Here’s Why You’ll Never See Movie Villains Using iPhones

Masked man with an iPhone.Hadrian /

Apple products are common in TV shows and movies, but the company doesn’t pay for product placement. Apple likes to supply MacBooks, iPads and iPhones to studios, but there is one unique stipulation.

How does product placement work?

Let’s talk about product placement first. You’ve probably noticed product placement in many things. Sometimes it’s quite subtle in the background, sometimes it’s embarrassingly obvious.

Product placement is simply when a company pays to have their products and logos featured in the media. Basically, if you see a brand’s logo, chances are the company paid for it. The opposite can also be true. If a logo is not visible, the company may not have paid for its placement. Why show a brand for free when you could get paid for it?

According to Bloomberg, Apple doesn’t pay for product placement, at least not with money. Instead, it makes its devices available 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 to. However, the free devices come with some requests from Apple.

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

Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but – and this is very important – if you ever watch a mystery movie, bad guys can’t have iPhones on camera.

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

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

So the next time you’re looking at a mystery, pay attention to which phones the suspects are using. It’s arguably the best clue in the movie.

RELATED: Why Do TV Shows and Movies Cover Logos?

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