Placement of Products

Friday, March 17, 2006

Holden Caulfield drinking a Pepsi

The question is, when is using product placement going too far? If the main characters of a show are going to be drinking soda as part of the plot, does it harm the show to let Pepsi put their logo there? That said, I’ve discovered something new in product placement that I do believe is taking things too far.

Carole Matthews is a British novelist, who has a new book coming out titled The Sweetest Taboo. This genre of book is self described by the author as “chick lit.” It has a very specific audience—mostly middle aged women with careers and family, looking for a romance novel. Ford has paid the novelist to mention their cars in the book. ( The main heroine of the novel now drives a Ford Fiesta Roxanne. A passage from the book describes the car:

"I look out of the window of the shop and eye my lovely Ford Fiesta Roxanne with something approaching misery.
"Last year was a different story. Business was booming and I splashed out on my first-ever new car. Brand spanking new - complete with enough gadgets to keep even Alex amused.
"She's red, raunchy and drives like a dream and now, she's got to go. Believe me, it will be like cutting off one of my own arms."

Its practically copy for a television spot. A commercial is art, but it is created solely to sell. Television and films are art, but they are, in essence, created to sell. No one wants to produce a movie that has no audience—they want profit. Movies and shows are promoting themselves no matter what, so promoting something else, to me, doesn’t seem to be a big deal. However, a novel? Many of the greatest writers were never published until after their deaths, leaving me to believe that selling their work was not the most important goal. A novel is permanent. Words are supposed to connect generations—imagine if the author of Catcher in the Rye had Holden Caulfield drinking a Pepsi as he walked around the streets of Manhattan contemplating his life. Not only is it out of place, but it compromises the art. That being said, I doubt many romance novels are meant to last throughout generations. This seems to be a money making scheme through and through. However, to me, something just feels wrong about it.


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