The Green Hornet Stings Audience With Product Placement


The product placement in The Green Hornet is a little like the film itself. It’s stylish, it’s all over the place, and there is a lot of it — even if the surplus doesn’t necessarily make any sense, or for a better film. Just like parts of the film, some of it even seems thrown in for the hell of it.

In other words, the product placement in Green Hornet is, like The Green Hornet itself, a mess of style over substance.[more]

After Bruce Lee, one of the stand-out stars of the original 1966-67 The Green Hornet TV series was the Imperial Crown. Introduced by Chrysler in 1926, the Imperial was its own make, manufactured in Italy for Vhrysler by Ghia, by the time the 1960’s Crown model was used in The Green Hornet. Dubbed the “Black Beauty,” the Imperial Crown was distinct, flat, broad, square, more a battleship than an automobile as they were the heaviest production automobiles sold by an American automaker

Its unmistakable profile and dark, oddball luxury made it a perfect shady character car, and throughout the 1960s the Crown showed up in scenes in shows like Mission Impossible, McCloud and Get Smart as the preferred ride of shadowy or questionably-motivated men of power. Its reputation reinforced offscreen too; in a product placement no auto brand would openly hope for, but would prove invaluable, Jackie Kennedy and John’s children rode in the slain President’s funeral procession in a Crown.

Of course, the biggest product placement story involving The Green Hornet was how seven years ago, before the script was even finished, producers opened the bidding to auto brands to be the next Black Beauty. Word had it that any automakers were interested and the price tag for the rights was nearing $35 million, tying the record amount Ford had paid for all its placements in the Bond film Die Another Day. But the deals fell apart.

At the time, the concept of Chrysler winning the bidding excited Chrysler 300 owners so much that one intrepid Chrysler brand champion mocked up an image of what could have been (below).

Of course this same excited 300 driver noted about the film, “Supporting cast includes Ben Affleck starring as millionaire, crime-fighter Britt Reid (The Green Hornet), together with Jackie Chan as his faithful side-kick (Kato).”

Purists may be happy with the decision to stick with the Imperial but there is certainly precedent for changing Black Beauty’s make and model. While the 1960s Imperial is the brand most associated with the Hornet, an earlier, 1940s TV edition of the Green Hornet featured a 1930s Lincoln Zephr as the hero’s hot ride. (Also, Kato was Korean.)

For the record, many reports have noted that the updated Green Hornet features a 1965 Imperial while others report it is a 1966. The truth is that they are all right; different Black Beauties were made for different filming purposes with the production crew using 1964, ’65 and ’66 models.

The Black Beauty aside, a number of other auto brands get good screen time in Hornet. Jaguar, Chevrolet and Cadillac show up as well as the late Hummer brand (in limo form no less). Then there is the wealthy hero’s garage, which is packed with the kinds of brands that establish both his taste and his means, from Corvette to Charger to Ferrari to Mercedes to a Bugatti Veyron (which costs a cool $1.7 million).

We’ve already looked at Green Hornet‘s affinity for booze brands, including heavy placement of Corona, Belvedere vodka and Tsing-Tao. (Rare considering the film  is rated PG-13.)

Some brands were used as punch lines, including Bowflex, Hotmail and Metamucil. Other brands seemed to get screen time for no real reason, including action sportswear brands Spy+ and Oakley and Pom Wonderful.

A brand whose heavy placement in Green Hornet is easily explained is Sony Vaio. As Hornet is a Sony Studios production, it was expected that Sony products would find a way onscreen. We’ve noted the trend of studios placing their sibling brands before as well as wondered about how this might play out in Sony’s upcoming production of Mac-heavy Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

A brand that did not get much time in the actual film was Carl’s Jr. In the run-up to the film’s release, Carl’s Jr. commercials (below) involving the stars (and the Black Betty) were common. Yet, the film itself only features a Carl’s Jr. billboard in the passing background of a single scene.

The film’s brand partners consist of more than burgers. Last year, we noted the excitement from Harley fans over the appearance of Kato’s customized Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle. The official Green Hornet site identifies Harley as a brand partner and invites visitors to “learn more” about Kato’s customer V-Rod. Yet, the link goes to Harley-Davidson’s general site, where there is nothing but a splash image with another link which dumps users into a behind the scenes photo gallery on Harley’s Facebook page when in turn links to the general Harley V-Rod page.

The third official partner of the film is Royal Purple Synthetic Oil. In partnership the brand offers a branded Green Hornet themed contest to win, not oil, but a Sony in-car multimedia system. Well, why not.

Finally, with our recent look at how firearm brands like Glock rely on product placement, any look at the placements in Green Hornet would be incomplete without mentioning the guns in the film.

Two gun brands are heavy placed in The Green Hornet. Except that, one really isn’t.

Of the armory full of weapons available to him, Kato appears to prefer Heckler & Koch. (Some viewers may recognize the same USP model from the 2010 hits Kick-Ass and Inception.)

The other on-display gun brand in Green Hornet is only identified as such because of the brand’s distinct styling. One of the distinctions of the film’s bad guy is that he wields an absurd double-barreled hand cannon that no sane individual would ever fire (let along be able to create). But the chunky, triangular barrel has led many to assume it is a modified Desert Eagle, one of the most product-placed guns of all time.

For more on the products and brands seen in The Green Hornet, visit our product placement database.