Who knew a junk-mail shredder could play a supporting role on a sitcom, but according to a story in this weekend's Boston Globe, Staple's MailMate will be doing just that. On Nov. 16, the company's $69.99 shredder will get its 30 minutes (minus several commercials) of fame on "The Office" in what Staple's VP Todd Peters called "no mere product placement."

For any small business looking to raise awareness for its product, this would be a coup for its marketing department. Whether featured prominently as part of an episode's plot or even placed innocuously in a scene, the exposure can do wonders for a business's brand--often for very little cost.

Take PoshTots, as an example. Andrea Edmunds, the president of the Richmond, Va., manufacturer of upscale nursery furniture, received 15 minutes of fame on a "Friends" episode. Its brand boost went well beyond the fleeting glimpse of its nursery furniture--the company created a major marketing campaign around the image of David Schwimmer standing besides one of its wall hangings. PoshTots cost: shipping charges for the crib and other items from Virginia to Los Angeles.

Product placement isn't just for Hollywood, either. Max Chafkin notes in "School Ties" that college housing is becoming a popular location for product placement. As college students are thought to be early adopters and brand conscious, it seems like an ideal spot for influencing future purchasing habits.

Whether it's Hollywood, college housing or even a company's break room, there are plenty of opportunities to feature your product outside of commercials and advertising. What strategies are you using? Have you ever had your product featured on a TV show? And what were the rewards?