Imagine President Donald J. Trump is giving his inaugural address on a chilly afternoon in early 2017. Between grand pronouncements, he sips an Aquafina bottle sitting on his lectern—and gets a seven-figure check for his troubles.
The scenario isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds: the product placement fees Trump shared with his The Apprentice co-creator Mark Burnett averaged $1.5 million per episode.
“It’s been very, very profitable for Mark, and for me, and for everyone associated with it,” Trump told melast year. Added Burnett, the man behind Survivor: “Now you won’t find a TV show or a movie that doesn’t have some sponsored element.”
Trump has pulled in an estimated $500 million in entertainment-related income since FORBES first started keeping track in the 2004 edition of our Celebrity 100 issue. He cashed in on books, speeches, beauty pageants and, most of all, the reality television empirebased around The Apprentice.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to do it with anyone else, what do you think?’” recalled Trump. “So we set up a deal between the two of us.”
The Apprentice soon found an audience in the tens of millions, and “You’re fired!” became part of the American lexicon. Burnett and Trump stacked each episode with product placement, shilling The Donald’s enterprises alongside Pepsidrinks and Crest toothpaste; in the show’s first three years alone, the duo shared $100 million from such efforts.
They followed the same blueprint for spinoff The Celebrity Apprentice. In the month of April 2011, Nielsenclocked 120 brand placements in the show, about 25% more than runner-up American Idol—a strategy Burnett had first tested with Survivor.
“I wouldn’t call Donald Trump a pioneer of product placement,” says Adam Kluger, a FORBES 30 Under 30 alum who runs his own product placement firm, The Kluger Agency. “In film and TV, [it’s] probably Burnett.”
Donald Trump: Product Placement President?
Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan