When was the last time you went through a strenuous commercial in the middle of a show?

If you only watch content available online on streaming platforms such as Netflix, those days of sitting through an irrelevant traditional advert are gone. Now, brands have found out new and effective ways to market their product among the audiences through product placement strategies.

Interestingly, if you ever sat through Transformers movie, then almost every product the characters come across in it,  ranging from soda to even an ATM, are intentionally featured as a form of product placement.

This method of advertising where specific products are featured in third parties content (while still maintaining the realism of content for the audience) has also become frequent in Rick and Morty (2013)—a quirky animated show with a massive fanbase.

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Some Instances Of Product Placement Gone Wrong

But before diving into why Rick and Morty's product placement works so well, let's discuss some instances where sponsors failed in creating effective brand awareness through the product placement.

Take for instance the time when the show 90210 (2008-2013) featured Microsoft’s surface tablet heavily (and uncannily) in several episodes.

It wasn't that audience hated the evident product placement by Microsoft, but the way creators embedded the advertising of the tablet by making characters repeatedly talk about it out of context.

Take just a slight look at the clip and the moment the surface device comes up, it feels like we are watching a traditional advert.

But, this isn’t the case with Rick and Morty at all—the show's fans want to see the show collaborate with other brands.

Why Rick & Morty Aren't Called a Sellout?

So, it begs the question: why is this sci-fi show so good at marketing a product without being called out a sellout? Turns out that it has more to do with the show than the products themselves.

Transparency                                        

Rick and Morty incorporates brands into its plots not just solely by promoting them, but through its use of fourth wall break ( a frequent element of the show).

Through this strategy, the show satirizes itself and the brands it's advertising for the sake of making sure that the audience are fully aware of what they are viewing

Just watch the Pringles product placement clip from Rick and Morty below.

The product placement commercial features an ad-within-ad element. The Pringles advertisement starts off with a scene in which we see Rick and Summer watching a Pringles commercial about its new flavor combo. 

After the commercial ends on TV, Morty makes entry and tries to express the same rhetoric as the Pringles advertisement. This angers Rick so much that he confronts Morty and finds out that it was Pringlesbot Morty in Morty's disguise. 

Thereafter, Rick channels our love for Pringles. He states that "We are trapped in a Pringles commercial" before implying that they wouldn't be able to get out of the Pringle's world.  

Effect of the Pringles Ad 

Today, this ad clip has generated more than 7 million views ( and counting) since the premiere.

In 2019, Pringles launched a limited edition “Pickle Rick” chips ( based on Rick's character from third seasons episode of the same name).

Endless Humor

There isn’t a single moment where the products featured on Rick and Morty aren’t properly juxtaposed into its universe. Each product placement in the show feels like another short episode of the show.

Take for instance the Old Spice commercial the creators produced back in 2017. The commercial featured asleep Morty who is suddenly woken up by Rick to introduce to his friends—they are none other than the personified version of the Old Spice deodorant spray that Rick terms "invisible." 

But the spray cans end up destroying everything, including the Butter Robot that had an existential crisis. At the end of the advert, Morty is seen counting a bundle of cash that he probably got from the marketing of Old Spice.

You Can’t Say No To Money

The advantage that comes to brands while collaborating with a popular show like Rick and Morty obviously has its financial perks.

Big brands are always on the lookout to make their name synonyms with any pop culture phenomenon. Nextmedium in its 2008 research found out that product placement was recognized by 43% more viewers if integrated into emotionally engaging programs. 

In addition to Pringles and Old Spice, fast-food chain Wendy’s as well managed to get their spot on the show to market their new breakfast menu with their own personified characters.

In 2020, a commercial for the restaurant chain was released on Rick and Morty. The ad consisted of giant animated Wendy’s burgers with bandits-alike personality.  

After Rick and Morty return from a gladiator-like tournament, Wendy's burger starts following them.

At one point in the ad, Rick says “they’ve been trying to make us do a commercial for months," yet again giving that classic meta-humor fans are used to.

Although Rick runs away from the animated burgers yelling "I’ll never do it", the irony remained that the show ended up doing a promotion for Wendy's.

This version of Rick and Morty's product placement of Wendy's was yet another example of the creator's self-satire in being a sellout. 

Conclusion

Rick and Morty's creators are featuring product placements of other brands and are also trying to make it clear to the fans about the reality of paid promotion.

Even Jill King, Adult Swim's supervisor of marketing attend an Advertising Week event in 2017 and stated that product placement remained a key element of the show.

After all, Rick and Morty is such a huge animated show that requires extensive resources and a large number of technical manpower to develop. But Rick and Morty has done advertising with a class and have proved that they arent a sellout but a product-placement friendly brand.