Pick my product! Pick my product! Buy me! Buy me! Now!

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that, every so often, a headline appears on Yahoo!’s home page that intrigues me and that, instead of doing what I’m meant to be doing (writing!), I click through to it. Come on, you know you do it … that’s why advertisers pay a fortune to appear on these links. Sometimes I’m glad I did as I read something genuinely funny or interesting but, more often than not, it’s a waste of my time.

About a week ago I was particularly intrigued by was this one:

http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/secret-life-of-walter-mitty-wins-worst-product-placement-award-123218430.html

I studied marketing at university and, although I’ve never followed a career in marketing (I went down the HR route instead), I’ve always been fascinated by adverts and product placement. I confess I have neither read nor seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty but I’m now curious to do so simply because of the apparent randomness of product placement. Over the years, this is something I’ve noticed become more and more blatant in films and TV programmes and it’s quite often laughable. I imagine Coca Cola and PepsiCo have quite brutal fights over the right to have the stars drink their brand of pop when, truth be told, it wouldn’t make a jot of difference to me as I’d pick the one that I like the taste of best (Diet Pepsi in case you’re curious). However, it clearly makes a difference to those who are perhaps slightly more influenced by these things. Or they wouldn’t bother.

A couple of favourite examples of product placement are two films that blatantly satire it: Wayne’s World and The Truman Show. Two very different films but love them both … and their approach to advertising!

So what does this have to do with writing? Quite a lot actually. It’s only a matter of time before the massive reach of books is exploited by advertisers. There are examples out there already but nothing on as grand a scale as TV and films but how long will this last?Β 

In my debut novel, Searching for Steven, my protagonist has two cats. Good friends of mine had two cats who they’d named Caffrey and Guinness. As our student days weren’t long behind us and we were very fond of Irish ales, this seemed a great pair of names. Inspired by this idea, I named Sarah’s cats Cadbury and Buttons. I love chocolate so why not? But then I started work as a Recruitment Manager for Nestle and it seemed very wrong to be promoting the competition so I changed the names to Kit and Kat which I thought was genius on another level (small things amuse me!) I also thought it would be a great little story when (if) I got my publishing deal and I could maybe try and wangle some sponsorship out of my employer in the meantime. It wasn’t to be. I never got the book finished while still working for them! When I left Nestle four-and-a-half years later, I decided to change the names again. But I couldn’t do it. I’d lived with Kit and Kat for so long and the poor little things didn’t deserve another identity crisis.

Last weekend, I went away to a lovely lodge overlooking a lake and asked my husband to take some photos of me writing on the balcony to use on this blog. His twin sisters were with us and they decided that the pictures should include a little bit of product placement. Except it wasn’t a little bit. They dragged every branded item they could find out of the cupboards. What do you think?

Image

Hmmm. Even The Truman Show would be proud of that one!!!

Personally I prefer the slightly more under-stated Apple product placement …

Image

Plus it’s a far more flattering shot of me. Not that I’m vain. But that first one is pretty grim and a reminder that I really need to get the diet back under control. I will just point out that I didn’t then go on to trough the Flake, Walker’s Crisps, box of Thorntons etc. Well, not all in one go anyway!

Over to you. What do you think of product placement in books? Have you come across it in any books you’ve read? Have you done it in yours? Would love to hear more

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10 thoughts on “Pick my product! Pick my product! Buy me! Buy me! Now!

  1. Great post as always, Julie, and I love the second photo of you – it really looks as though you are seriously contemplating your next plot line πŸ™‚ I suppose the cats in your first novel are lucky not to have been renamed chip and butty or something by now! I would put Galaxy rather than Cadbury every time… I think there is a bit of inadvertent product placement in my first book and I got told to take out a not too flattering reference to the impact of a certain fast food giant’s burgers, in case they sued! I was also told to watch out for product references that might confuse my international readers. I laugh at that concern now. International readers, any blooming readers would be a start πŸ˜‰ Hope you get to product-place to your heart’s content soon. I’m sure you will xx

    • Thank you Jo. I actually confess that I quite like the 2nd photo too! Very plot-point-contemplative! I’m loving the name of Chip and Butty. May have to use them in a future novel πŸ™‚ And thanks so much about the positive last sentence. Gosh, I hope so!!!

  2. That’s a tricky one Julie, and I love the pictures and the products πŸ˜‰ I mention a few branded names in TGH but they have a stupid little symbol by them which I don’t understand the need for and no mention of brands has got me a free car or a lifetime supply of wine. Book two I’ve not bothered with brand names and tried to stay generic just to get rid of the symbols really.

    Of course I’d be more than willing to have Annie Graham supping bottle after bottle of ‘Barefoot White Zinfandel’ if Barefoot wanted to sponsor me, she could also upgrade her Mini to a Mercedes if needs be πŸ˜‰

    Helen xx

    • Hey Helen, if you do get Barefoot White Zinfandel to sponsor you, I’ll be straight over to Cumbria for the party!!! Thanks for reading and commenting xx

  3. Hi Julie,
    Really interesting post! I’d love to be sponsored by Haighs Chocolates here in Australia…I think I’ve mentioned them a fair few times in my writing!
    Helen Rolfe xx

    • I think you may need to bring some Haighs Chocs to the conference as we simply must sample them to appreciate the references when your books are published! Thanks for stopping by xx

  4. I always check out the laptops being used in films. It’s nearly always Apple or Sony Viao (is that how you spell it?) the BBC were never allowed to use named products- does that still hold true?

    • I think Apple look so much classier than a PC though so that’s probably partly why! I do think what you say about the BBC still holds true. It’s quite funny when you watch programmes like Blue Peter where it’s clearly a certain brand of yoghurt or washing up liquid they’re using but the brand names are all tapes out. And they have to say “glue stick” instead of “pritt stick” cos the latter is the brand. It’s all a bit silly really!

  5. That would put me off being sold something as I was reading. The science of marketing is interesting I agree, but I don’t like being sold something. If a product says ‘buy me and we’ll give xxx to charity’ it puts me off, cos I feel I’m being forced to give and if I want to give to a charity I’ll do it of my own accord. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for visiting Lynne. I know what you mean. I think I’d be really put off if I read a scene where someone was obsessing about how delicious a Costa Coffee was, for example, and it clearly smacked of sell, sell, sell!

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