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Best ‘fake’ brands in film and TV


Product placement has become downright pervasive in movies and TV, but that doesn’t mean every product we see onscreen is available in stores. Filmmakers often use made-up brands so they don’t have to go through the trouble of getting licensed to use real brands. Some of these have become director trademarks, while others have become inside jokes that are used in different movies and shows. Here are the ten most famous examples:




The undisputable leader and the mother of all invented brands.  Appearing in Looney Toons cartoons as early as the 1930s, the Acme brand has been picked up by other shows since. It even once appeared on I Love Lucy. In the real world, Acme was one of the most widely used company names in the 40s and 50s, supposedly because business owners thought its alphabetical placement at the front of the phonebook would boost sales. Its overuse eventually turned it into a kind of joke, but it remains a popular company name, even though, in the cartoons, Acme products invariably fail and the coyote always ends up on getting stuck in his own trap.

Other uses of the Acme brand:

  • Calvin and Hobbes often referenced Acme on the box when Calvin was making transmogrifiers and other imaginative machines.
  • The Far Side used the company name in various comics, too.
  • Bullwinkle once pretended to sell Acme vacuums on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
  • The Simpsons makes reference on a somewhat regular basis, including during Itchy and Scratchy episodes.
  • The detective agency in the Carmen Sandiego series is the ACME Detective Agency.
  • The Last Action Hero references Acme products.
  • Wally's Filling Station in The Andy Griffith Show sells Acme fuel.


2. Duff Beer


The second most recognizable fictional brand is undoubtedly Duff Beer, the preferred libation of Homer Simpson, the main character of the famous TV show The Simpsons. Duff is portrayed as seemingly the only beer available in the town of Springfield, where it’s advertised by a theme park called “Duff Gardens”. The beer is usually only seen in a regular brown style, but one early episode about a visit to the Duff brewery shows that there are other brands including “Lady Duff,” “Tartar Control Duff,” and “Henry K. Duff’s Private Reserve.” The massive popularity of The Simpsons has led to a number of attempts to license Duff Beer as an actual product, but the show’s creator Matt Groening has always refused out of worry that doing so might set a bad example for children. Still, this hasn’t stopped some from trying. Breweries in Mexico and Europe have produced Duff Beer in the past, and the Fox network once successfully brought legal action against an Australian company that started marketing a Duff brand of beer.


3. Red Apple Cigarettes


Ever wonder who would name a cigarette after something so wholesome as an apple? Leave it to Tarantino. These smokes show up just about every time someone lights up in this famous director’s movies. Here are some key examples:

  • First seen in Pulp Fiction, Red Apple can also be spotted in the Tokyo airport when Uma Thurman walks by a giant advertisement for the brand.
  • A pack is tossed in the Gecko Brothers' car in From Dusk Til Dawn.
  • Ted the Bellhop from Four Rooms smokes them.
  • In the Planet Terror part of Grindhouse, the BBQ owner tosses a pack to Wray.

4. Big Kahuna Burger


Another Quentin Tarantino’s creation, a fictional, Hawaiian-themed fast food joint. It is arguably one of the most famous restaurants invented for Hollywood. Though the restaurant itself is never seen, food from it makes an appearance in just about every one of Tarantino’s movies. Michael Madsen’s character grabs a meal from Big Kahuna Burger in Reservoir Dogs, and the burgers show up in a famous scene near the beginning of Pulp Fiction, when Samuel L. Jackson’s character takes a bite of one and remarks how “tasty” it is.Tarantino’s pal Robert Rodriguez has even borrowed the brand on occasion, featuring it in From Dusk till Dawn and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Several real world restaurants have since stolen the name, while even more list a Big Kahuna Burger on their menu. You can even find a recipe for the famous burger online.


5. Heisler Beer


Not all fictional movie brands are the trademark of a particular director. Heisler is a fake brand of beer that’s been making the rounds in movies and TV for years now. The fictional lager was first created by Independent Studio Services, one of the largest suppliers of props for film and television. With dozens of appearances, Heisler Beer is certainly one of their most famous creations. It’s shown up in everything from sitcoms (Malcolm in the Middle, My Name is Earl) to mainstream comedies (Beerfest, appropriately) and dramatic films (Denzel Washington offers Ethan Hawke a Heisler in a famous scene from Training Day). Heisler is certainly ISS’s most notable fictional brew, but it’s not the only one. The company is also responsible for Jekyll Island Beer, which made an appearance on Lost, and Penzburg, which is often used in network television shows.


6. Finder-Spyder search engine


One of television’s most well travelled inside jokes is the use of a fictional search engine known as Finder-Spyder. When producers can’t get cleared to use Google or Yahoo in their show, they often resort to having characters use the TV world’s most popular search tool instead. Finder-Spyder is most often used in dramatic television, and it’s made appearances on everything from Breaking Bad and Prison Break to cable shows like Dexter and Weeds. While the name doesn’t change, Finder-Spyder often looks different depending on the show. Breaking Bad gave it its own unique look, but other shows, like Journeyman, do their best to copy the style of the Google home page.


7. Oceanic Airlines.


Most people have never heard of this brand until TV series Lost became immensely popular, but apparently it was around way before Jack and co. crashed on the Island.

The name Oceanic is usually used to depict some ill-fated airline, so the next time you spot the name at the beginning of a movie, you'll know something that the person sitting next to you doesn't. Use it to make yourself sound like a film genius: "It's so obvious that the plane is going to be hijacked. Could they make their foreshadowing any more obvious?"

Some famous uses of the Oceanic Airlines brand include:

  • Part of the 1996 movie Executive Decision takes place on Oceanic Airlines Flight 343.
  • In "The Bridget at Kang So Ri," an episode of JAG that aired in 2000, Korean terrorists hijack an Oceanic Air flight.
  • The name has made appearances in Chuck, Fringe and Pushing Daisies.
  • Supposedly the Oceanic name goes all the way back to the "˜60s with a mention in an episode of Flipper called "The Ditching," but I can't seem to verify this one.



And of course every respectable gloomy sci-fi anti-utopia has to have its own evil corporation:  


8. Umbrella Corporation (Resident Evil franchise)


The bioengineering pharmaceutical company first appearing in the Resident Evil video game series and later films. It may sound slike they do good things like pharmaceuticals, medical hardware, defense, and computers. But they also have dabbled in more clandestine operations utilizing genetic engineering and bio-weaponry. Thanks for the zombies Umbrella Corp.


9. Tyrell Corporation (Blade Runner)


Named for its founder Dr. Eldon Tyrell, is a biotech company primarily concerned with the production life-like androids (or replicants).


10. Cyberdyne Systems Corporation (Terminator franchise)


Terminator fans are well aware the company is responsible for the genesis of the supercomputer Skynet, which becomes the primary antagonist of the whole series, including its armies of machines.



Some comic book fans will argue that superheroes entrepreneurs deserve to be listed here at least as much as their villain counterparts. Well, the honorable mention goes to Wayne Enterprises (Batman) and Stark Industries (Ironman).

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