JJ Abrams Talks Star Trek Product Placement In New Documentary

The 2009 Star Trek movie broke some ground with the inclusion of product placement. In Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary opening this weekend, director JJ Abrams defends his use of product placement. 


JJ Abrams Talks Star Trek Product Placement in new Documentary

Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) has turned his focus to Hollywood for his latest documentary, taking on the subject of product placement. The documentary goes so far as to actually be completely financed by product placement, which is why it is called  POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

The documentary (which opens this weekend) also features interviews about product placement with some prominent Hollywood directors including Peter Berg, Brett Ratner, Quentin Tarantino, and JJ Abrams. The segment with JJ Abrams specifically shows the product placement in Star Trek (the scene with the Nokia carphone). For his part Abrams says while he doesn’t love it, product placement has become a necessary evil in Hollywood blockbusters. This is in contrast to Ratner who expresses a lot of support for the use of product placement. Abrams emphasized that even though he may adopt some product placement, he tries to "create a world" in his films and refuses to let them become "a marketplace for brands."

JJ Abrams talks “Star Trek” product placement in new “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” documentary (Image: Sony Classics)

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold opens Friday April 22nd. Here is the trailer.

POLL: Star Trek product placement

Product placement has become more and more prevalent in Hollywood movies, and it even worked its way into the 2009 Star Trek feature with both Nokia (in Kirk’s Corvette) and mention of Budweiser at the Iowa Bar where Kirk met Uhura. Of course in addition to the in-movie product placement, Paramount also had a number of Star Trek marketing tie-ins, including Lenova, Burger King and Esurance.

Product placement in Star Trek 2009

POLL: So what did you think of the in movie product placement in Star Trek?




Thanks to Jordan Hofman of UGO who contributed to this report

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Yes. Product placement is going to happen but in Star Trek make it where we really don’t notice it to much. I know it is a way for the Movie to get money and that is fine. But for Trek. Not to much of that. Unless of course it is for the new Portable Agoniser made by the Empire.

Of course Budwiser Product placement was big time in Trek 09. Just look at the Engine Room. It must have been a Bud Brewery. Scotty loved the Big E because he could have all the Beer he wanted. I think the Big was powered by Bud. Instead of calling for Warp Drive they should have called it Bud Drive.

I do agree with JJ, that its a “necessary evil”. They gotta fund these movies and if product placements help, then i guess do it.

Its hard to get absorbed into a fantasy about tomorrow’s progress, a society devoid of the Capitalist taint that plagues our world, when you keep getting slapped in the face with ads.

As it helps with cost I agree, but also it helps me feel more connected to the Trek world and more like it is a real outcome of our world and possible. I really liked the fact I could see companies I recognized and connected with.


Good point.

@1 – of course the Agonizer would be made by apple. :) perhaps the iPain?

Honestly, I didn’t think the product placement in Trek was that big of a deal. I barely noticed. And in compared to other movies it was a dream. I mean it would make sense for a phone to have a brand or to order a certain beer at a bar. In a way I think or makes the Trek world a little more real and relatable. Of course that’s just my 0.02 cents. :)

@5 – I totally agree. I mean, why wouldn’t Budwiser still be around?

Don’t really care about product placement. Its not like Kirk and Spock were like “Dude- check out my latest tricorder from Apple- its got the latest-”
It would be cool to see some of the cool 23rd century gadgets have a Rim (BlackBerry) or Apple logo on them. Subtle stuff

Didn’t mind the Budweiser placement. Kind of expect name brand products in a bar. However, the nokia one kind of bugged me a bit. I just don’t see a lot of these current phone/data device companies making it all the way to the 23rd century ( look how many have barely made it out of the 20th to the 21st ). It struck me as a little anachronistic and I think it will really date the movie ( not unlike the “Pan Am” space clipper and “Bell Telephone” videophone in 2001: A Space Odyssey ). I especially disliked the use of the current nokia ringtone. I find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t have updated that tinny ringtone in two hundred years.

Although, I guess it makes as much sense as a 23rd century teen grooving to the Beastie Boys. I know that when I went joyriding in the ’80s, I was definitely rocking out to Aram Khachaturian and Tommaso Albinoni…( well, okay, at times I was, but that’s because I’m a SF nerd, and those tracks were used in soundtracks to shows and films I loved ).

Usually product placement doesn’t bother me, but I guess because it was so new to Star Trek, it kinda stuck out to me. But I didn’t let it ruin the experience of the movie for me.

Hey Anthony, you should of has a choice in the poll as “I really don’t care about product placement.” Because, I, uh, really don’t care either way.

Like Abrams, I feel it’s a necessary evil. So, deal with it. I’m surprised Spurlock would care enough to make a documentary about it.

Prior to JJ Trek, I think the movie with the most product placement was Trek V. It was subtle, but it was there, and all in the Yosemite scenes. Kirk’s rock climbing shoes were specially made Reeboks. Kirk and McCoy were wearing clothing made by Levis. And in the ending credits, even Jack Daniels was thanked, because the guys were drinking “Tennessee Whiskey!”

I think it was Shat himself who commented at the time that Levis would still be around in the 23rd century. I agree, I thought it was kinda cool.

I didn’t mind the product placement in the last movie because it was mainly in the background, or had a legitimate use, such as the Nokia phone during the scene where Kirk steals his uncle’s car. As long as its done subtly and as a nod to the real world, then no problems. But if they go “American Idol” on us, then the movie will be ruined.

Actually, the biggest use of product placement so far probably was in ST IV The Voyage Home. Ordering Michelob in the restaurant, Scotty working the iMac, and the great scene in front of the Yellow Pages wall ad. Easier to fit in in a time travel story, but one wonders if in the new time line Kirk might have been fist pumping to the music on the bus instead of complaining…

The Nokia phone, like the automobile were Uncle Frank’s antiques. That was the only way the phone made sense.
Brewing in Budweis goes back to the 13th century, with the Budweiser brands dating to the 1870’s. If the idea of a Budweiser beer in general has lasted 900 years, and the trademraked beers for 140 years, it’s not unreasonable to suppose another 243 years and there still will be something like it.
How about the product placement in TOS… the IDIC pendant that Roddenberry intended to sell through his Lincoln Enterprises? It goes back a long way!

Hahahaha Nader…”to sleep”

I actually thought the product placement in ST was amusing on a certain wink-wink level because I’ve always associated the standard Nokia ringtone, which we heard, with the show “Alias” – also a J.J. creation. Sydney Bristow got a lot of phone calls. *g*

I think the product placement in ST2k9 had a lot more room for subtlety, but as a concept, I’m fine with it. Nokia car phone no, Uhura’s order fine.

What, just like how Stanley Kubrick included Pan Am in 2001: A Space Odyssey, only to have the real life Pan Am airlines go out of business in 1991?

Talk about yanking you out of that movie when watching it now!!!

Bud-gineering was the biggest example of product placement! LOL.

I found the NOKIA product placement obnoxious, but I know it can work and even be iconic even when obvious, Reese’ Pieces in ET, anyone?

I don’t know, it has to strike a balance between authentic usage and not being so obvious a push.

The product placement was mildly annoying, but it definitely wasn’t the worst thing about the movie.

It’s not like product placement was new to the Star Trek universe with the Abrams film. It goes back at least as far as Deep Space Nine and its endless promotion of self-sealing stembolts.

Didn’t bother me, I found it curious they still served “Jack” in the future! Thought it was funny.

The advertising kept it a little grounded for me, making the experience seem more realistic.

It didn’t really bring the movie down but it’s kind of lame. Doesn’t really fit with Star Trek’s vision of the future. Capitalism doesn’t exist with humanity in the future after all. Still, considering all of the other small things I can pick at with the movie, this is low on my list of concerns.

I’m ok with product placement if its passive i.e., I dont want Spock saying: “mmm I love Budweiser beer!”. It the product is in the background, quiet, then its ok.

Our entire society is surrounded with advertising, it is part of our way of life. There is no shame in producing & promoting, it is what drives our wealth.

25 – The movie itself didn’t really fit Star Trek’s vision of the future, so it doesn’t really matter if the product placement did or not.

It is officially Easter now, Good Friday in fact, in NZ right now. This is one of three and a half days in an entire year where there is no advertising allowed on television or radio by law, although subtle sponsorship seems to be deemed OK as in eg a bank’s logo shown in a corner of the screen of a programme just as it is starting. A station may advertise its own upcoming programmes (limited amount) but that is all. It is bliss!

This means that programmes are not interrrupted every 8 minutes or so with up to 4 minutes of ads where they are screaming at you about products that they say you’ve just got to have.,. My senses are severely assaulted and insulted.

Perhaps this more subtle method of advertising via product placement, which is just a part of the script’s scenery, may be better, in that you are not constantly taken right out of the programme by some quite insane, nauseating and very irritating advertising, which interrupts the flow of the programme’s story.

I didn’t mind the Nokia in Star Trek 09. All they had to do was replace the ringtone with the Dr Who theme music (our Nokia answers with Dr Who music) or better still, have its ringtone play the Alexander Courage original theme music to TOS. Oh well, maybe next time…:)

Didn’t like it. Not in Trek. No.
Next question?

I liked the product placement because it centered entirely around civilian lifestyle, which is something we haven’t seen much of in Star Trek. Once the guys got off into space there wasn’t a single product seen, which matched what we’ve seen in Star Trek and are familiar with. They did a good job of transitioning into the world of Trek that way.

I wouldn’t expect to see any similar placement in the sequel unless there are any scenes taking place in the “civilian realm,” which seems unlikely given how hard they worked to put everybody in space. Maybe if there was something with Carol Marcus? Who knows? (actually, I think boborci knows…)

@4 –

The “taint” of capitalism existed in the TOS universe, though…just watch some of the episodes, notably “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

I didn’t even notice there was product placement in the new Star Trek movie so…if it’s done where I don’t notice it then I’m fine! Ha! But really, what product placement is the sequel going to have? It’s set in the future in another timeline and there was a Third World War…so I doubt any of the current companies would exist after, you know, a NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE. :P

@4, If not for the ‘taint’ of capitalism, many classic television shows, including Star Trek would never have been made for us to enjoy in the first place.

Hating on capitalism has become very fashionable lately, but Capitalism has made the U.S. entertainment industry the giant that it is today. It’s one in which a big-budget version of Trek can not only be made, but made sustainable via the larger paying audience.

That said, I’m looking forward to Morgan’s smug look at the brands behind the curtain. Supersized was hard to argue with, and that’s one of the biggest compliments a documentary can get IMHO.

I should add that if anyone hates the advertising that pays largely for their entertainment, they are welcome to pay the balance out of their own pocket. I’d consider it a kindness since I don’t like watching commercials any more than others do.

I don’t hate product placement when it is subtle and makes sense, but the Nokia example in ST2009 exhibits neither quality. The appearance of the brand name in the close up made the film seem momentarily like a commercial, and right now it’s not even clear Nokia will be in the phone business in 2 years let alone 200.

Good examples: Pan Am, ATT, and Hilton in 2001, every example in Minority Report, Coca Cola in Blade Runner, Cisco in 24.

What would make sense in Star Trek at all? It’s hard to believe almost any company would continue to exist, especially tech companies, after all that time and all the terrible happenings in between. The only companies that come to mind are the ones that, as of now, have been around that long. Ironically, these would be like beer companies, only not Budweiser, but Guinness. There should have been a few stouts being chucked about in the bar scene!

Commercials & product placement ARE lame, but it’s Star Trek.

Not Citizen Kane.

Not Ulysses.

Not 2001: A Space Odyssey

Not art.

Star Trek is, has been, and always shall be….consumer product.

Despite any pretensions of Star Trek being serious science fiction…ummm….no. Never was, isn’t now.

That’s what a TV-show IS – they exist solely so we’ll watch the commercials, so we’ll buy advertised products. Putting ads in a movie remake of a TV show isn’t really that big a deal.

And that’s ok. I like Star Trek, & I LOVED the new film. It was fantastic, but is is somehow “above” product-placement?


Hey 2. Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire –

The engine room was filmed in a brewery. I think for the next movie, maybe they should build a REAL engine room. It could be fairly easily done with some props, CGI and a green screen. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, because JJ is so proud of coming in under budget, plus he really liked the way it turned out, and he said he would use it again. And I think it was the budweiser brewery.
If this was mentioned further up in the comments section by someone else, my apologies.

Star Wars didn’t need any product placement
Nor did Avatar
Nor did any of the older Star Trek movies or TV shows.

And Star Trek-fact is: There is no more capitalismn on EARTH (not the entire federation) in the 23rd century.

I thing product placement is OK for a movie set in our timeframe, but not in a movie set in the future.

hey J.J,we can’t wait 4 u 2 tell us ur gonna take a lead role in Trek12!!! (just thought u should know,we’re waiting!)

Bit of a necessary evil, I’m not keen on it, but if it gets the movie made, fair do.
That said, worse offenders are now the Bond films. Casino Royale had me squirming in my seat, every car was a Ford or Ford owned brand, the Sony logo appeared squarely on screen on mobiles and laptops and lingered way too long. And the worst one…
Vesper Lynd:…”former SAS types with easy smiles and expensive watches.”
[Glances at his wrist]
Vesper Lynd: “Rolex?”
James Bond: “Omega.”
Vesper Lynd: “Beautiful.”


@38 – no product placement in Avatar? Shares in Unobtainium went through the roof ;-)

Ratner? LOL. 24th carot support indeed.

Product placement is distracting. I don’t watch Star Trek to see what’s real.

@38 Captain Rickover has a point. With the possible exception of Guinness how many products from 300 years ago is anyone still hawking? Three-hundred years from now, after another world war and two centuries of galactic expansion, I would like to think there are things better than Nokia and Bud.

I mean, there’s Slusho.

^ yeah but people are buying those things now.

While we know that humanity in the Trekverse has abolished our current capitalist economical system and replaced it with something better, we are never told exactly how the economy in Kirk’s era works instead. The absence of capitalism as we know it may not necessarily mean that there is no place for brand names anymore.

35 – Don’t forget the big honkin’ space plane.

Pan Am, the Wings of Man. Well, until the company went tits up.

# 46- Yeah, what you said… :) Looks like we need something better now!

I cringed at the Nokia plug in sequence of Star Trek XI.

A freind and i joked about the Nokia ring tone being on the Starfleet communications. We were joking not thinking that the ring tone would be heard. Imagine our surprise when it popped up in the film, Fortunately it was not on the Enterprise.

Oh it really adds to the realism doesn’t it that Budweiser is still around in the 23rd Century. Sorry for the sarcasm but I am not a fan of product placement in films. It does NOT ruin a film but hell I do roll my eyes at it.

Its one thing to make Trek a bit more contemporary for the mainstream audience but the original Star Trek is 2266-2269, 300 years away. Almost 300 years in the future, why must we have Budweiser to ground it?