Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hypothetical: To Sell Out or Not to Sell Out

So I was reading this article in the New York Times this morning, which talks primarily about brand names in teenage fiction, but it did bring up the question as to whether or not companies paid to have their products placed in the books. (Turns out no.) 

As a former advertising chick, my first thought was how smart (for the advertisers) and that competed with my second, writer-chick thought of no way would I do that in one of my books. 

It's certainly not the first time brands have been featured in books. I remember a litany of luxury brands in American Psycho which I found very annoying. I suppose that was the point. And I suppose if it fits the character, brand names can be useful in description. But what do you think about authors getting paid for it? Let's say Pepsi offered you a fat sum of cash if you would just write your MC as having an affinity for their soda? She cracked open a cool, refreshing Diet Pepsi before turning to him and saying...  

Would you do it? What the sum were REALLY fat? Obese, even.

9 comments:

Ed Pahule said...

I already have product placement in my book. I name things the character uses. Like he drives a Ford Mustang. He drinks Wild Turkey Rare Breed. I even mention a local sub shop by name. I see nothing wrong with that. And if Ford or Wild Turkey want to pay me to mention them, so be it.

I wouldn't, however, have my character use something I myself wouldn't use. So no Pepsi. I'm a Coke guy.

WendyCinNYC said...

So if Toyota wanted to pay you to switch MC's Mustang for a Camry, would that be a no-go?

Ed Pahule said...

It would have to be a Prius. :)

Laurie Ashton said...

See, for me, if you hadn't put a disclaimer somewhere in the book saying that you'd received advertising money and I later found out, I'd likely never read another book of yours again.

Which is a bit ironic considering product placement in movies and television series doesn't bother me as much. Although, really, when it's done, it's usually so obvious from the label on the can facing directly at the camera rather than placed at an angle or haphazardly. But as I think about it, product placement in the beginning did bother me. It irritated me and my friends and I found it hugely mockworthy. I guess now it's so common that it's not as disdainful.

But for books, I have this, uh, not quite reverence, but sort of, for them. I don't want books, my sanctuaries, to become tainted with this.

Personally, I don't think I mention brands in my stories. I might mention "She drank a soda", but that's about as specific as it gets. I don't see how specifying that it's either coke or pepsi adds anything.

WendyCinNYC said...

Product placement bugs me, too, even on shows. Especially when it's written into the script and not just a can someone is holding. Remember James Bond driving his convertible BMW (complete with many beauty shots of the car) or The Office episode that wrote in a bit about a paper shredder available at Staples? Annoying.

I'm not anti-brand in writing or TV if it's relevant to the character: a Louis Vuitton bag paints a different image than "a brown purse," but when scenes are written around products for a profit--eh, I think I'd put the book down.

And look at how timely I am today! I saw this article on product placement in the NY TImes this morning:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/business/media/14adco.html?_r=1&ref=business&oref=slogin

auria cortes said...

Yeah, I'm a whore. For commericial fiction, I'm all for product placement if it fits the story. So if my character drinks Pepsi and Coke offered to pay, I'd make the switch. Even though, I dislike the taste of coke.

I agree with Ashton, however, that there should be a disclaimer in the book.

Melanie Avila said...

I'm not anti-brand in writing or TV if it's relevant to the character: a Louis Vuitton bag paints a different image than "a brown purse," but when scenes are written around products for a profit--eh, I think I'd put the book down.

That's exactly what I was going to say. I'm not opposed to it as long as it's relevant to the story. If the Diet Pepsi is mentioned casually, that's fine, but if it's pounded into the reader's (or viewer's) head, I groan.

Janna Qualman said...

I just finished reading a book that dropped name brands everywhere. As if the main character hadn't already seemed pampered and high-maintenance, her tastes in only-the-best made her much more unlikeable. Ugh.

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, do I know which book that is?