bond driving any other car than an Aston Martin? Or drinking anything else other than a Vodka Martini? Well, actually you probably can because Heineken paid $45 million to get Bond to be a beer guy in No Time to Die… as if!

Although they reek of modern manipulative advertising tactics, product placements have been going on for longer than you think. One of the earliest product placements ever documented was in 1920's The Garage where Red Crown Gasoline appeared constantly on the walls and equipment.

So, why haven’t we gotten used to them? Here's my theory: it still feels like someone is tricking you and thinking they got away with it because you’re too dumb to realize you’ve been tricked. Except you do.

You can almost see the marketing execs of these companies laughing out loud at how brilliantly they planted their product in your mind without you realizing it.

This brings me to my next point…

Does product placement add authenticity or is it just pushing products senselessly?

If you opened the windows to your living room last Friday after dinner you probably heard something that both shocked and excited you: the TA TAAAA sound that comes up when you start a Netflix production, played in perfect harmony by your entire neighbourhood.

To be specific, everybody tuning in to watch Stranger Things season 4 part 2 which finally came out.

Aside from the awesome plot, characters, and recreation of a decade many of us are nostalgic about, I’ve also noticed some really subtle ad placements that you can barely notice… except you do.

As a copywriter, I am a sucker for any witty advertising tactic so I was shocked that although I spotted around 10 - 15 placements, there were actually over 140 in Stranger Things season 4 part 1 and that’s not even unheard of. Cue for shock!

Sergey (one name), the founder of the product placement blog that identified all of them, told AdNews: “The amount of product placements in Stranger Things is almost the same as many other recent Netflix shows such as Cobra Kai, Grace and Frankie, Atypical and Daybreak.

Netflix hasn’t shared their earnings (naturally, I’d be too busy poppin’ champagne too) but we do know it cost Coca Cola $US1.5 million to place their product in Season 3, and given the hype around season 4, we can only assume things only went up from there.

Now, most people dislike product placement in series and movies but what would happen with the Stranger Things 80's vibe without them?

Who here remembers getting their first walkman?!

I don't know about you but turning my favourite song up on my new Sony walkman while going to school was one of the first times I felt the sweet taste of freedom.

It was the escape from reality you can carry around in your pocket at a time when everybody had a Nokia 3310 and played Snake II - which seemed so basic in comparison to having background music like in the movies.

Nokia Snake game

So, my question is: do you prefer seeing Eleven bend a Coca Cola can or would you rather see a made up soda brand? You see familiar names like Coca Cola and the scene feels somehow more realistic. You also connect better with certain characters because you don’t just look, talk or act the same, you also enjoy the same brands.

To sum it up, on one hand, it feels like the bad people from corporate are pushing products on us, but on the other hand, seeing the brands you grew up with makes it all the more realistic.

But that’s just me… thinking out loud.


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