At the Movies: White Castle Product Placement is the Gift that Keeps On Giving

By Abe Sauer,

November 4, 2011, 6:05 p.m.

We will have more about Tower Heist on Monday. From the looks of it, the Madoff revenge tale offers plenty of opportunity for product placement. But what mall food court restaurant has completely unbranded packaging? (None, that’s who.)In the meantime, this weekend will also see the third installment of a trilogy responsible for one of the greatest product placements in the history of film.Rated a very big R, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas maintains the spirit of the franchise.

The product placement business is an odd one. One day, you’re looking to place product in a (likely) Oscar contender, the next you’re involved in a film whose main plot points are smoking dope and shooting Santa Clause in the face with a shotgun.

Stone Management is the firm credited with handling the product placement on Harold and Kumar’s holiday flick. Stone was also credited with product placement for Oscar nominee The Fighter and Oscar winner The Hurt Locker.

While it may seem like a dangerous option for a brand to associate itself with a project so shallow, that has not stopped several big names from partnering with the film. Zynga’s Mafia Wars game seems like an obvious partner. But what about Delta Airlines? And Sharp Aquos? Both are listed as partners of the film.

Then there is the most obvious cash-in partnership of them all: White Castle. The 2004 kick-off to the series, Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, took the fast food chain and transformed it overnight to a hipster hangout (if only ironically).

White Castle has thrown caution to the wind and leveraged this new cultural currency for quirky events like candlelight Valentine’s Day meals. Indeed, dollars spent ironically are still dollars.

For this installment, White Castle is offering a $5,000 New York Film Academy scholarship for those eager to show the brand their “best Harold and Kumar moment.”

Founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, White Castle’s founder, a cook named Walter A. Anderson, is credited with inventing the hamburger bun as well as the assembly line food prep system still used by most fast food restaurants today.

But because the chain refused to franchise, it was soon surpassed in number by McDonald’s and others. Today, there are only about 420 White Castles across the U.S. When the opportunity to become the go-to eatery of a couple of New Jersey stoners arose, White Castle made the bold choice to accept it. But the brand went further, printing Harold and Kumar White Castle beverage cups, the first ever such fast food tie-in for an R-rated film.

A bit of product placement trivia from the first film: Because no White Castle restaurants exist in Cherry Hill, NJ, one had to be brought in on a flatbed truck.