‘Breaking Bad’: Product Placement on a Show About Meth Dealers Was So Tricky, But It Worked
Television shows have been using clever product placement for decades. Some of these brand advertisements are more subtle, while other product story arcs are overt. But in both instances, the TV series and the brand owners stand to profit.
However, working in product placements on a show about meth dealing and murder isn’t so simple. Not every brand wants to be associated with Breaking Bad due to the subject matter — because let’s face it, drug dealing is still a controversial career.
Then again, there are plenty of brands featured on Breaking Bad anyway. Those executives realized that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
It all started with Walt and Jesse cooking meth in the desert
At first glance, it’s difficult to identify specific brands on Breaking Bad. Showrunner Vince Gilligan had no intention of making the show an hour-long advertisement for corporate sponsors. Still, even the first episode includes a nod to an iconic American brand.
Walt and Jesse conduct their first cook in a 1986 Fleetwood Bounder RV that they drive out into the desert. The motorhome serves as a mobile meth lab for the pair, and Jesse even nicknamed it “The Krystal Ship,” according to WikiFandom.
The folks who sell Fleetwood never expressed their feelings on it either way. But it’s easy to see how a Breaking Bad association could damage their reputation.
Brands didn’t want to associate with ‘Breaking Bad’ at first
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Before Breaking Bad became the most popular series on television, brand owners weren’t exactly fighting for their chance to feature merchandise on the show. But this created a small issue for Gilligan and the writers, who wanted to stick closely to reality and use actual brands, not made up ones.
That all changed once the series started gaining notoriety. The exposure made corporate execs rethink their refusal to be featured in a show about drug dealers.
Chrysler, Denny’s, and Rage were all featured on ‘Breaking Bad’
One of the most obvious examples of product placement was the Chrysler connection, Bustle reported. Once Walt starts making serious money as Heisenberg, he ditches his nerdy Pontiac Aztec in favor of the sleek, sexy Chrysler 3000. He then purchases a Challenger SRT8 for his son, Walt Jr.
This placement gave the brand a cool image, even if technically Walt was a murderous narcissist on the path to self-destruction. At least the cars looked and sounded enviable.
In addition to Chrysler, the diner Denny’s becomes an important fixture on the show when Walt goes there for a birthday breakfast and writes 52 with his bacon. Albuquerque residents became irate later when the real restaurant announced they were relocating. They claimed that Denny’s would lose the “Walter White magic,” Uproxx reported.
And finally, Jesse is playing a real video game called Rage in season 4 episode 7. This was yet another deliberate product placement that makes a little more sense.
‘Breaking Bad’ was too popular to ignore
There are inevitably some brands that would never agree to be featured on Breaking Bad because their fan base is too different. But for some, the massive popularity of the series was too much to ignore. They trusted potential customers to separate the illegal activity on Breaking Bad from the products the main characters were fond of.
Even if fans will forever associate Stevia with Lydia secretly being poisoned with ricin.