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Food-related product placements are taking over entertainment

The trouble all started back in 1982 with a little movie about an alien visitor called E.T. He warmed our hearts, captured our imaginations, and made us crave Reese’s Pieces like there was no tomorrow.

Following the first release of the movie, the sale of Reese’s Pieces literally tripled.

It wasn’t the first product placement ever, but E.T. was so successful that movie studios, corporations and advertising agencies couldn’t help but take notice. It was a subtle nudge to the candy counter for consumer, subliminal advertising that was in plain view. It’s the perfect vehicle.

These days product placements can take many forms. Some are so far in the background of movies that they could just be there for realism’s sake – we do live in a world where billboards occupy the skyline and pop machines are around every corner. The star of the movie has to drive some kind of car in the big chase scene. People do eat at McDonald’s.

Some product placements are no so subtle. In the recent movie "Showtime", Rene Russo orders a Coke at a diner. The cook asks if she wouldn’t prefer a Diet Coke, and Russo says she’ll stick with the regular.

That particular scene didn’t advance the plot or add any insight into the character played by Rene Russo, or the cook at the diner for that matter. Come to think of it, the cook had all of five lines, and one of them was a product placement.

Starbucks isn’t just on every corner anymore, it’s in every motion picture. That particular brand name was hawked in "Zoolander", "I Am Sam", and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." All of these movies have been universally criticized for product placements, even though they are part of the plot.

"Josie and Pussycats" eat at McDonald’s, drink Evian water, brush their teeth with Colgate, watch MTV and use dozens of other brand name products throughout the movie. Of course the movie is a satire about bands being used by industry to subliminally sell products, and yet the products are still in there.

A few years ago "The Truman Show" played with the same idea, but at least they had the decency to use mostly made-up products.

The new Britney Spears movie "Crossroads" has been called a "giant commercial" by one reviewer. You could scream "sell out!" but that would imply that she had some integrity in the first place.

The television show Survivor put contestants in the middle of nowhere, then sneaked ads for Doritos, Visa and Mountain Dew into the picture by putting their logos on a tablecloth.