Masked man with an iPhone.
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Apple products are extremely prevalent in TV shows and movies, but the company doesn’t pay for product placement. Apple is more than happy to provide MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones to studios, but there’s one unique stipulation.

How Does Product Placement Work?

First of all, let’s talk about product placement. You’ve probably noticed product placement in a lot of things. Sometimes it’s fairly subtle in the background, other times it’s embarrassingly obvious.

Product placement is simply when a company pays to have their products and logos appear in media. Basically, if you see a brand’s logo, there’s a good chance the company paid for it. The opposite can be true too. If a logo is obscured, it may be because the company didn’t pay for placement. Why show a brand for free when you could get paid for it?

According to Bloomberg, Apple does not pay for product placement, at least not with money. Instead, it provides its devices to studios for free as props. Apple even provided Modern Family with the first iPad before it was available. It appeared in an episode two days before people could buy it.

Apple’s Product Placement Rules

While Apple doesn’t pay for its devices to appear on TV and in movies, the company clearly wants them to. However, the free devices come with a couple of requests from Apple.

First and foremost, Apple doesn’t want bad guys to use iPhones. Director Rian Johnson revealed this when talking about his movie Knives Out. He talked about how you can sometimes use that information to figure out if a character is a villain or not:

Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but—and this is very pivotal—if you’re ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera.

Apple has never specifically said “bad guys can’t use iPhones,” but its official guidelines say an Apple product should be “shown only in the best light.” Interestingly, it also asks that references to Apple don’t “create a sense of endorsement or sponsorship.”

What can we gather from all of this? Apple wants its products to appear naturally in movies and TV shows as a normal part of everyone’s life. Paying for placement and putting the Apple logo front and center would ruin that illusion. And, if people associate iPhones with the “good guys,” that doesn’t hurt either.

So next time you’re watching a mystery, pay attention to what phones are being used by the suspects. It might be the best clue in the movie.

RELATED: Why Do TV Shows and Movies Cover Up Logos?

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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