Marketing: Cue the Stapler!

Some lucky products get a free sales boost when a movie-set designer decides they're cool

A Staples wall clock plays a curious role in the new film Dirty Pretty Things, a thriller starring Audrey Tautou. The 10-in. timepiece, with its maker's logo plainly visible, fills the screen at a couple of points in the film and looks suspiciously like something put there through the sort of paid product placement that marketers employ to get everything from soft drinks to cars featured in movies. But in this case Staples didn't pay a dime. Instead it is the latest lucky beneficiary of an artist's aesthetic choices.

Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski, the film's production designer, says, "We just bought a clock."...

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