‘MAC and Me’ – Product Placement Monstrosity Turns 30

Thirty years ago this month, Steve Feke’s MAC and Me landed in theaters. From a cinematic standpoint, there is nothing notable about this event. The movie—a blatant attempt to rip off E.T. (which we recently named one of the 10 greatest summer movies of all time)—flopped at the box office and has a rare 0% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. From a historical standpoint, the reason this movie is even a blip on the radar is because it’s an example of product placement gone too far.

Whereas E.T. memorably has Reese’s Pieces worked into the story, MAC and Me takes the products from the background of the story and places them prominently in the foreground. Coke, Sears and Skittles all grab the spotlight at different times. But the tipping point is a scene in the middle of the movie at McDonald’s with an appearance by Ronald McDonald himself. That brand sponsorship (which was promoted in the movie’s advertising) along with the title of the movie (which alludes to the Big Mac) led many to think of it as a McDonald’s movie.

Mac and Me‘s hyper focus on brands was not lost on viewers and reviewers when the film debuted back in 1988. Caryn Jame of The New York Times wrote at the time:

“With its cardboard family and familiar aliens, ‘MAC and Me’ would seem like the generic version of ‘E. T.’ if it were not so full of brand-name commercials. Coke is the drink that revives dying aliens. Mom works at Sears, whose logo is all over the place. A huge birthday party takes place at McDonald’s, where MAC dances around disguised in a bear suit.”

The lesson learned from MAC and Me is there’s a fine line between product placement and product in-your-face-ment. Filmmakers and marketers alike need to be wise to walk that line carefully. In entertainment, brands are meant to be a supporting player, not the star of the show.

  • SOURCE: 80’s 90’s Movies YouTube Page
  • BRANDS: Mac and Me, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Skittles, Sears
  • WHY YOU WILL LOVE IT: Because you love terrible-looking aliens and bad product placement

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