How 'Breaking Bad' Product Placement Helps or Hurts Products Like Stevia
The acclaimed AMC series Breaking Bad will go down in television history for many reasons: The acting. The writing. The most emotionally exhausting episode in the history of television. (Yes, we're looking at you, Ozymandias !) But one of the Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul-starring show's less obvious legacies? Its frequent and often brilliant use of product placement. Over the course of five seasons, the series — which saw its series finale air Sunday night — showcased many different brands, usually for very specific reasons. After all, nothing in Breaking Bad is without purpose, thanks to creator Vince Gilligan's strict attention to detail. (For the Breaking Bad uninitiated, just see how relevant the color of characters' clothing was on the show.)
So, following the series finale (we can't possibly be the only people shedding tears by merely writing that sentence, right?), we decided to look back at eight of the show's most memorable instances of product placements. Of course, we can't help but wonder, though: When it comes to Breaking Bad, does a product really want to be placed in a series about a family man-turned-murdering meth kingpin? Then again, we're probably not the only ones who suddenly craved Ben & Jerry's AmeriCone Dream after "Granite State" aired.
When they used it: Whenever Lydia meets up with Walt or Todd to discuss the business. The anxious, schedule-oriented meth seller may be an awful person, but at least she's consistent. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., she goes to the same cafe and orders chamomile tea with soy milk, and empties a frighteningly large amount of sugar-substitute Stevia into her drink.
Why the placement's good for Stevia: The product is mentioned quite a bit in the series, and until the last episode, it's never disparaged.
Why the placement's bad for Stevia: That last episode. Walt mixes in some ricin with Lydia's Stevia, and the next thing she knows, she's a day away from death. It's not the company's fault that she got poisoned, but it certainly doesn't help their image.
2. Ben & Jerry's
When they used it: In the series' penultimate episode, Todd delivers a bucket full of Ben & Jerry's to an imprisoned Jesse, who gratefully accepts it before throwing it aside when he attempts to escape.
Why the placement's good for Ben & Jerry's: The writers could have had Todd deliver Jesse dirt and mud, but instead, he got ice cream! Maybe it wasn't not enough to lift Jesse's spirits, but it certainly would've helped us tolerate indentured servitude a little better. Plus, as Stephen Colbert himself noted, Jesse was able to fly like an eagle and attempt escape only after receiving some AmeriCone Dream.
Why the placement's bad for Ben and Jerry's: A shout-out only goes so far when the dessert's being delivered by a murderous white supremacist to his slave.
When they used it: Season 5 begins with a flash-forward of a bearded Walt getting breakfast at an unspecified Denny's, and arranging his bacon into a "52" in honor of his birthday.
Why the placement's good for Denny's: That scene is one of the first half of Bad's most memorable, if not for the breakfast chain itself than for what the events that occur there mean — Walt's alive at 52, and out for revenge. Plus, nice service!
Why the placement's bad for Denny's: It may be an important scene, but it's the only time that Denny's appears on the show. And it could make you wary about your fellow Denny's patrons.
When they used it: In Season 5, Walt sells his old Aztek and leases a new Chrysler 300 SRT-8.
Why the placement's good for Chrysler: Cars have always gotten significant screen time on Breaking Bad, and Walt's Chrysler is no different. Walt makes a big show at the dinner table about how happy he is to get the car, and how great it will be for the family. To Walt, ditching his Aztek was ditching the last of Walter White. The Chrysler equals power. And what car company doesn't want to be seen as powerful?
Why the placement's bad for Chrysler: Walt abandons the car in the fifth season's second half, when Jack and his men shot its gas tank and caused all the fuel to leak out. Not the car's fault, but also not too positive a portrayal. Plus, the Chrysler equals Heisenberg, and Heisenberg is evil.
When they used it: Jesse's a big fan of a video game called Rage, and is seen playing it at his house during Season 4.
Why the placement's good for Rage: Rage seems to be a big help in getting Jesse to take out some of his pent-up anger. Plus, the video game's image improved when it gave back to the show, by featuring a Breaking Bad "easter egg" — Tuco's grill — in one of the game's versions.
Why the placement's bad for Rage: As much as everyone loves Jesse, parents might not be too thrilled about buying their kids games that are enjoyed by vengeful drug dealers.
6. Hello Kitty
When they used it: Saul Goodman gives Jesse a Hello Kitty cell phone, which is later used by Hank and the D.E.A. as a direct line to Walt.
Why the placement's good for Hello Kitty: It makes viewers laugh. It's perfect that Saul, the silliest, most paranoid lawyer in Albuquerque, owns a Hello Kitty phone, and even more perfect that it's given to an unamused Jesse.
Why the placement's bad for Hello Kitty: Other than the few random viewers who were inspired to buy their own Hello Kitty phones after seeing it on the show, most fans took it as a joke on Saul, rather than a possible purchase of their own.
7. Dimple Pinch Whiskey
When they used it: In the Season 2 finale, Walt and Hank drink some Dimple Pinch after Holly's birth. Four seasons later, Walt takes a drink after masterminding the operation that killed Gus Fring. And in the second to last episode of the series, Walt orders a Dimple Pinch, neat, from the New Hampshire bar, moments before making an escape back to Albuquerque.
Why the placement's good for Dimple Pinch: In a show where seemingly everything is significant, dedicated viewers surely took note of Walt's regular choice of drink. Plus, Breaking Bad proved it was a celebratory drink. Baby Holly, guys!
Why the placement's bad for Dimple Pinch: Except for the bar scene, Walt never actually says the name of his drink. So unless you're prone to Googling brands or are a whiskey connoisseur, you might not actually know the product that's being used. Plus, Breaking Bad proved it was a depression-prone drink. Walt accepting his fate, guys!
When they used it: Practically every time Walt Jr. sits down at the breakfast table, there's bacon. On Walt's birthday, he or Skyler arranges his bacon strips into the corresponding number.
Why the placement's good for bacon: The specific brand preferred by the White family may be unknown, but bacon itself is constantly used throughout the series.
Why it's bad for bacon: By the last few scenes featuring bacon, in which an angry Skyler serves Walt puny pieces or Walt, alone and depressed, orders his own at Denny's, the food doesn't look so appealing. It's symbolic of the once lively and good-hearted Walt's spiral into darkness.