Friday, September 15, 2006

The Grey Goose in on My Desk

Earlier this week, the paper, The Coloradoan (that’s a tongue-twister) had an article on product placement in books. Product placement is commonplace in movies, TV, video games, music videos, even in plays. Some TV shows include a product and get paid for it, then when the show goes into re-runs, they can digitally insert a different product and get paid by another company. It’s not as common in books, but it is becoming more acceptable.

It’s hard to imagine a book without some kind of product placement. You can’t have your private eye driving just a car. That’s too generic. It’s got to be a brand name like Jeep. And not just a Jeep. It’s a Jeep Cherokee. Or it’s a Toyota Camry. Or whatever. But for the most part, the writer chooses the vehicle because it fits the character’s personality or needs – not because they’re getting paid to name a particular brand and product.

But companies making deals with writers to embed their products in books is happening. Not a lot, but the trend is building. There has been a lot of talk in the past years about the beginnings of this trend. Authors were compensated for mentioning certain jewelry, cars, and alcohol in their books.

The Coloradoan article focused on a new book, Cathy’s Book, due out on Oct. 2. This YA book includes Procter & Gamble products aimed for young girls, like lipstick and eye shadow. Is this bad? Is it an example of corporate greed – using a novel to sell product to vulnerable teenagers?

Is it a big deal being made out of nothing? After all, when you write you invariably mention products, so what difference does it make if you mention one instead of another?

Is it a boon to writers, who don’t get paid a whole lot anyway (the Grishams and Kings aside)? Cathy’s Book is getting a big push by the promotional team at P&G. The publisher is doing a 120,000 first printing.

If a company wanted to pay me either in money or promotion to have a character die in a parachuting accident and mention that the parachute was manufactured by a competitor… I’d probably say no. If they wanted to pay me to have a character drink a Diet 7-Up instead of a Diet Dr. Pepper, maybe. Although I do like Diet Dr. Pepper … but that doesn’t mean the character wouldn’t prefer Diet 7-Up. I could drink Diet 7-Up at book signings. I could sip Diet 7-Up on the Oprah show.

Note: I received no compensation from Jeep, Toyota, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, The Coloradoan, Cathy’s Book, or Grey Goose Vodka. Unfortunately.

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