“The Office” had 1,449 product placements. This Latvian man has cataloged them all.

One wonderful thing about the Internet is that a simple Google search can lead you to a website that will show you 1,449 branded product placements on the NBC sitcom. “Office.”

This site Product placement blog Sounds like it could be some sort of click farm beehive, but it’s actually a very contemporary piece of art. The site meticulously lists branded items that appear in TV shows and movies for a split second, ranging from the type of cereal on Jerry’s shelf in “The Finale” to “Seinfeld” (Honeycomb post) to the many Under Armor products in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” Everything is run by Sergey K., a self-proclaimed computer scientist who lives in Latvia.

I came across PPB after SFGATE columnist Drew Magary referred to a futuristic bottle of Aquafina featured in “The Island” in an article about director Tony Scott. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I did a quick search and found the bottle had a striking resemblance to a Super Soaker.

This first page led me to a very nice rabbit hole. I clicked on “Aquafina” and found 15 more screenshots from shows ranging from “Friends” to “Fuller House”. Going deeper into the “water” tag, I found 29 pages of listings, ranging from stacks of Fiji in episode six of HBO’s “That Damn Michael Che” to a bottle of Perrier in the 1994 movie. “Clear and present danger. “

If you have a particular interest in film adaptations of Tom Clancy’s novels with Harrison Ford, you’ll be pleased to hear that “Clear and Present Danger” also includes Glenlivet whiskey, a Sony High Density MFD-2HD floppy disk and Toblerone chocolate. .

And it may blow your fragile candy-loving mind to know that Toblerone also appears in episode four of “That Damn Michael Che”. And eight episodes of “Friends”.

How could a man create such a complex web of film brands?

I emailed Sergey K. to find out.


Product Placement Blog posted a screenshot of Honeycomb Breakfast Cereal in the latest episode of “Seinfeld.”


Sergey responded quickly. It is based in Riga, the capital of Latvia with a population of over 600,000. It is on the coast off the Baltic Sea and served as the filming location for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (with Vizio TVs, Heineken and Land O’Lakes Butter). Sergey’s last name is Kamolins, but he just goes by K. everywhere, from his blog to his LinkedIn profile. We arranged for a Zoom interview at 7 p.m. EEST (Eastern European Daylight Saving Time) or 9 a.m. on a foggy San Francisco morning.

It turns out that Kamolins is a part-owner economist of a small business that develops apps and advertising for mobile phones. His interest in product placement began after seeing the documentary “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” in which professional goofball Morgan Spurlock funds his subversive advertising film entirely through sponsorship. The 2011 film looks dated now, but for many like Kamolins, it has lifted the curtain on the product placement industry, which in 2019 was valued at $ 20.57 billion (including $ 14.05 billion spent on television).

What struck me on my first visit to the Product Placement Blog was that it was so definitive. It seemed to me that there was no way a person could do all of this on their own, so the first thing I asked was how the hell he was doing.

For the first four years, Kamolins simply posted manual screenshots of his personal TV and movie watching experiences (to this day his favorites are still “Friends” and the “Alone at home” franchise). But in 2019, he took the project to the next level.

“I don’t watch all the episodes,” Kamolins says. “It’s impossible.… I started this almost six years ago. But for the past two years, I’ve been analyzing every TV show, every episode, every popular movie every day. If Netflix is ​​releasing a new TV show, it’s analyzed and posted on my website the same day, ”he says.

Kamolins accomplishes this great feat using the software he created. The blog inspired him to learn computer programming, only to take it to the next level to integrate artificial intelligence (he laughs after revealing it). It doesn’t give much more details about its proprietary system except that it fixes bugs every day, asking questions on the forums to fill in its gaps. He apologizes that the website has been a bit slow lately, the servers need an upgrade because there is just too much data.

My next question, which I think everyone is asking, is how many of these product placements are paid. Kamolins’ software unfortunately doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between paid and unpaid product placement, but it says most of these placements are definitely not free.

“Almost everything is paid for,” he says. “Some companies say ‘we don’t pay for product placement’, but then product placement agencies write to me saying I missed it [something]. One example was an email regarding the blatant exclusion of 3M Littmann stethoscopes from the NBC program “Chicago Med.”

In addition to messages from branding agencies, Kamolins also receives its fair share of fan mail. A man from Jordan wrote to ask if he could contribute to the blog, and Kamolins said yes, why not? The fellow researcher sent over 4,000 product placements for James Bond films. When I ask about the most popular brand of 007 movies, Kamolins looks at me like I live on another planet.

“… Aston Martin.”

Sergey Kamolins runs the Product Placement Blog from his home in Latvia.

Sergey Kamolins runs the Product Placement Blog from his home in Latvia.

Courtesy of Sergey Kamolins

While Kamolins’ love of product placement seems as pure as mountain spring water before it was custom bottled for a Michael Bay film, it is an industry built on subversive messages, and there is a lot of money at stake.

It’s difficult to gauge exactly how much these locations cost, but Hollywood brand, an agency that Kamolins mentions in our conversation, lifts the veil a bit.

Rates change based on the show, but the site says branding agencies regularly quote between $ 60,000 and $ 250,000. Prime-time network placements are unlikely without associated ad buys. HBO doesn’t take product fees, but Showtime and Starz do. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu wouldn’t collect fees directly, although some of their shows do (but take all that unverified insider information with a Morton grain).

According to Concave mark tracking, these high fees are generally profitable for the brands involved. British sportswear brand Lonsdale’s 16-minute screen time in “The Gentlemen” was the highest-grossing film partnership of 2020, scoring the equivalent of $ 16.5 million in publicity, but it didn’t. there is no data on how much they paid the filmmakers. For the background, an old press release from the old agency Frontline analytics claims that Audi, Dick’s and Oracle spent a combined $ 3 million for 53 seconds of screen time in “Iron Man 2.”

Considering the value of these partnerships to everyone involved, it’s no surprise that there are dystopian forces on the horizon: The product placement blog isn’t the only part of the industry. to use AI.

Oddly enough, Bill Gates was probably involved in at least a few minutes of the Marvel show filmed in Kamolins’ hometown. Gates owns a marketing agency called BEN with a valuation of more than a billion dollars which uses deep learning neural networks to “predict and continuously improve the success of your branding campaigns across influencer marketing, streaming, TV and film”. One of the many brands they work with is Heineken, which is beloved by actor Sebastian Stan playing Bucky Barnes in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”.

But perhaps an even more troubling development is the technology in the work of a startup called Mirriad, one of the many companies that contacted Kamolins. They create software that can automatically place products in music videos and movies after they’re shot, and even update older entertainment items with contemporary brands.

“They can put new marks in old TV shows,” says Kamolins. “I think it’s the future.


Actor Sebastian Stan enjoys a Heineken beer in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," as cataloged on the Product Placement Blog.

Actor Sebastian Stan enjoys a Heineken beer in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” as cataloged on the Product Placement Blog.

Disney plus

As for the future of the product placement blog, Kamolins plans to continue to circulate automated screenshots. He recently added some foreign video clips and TV shows and wants to improve the search, but otherwise he seems pretty happy with the condition of the site and so does his readership. Professors send him emails from other countries telling him they are referring to his documents in class, and Kamolins proudly notes that it has been listed as a source five times in the Google Books archives.

After six years, he doesn’t seem at all tired of the bizarre sport of spotting brands in the background of shows, especially when it comes to new technology.

“I am a big fan of smartphones, laptops. When I see a new Apple iPhone in a new TV show, or a Samsung Galaxy Fold, then I’m happy, ”he says.

Although the site has a relatively simple design, it is not a cheap hobby. The cost of renting a server to accommodate the huge amount of data is increasing day by day. But ironically enough given the topic, the site currently remains ad-free and fully self-funded. But that could change soon.

“I have to find advertisers or something, because the costs are quite high. “

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