Sunday, April 23, 2006

One, Two, Buckle my Bruno Magli Belted Slip-On Shoe

Stephen King's Cell is an interesting book - not because it's a good read (it is), but because King's books are guaranteed such a large audience that he can sell advertising space inside them. Product placement has made the leap to literature, and King, who once said there were people in the publishing industry who would steal pennies off their dead mothers' eyes, (and who is always willing and able to find new streams of income from his gift) is leading the way.

A boom box isn't a boom box, it's a Panasonic boom box. Cop killer ammo comes in a box labeled American Defender. Small Treasures, Swedish Steel, Nokia - all are set apart with bold lettering and different fonts. My first impression was that King was mocking the very idea of product placement in novels - similar to the way Mike Myers handled "little, yellow, different" Advil, Pepsi, and Pizza Hut in Wayne's World. If so, the joke is on the sponsors, because King is raking in the cash in return for the placement deals.

From the Cell website:

"...available on these US carriers only: Alltel, AT&T, Boost, Cellular One, Cingular, Dobson, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Binary Content downloads are available on these carriers only AT&T, Cingular and Sprint. "

That's a lot of tie-ins for a book that makes the cell phone industry responsible for the destruction of modern civilization.

My concern is not that this is diluting the purity of literature (Big Box Booksellers, no mid-list publishers, and myriad other things have already done that), my concern is that references which once conveyed a specific time in American history - a Member's Only jacket - a Chevy Nova - a copy of the Saturday Evening Post - may no longer pass editorial muster, finding themselves replaced by brand names that are less evocative of the times, and more likely to draw advertising dollars.

A character in On the Bluff drives an old Charger - honestly, I didn't plan for it in advance, it just happened. But I'm glad Dodge brought back the Hemi. Now I'm going to be able to cash in on some of that advertising tie-in money. Man, that's Sweeeeet.

Mark Pettus,
Sunday, April 23, 2006

15 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Erik Ivan James, Anonymous Kirsten, Blogger Rene, Blogger Kelly Parra, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Jeff, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Erik Ivan James, Blogger JLB, Anonymous Kirsten, Blogger serenity, Blogger Lady M, Blogger Frank Baron, Anonymous jamie ford,

Let me know what you think

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at 12:33 PM Blogger Erik Ivan James said...

Congress ought to commission someone to write a new song about "money". Make it our new national anthem.

at 8:46 PM Anonymous Kirsten said...

I recall reading somewhere that the publisher used cell phone text messaging to help promote the book launch, too . . .

Let's just hope that the publishing biz is big enough to accommodate writers who are okay with product placement in its rawest sense, and writers who place (ha ha ha) a higher priority on using brand names, selectively, to evoke character.

at 11:49 PM Blogger Rene said...

You know, I'm reading a novel where the heroine constantly drops name brands. She doesn't go to the store, she goes to Wal Mart. She doesn't get coffee she goes to Starbucks. Just a constant flow of name dropping to the point I wonder if she was getting a kickback.

I had a heroine drive an H2 mainly because I planned on blowing it up in the story.

at 12:56 AM Blogger Kelly Parra said...

Are you serious about the name brand stuff in books and getting paid for it? Or are you just building a conspiracy?? *laughs* Interesting if it's true!

at 5:13 AM Blogger Bernita said...

Seriously, an advertising tie-in might work but it would have to be integral to the plot or a signature of the main character.
No scatter-gun approach for the non-King writer.
Pick a brand that is actively seeking to expand its name recognition, use it cleverly and the company might help promote.

at 9:32 AM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

I use products to add a little bit of flavor here and there but for the most part I tend not to care - (and I am lazy and don't wanna look up the info for the products; granted Coke and Pepsi are no brainers...but still)

at 11:15 AM Blogger Jeff said...

Mark, I can see it all now. Future novels hitting the shelves with each chapter beginning with, "This chapter is brought to you by . . ."

at 9:25 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Erik - I hate money. I hate caring about money. I want to have so much money I never have to care about it again. How sad is that?

Kirsten - You're right about the text messaging. BTW, no one loves pun. :)

Rene - I tend to use actual names for the stores and cars and products in my stories - because I think it adds authenticity. I think using brand names to make money (and highlighting them with bold fonts) takes away from the authenticity. The Panasonic - American Defender placements bounced me out of the story as quickly as bad writing would have.

Kelly - Serious as a heart attack. St. Joseph's aspirin is the only aspirin available only in the dosage recommended to prevent heart attacks.

Bernita - Amen, sister. I'm not betting on the subtle approach, though. When advertising dollars start flying, the hunters bring out their scatter-guns.

Dennie - of my characters buys an RC cola from a machine outside a gas station in Gloria, Texas. No brainer, indeed. ;)

Jeff - If you're lucky it'll be a Verizon New York Times Bestseller.

at 7:41 AM Blogger Erik Ivan James said...

That's exactly my meaning. And, ditto.

at 8:43 PM Blogger JLB said...

The product placement stuff just seems a little ridiculous to me!

I can see the business side of it of course, but I suppose the artist in me cringes at the thought of trying to place a product in my work for reasons other than its pertinence to the story.

Say Mark, when did the portrait turn into a painting? Was I just totally unobservant, or is this a recent adaptation? Whenever the change was made, I think it looks good. (BTW, if I'm just totally blind and it's been a painting all along, do me a favor and let me down easy :D ).

at 8:47 PM Anonymous Kirsten said...

BTW, no one loves pun.

It was an accident, I swear!!!

at 9:54 PM Blogger serenity said...

Funny, I just saw Wayne's World again the other day and laughed my hearty arse off at that part. I find myself noticing brand names in movies all the time now and wondering if it was unintentional, or if someone got a big fat check for that two-second visual.

at 12:11 AM Blogger Lady M said...

I'm thinking 2 simultaneous thoughts...

1. Wow - how awful that advertising is making its way into literature - after having dregged up the movies...

2. IF ONLY I could get an advertisemnt deal for my writing like SK.


Sigh... some days. :P

at 1:37 PM Blogger Frank Baron said...

Brand name placement is bad enough but semi-understandable. But highlighting them? Really?

It is to puke.

at 11:58 PM Anonymous jamie ford said...

Wow. Doesn't Stephen King have enough money now? Does he really have to shill products in his books? Note to self, don't read Cell.


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