P is for Product Placement


I wanted to take a moment to apologize to everyone who’s left comments over the past several days. My wife started her chemo treatments this week and between the hour-long drives back and forth to the hospital and everything else, I’ve been really taxed. I know you guys understand, but that doesn't ease my guilty conscience. I’m managing to keep up with my A-Z posts (okay…maybe not J), but its eating me up not being able to respond to your comments and get around to your blogs. Your patience with me is a blessing…and not taken lightly. Thank you!!
 




This has been around for years in both movies and television, but recently it seems to have reached whole new level. I’m not saying I totally blame them, with production costs climbing so high that pretty much anywhere a set dresser can smack a well-known products logo to offset that cost with advertising dollars, why not. I guess my issue is when the products appearance becomes obtrusive, stopping just short of having Vanna White walk across the screen and use her lovely hands to point out the key features.

What does this mean to the publishing industry? When will product placement find its way into the New York Times Best Selling list? Would it surprise you to know that it already has? There have been some authors who have been told that strategically placed product mentions woven into their story would make it more appealing to those who might want to turn it into a screenplay. Two young adult novels -- "Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233" and the Mackenize Blue series -- have drawn attention for the product placement between their pages.

Publishers have very little time and even less money to promote new authors trying to make it in already over-populated market, so they are looking for ways to leverage their investment and one way is money from product vendors. Yes, in fictional worlds, people go places and use products. They wash their hair and buy food and drive cars. Why shouldn’t we let your character drink her favorite carbonated beverage and reapply her lipstick? Does it compromise your artistic integrity when a minor element of a story is altered for commercial gain (or increased chance of publication at all)?

In my latest YA novel I made mention of an Xbox because my main character used its on-line chat feature to communicate with a friend while he was grounded from his phone. I could have said PS3 or Wii (because I have both of those as well), but I went with the Microsoft product instead because I use it more. Is that product placement? Should Microsoft cough up some coin because I chose them over Sony? :)

What about you? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Did you know I was holding a contest during the A-Z Challenge? You can read all about it HERE.

52 comments

  1. got to learn something new about product placement.. but also got to learn about your wife, and its an inspiration on how you are still keeping up with your writing !! I'm following you now, via the challenge! See ya soon on www.disha-doshi.blogspot.com

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  2. A lot of writers seem wary of mentioning product brands for fear of infringing on some kind of trademark law. But unless you defame the product in some way, or misrepresent it's abilities, it's fine to mention brands. I tend to use brands that I'm familiar with or reflect the age of the characters/readers.
    In Undead Kev, I use PS3, cause my girls use that one, but in truth Xbox is probably more reflective of the die-hard boy gamers :)
    I don't know about product placement and charging though, I know it exists in films, but I worry about how it might affect the integrity of the work if products are swapped to represent the biggest bidder.

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    1. Meant to add before pressing publish... best wishes for your wife, your family and yourself. Hope all goes well with the treatments. x

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  3. I hope your wife treatment goes well.
    I get you with the guilt feeling - both my sisters delivered in the past 2 weeks and I've been in full aunty mode and off the net. Now i'm playing catch up ;)

    If only Frodo had a Pepsi, he'd have had less problems with that ring and more energy to fight temptation!

    I don't know if product placement is a good or bad thing and if it should be rewarded. You need to mention some products to fill pages and present the personality of the characters, so..,

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  4. I always like the accidental placement of Tom Clancy's book "Hunt for Red October." Reagan was reading it. The news ferreted out the book. It became a hit. Soon everyone was reading it.

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  5. I see product placement more and more in films and TV as well as on Arena's and Stadium's.

    Thinking you and your wife.

    Came by from Tales of the Reborn Crafter

    http://talesofthereborncrafter.blogspot.com/

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  6. I'd never thought about this, but I can see it happening. Especially in contemporary writing.

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  7. This is a very good information you have posted. The content are very easy to understand and is remarkable.
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  8. Hope your wife goes on well.
    A very valid and important issue you raised today.
    Enjoyed the read.
    Yvonne.

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  9. Don't feel guilty! I hope she is doing okay. I know when my niece started chemo treatments, my sister's life was chaotic. Don't worry, we'll still keep coming around. Please let her know we are all thinking of her.

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    1. I won't be offended if you don't stop by my blog. Besides, it's a bunch of mind testing codes. Not something you need to concern yourself with.

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  10. I've been through chemo and radiation treatments with my mother. Doctors gave us little hope. But with God's help, mom is still with us 15 years later. My prayers are with your family. Good post.

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  11. Family is always way more important than blogging. Actually, many things are way more important than blogging. So don't feel guilty anymore. I hope your wife is feeling okay and sending her lots of positive thought and good energy!

    I use the broad term with products instead of specific brands. I just never really thought about product placement before.

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  12. only good thoughts sending out, period!

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  13. I would think less of you if you put commenting and and responding above your wife...so when you go silent my respect grows and you'll all be in my prayers.

    I used X-box in my most recent WIP...because it really is THE tops in online gaming. Though a visit to Gamestop and discussion with the staff- they say the new playstation is a beast and is going to suck the wind out of X-Box. They claim the graphics, game play, and games are going to be awesome. Whereas if rumor is true, X-Box is about to make a few fatal errors such as mandatory online connection to play, water marked games making sharing and used games obsolete, and far less memory than the new Playstation. We shall see if the teen gamer geeks know what they are talking about in the year to come!

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    1. Personally, I cannot wait for the new PlayStation platform! I have both an Xbox 360 and a PS3, and I enjoy games on both (but different style of games for different systems).

      Lyre @ <a href="amy-lyre.blogspot.com>Lyre's Musings</a> #atozchallenge

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  14. Sending good thoughts your family's way!

    If my characters use a specific product and it reflects who they are, giving added insight to the reader, then I mention it. Otherwise, I use a general/generic version because then there's less chance of the story being dated/becoming outdated.

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  15. I feel about it like you do with movies - if it feels natural within the context of the story, why not? Although, I quite liked how the show Chuck would make their plugs for Subway so obvious - making fun of the product placement themselves.

    I hope you can feel the tons of prayers that are going up for you, your wife, and your children. He only gives you what He knows you can handle, and your family is obviously made of strong stuff.

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  16. Hi DL, I mostly write historicals, so product promotion isn't an issue there, but I have to admit, I haven't considered it with my contemporaries.

    Sending prayers for your wife's full recovery. God bless.

    Amy

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  17. I'm only familiar with Product Placement as a writer on my Blog, and since I own it, I can choose which products to promote. If I don't use it, have it, or have knowledge of it's use, I don't promote it. This topic is certainly one to consider carefully for writers no matter their audience. Take care!

    My Letter 'P'...Prolific Patchwork Pattern Piecer
    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

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  18. DL, I've practically stumbled on your page, as I thought of going to visit everyone's page starting from today. What a find. I'm enjoying your writing, tips and all. And will continue reading. And sending get well thought for your wife. Take care.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. I am so sorry to hear about your wife. I will be keeping the two of you in my prayers. I know you're just going to ignore me when I say this, but don't worry about returning our comments, responding, etc. Your wife is much more important.

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  21. Blogging vs. Family...Family ALWAYS wins! Prayers for your wife and for you. You both need strength in the coming months.

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  22. Everything of the best to you and your family! Sending positive vibes all the way from across the globe--------

    Writer In Transit

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  23. Never apologize for that. That Pepsi photo is freakimg me out. I mention products in my book. Specifically, my latest book mentions the Playstation.

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  24. We're dealing with those Chemo treatments in our family, too. They aren't easy and I'm amazed that you're able to keep up the pace you do. Sending my thoughts for healing and a return to health.

    I haven't used products in my books. . . well, maybe Kleenex once. But I have mentioned celebrity. I struggled with that because I didn't want to date the story, but then I decided to go with it and see what the editor thought.

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  25. Well, I find that using a specific product over the generic helps with world building anyhow. But sure I'm gain as long as it trickles down.

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  26. I haven't used product placement so I'm not sure about it's value. But you're do be admired for your work ethic. Your wife is much more important so you should worry about responding to our comments. No doubt, we all understand and send prayers to you, your wife and your family.

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  27. They've been doing it in TV shows and movies for ages. Why not let a writer gain a little something extra? As long as it is their choice to use the brand name and not something forced upon them. - Barbara
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead

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  28. I find many times mentioning actual products instead of generic items provides a richness to scenes and can communicate more to a reader about a character's personality. I'm big into cars, which is why I often focus on exactly what make and model vehicle my characters drive. And it's no coincidence the self-consumed attorney in my first book drives a Bimmer :)

    Hope your wife is doing well -- she's your first and foremost priority.

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  29. I do mention, sometimes, specific products in my books, but only because there is something about those products that lends to the stories. For instance, in The House on the Corner, there is a mention by one of the kids of Happy Meals at McDonald's. But the book is set in 1983, and that was -the- kids' meal, then. For me, as a kid, a Happy Meal was almost mythic in quality, because we never got them, and I wanted that same quality in my story.

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  30. Dude. Stop feeling guilty. You and your family are going through some things right now, and commenting on people's blogs/comments should be your last priority. We don't fault you for that. And while I don't have an Xbox, Wii or any other sort of gaming thing, I think it's completely fine to write whatever it is you know and are comfortable with. I think the problem occurs when it interrupts the story flow.

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  31. DON'T EVEN GIVE IT A SECOND THOUGHT! YOUR WIFE COMES FIRST ALWAYS.... This part of the treatment is going to by very taxing on her and she needs all the love and support she can get. She needs your undivided attention. SO DON'T WORRY .... about us. Stay focused on HER! That's where it belongs.

    As for products, I honestly don't see anything wrong with using them in our works. WE buy this products and enjoy them, so why shouldn't our characters... I've mentioned lots of APPLE products in my stories as well as top of the line vehicles, ... they have to drive something and just mentioning a car is so boring. We need to keep the interest of our reader and they relate to product names....

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  32. Doesn't surprise me it's in books. A book set in real life should have some familiar products and places.
    Did you know some eBooks now have ads in them?

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  33. P should equal priorities for you right now. It sounds like you have your priorities straight by putting your wife first. I hope the treatments go as well as chemo treatments can go.

    As for product placement, I don't mind until it turns into a mini infomercial.

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  34. It doesn't surprise me either, and I wouldn't be against putting in a product if it was something my characters honestly used. I've named brands in my stories before, and I'll likely do it again.

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  35. Sending my very best wishes to you and your wife, DL. Please don't beat yourself up we all understand how hard it is sometimes.

    I have mentioned products in my writing but it isn't something I have given a huge amount of thought too. Maybe I should!

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  36. I think brands are a part of everyday life and we can't possibly avoid them in our writing. I like how the TV show Chuck did it with their sponsor Subway. They also made fun of big stores with the "Buy More." It was tasteful and funny.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  37. No apologies needed! Gosh, your wife's chemo treatments are way more important than blogging and answering comments. And I remember from when my son went through chemo just how time-consuming those treatments are.

    My best to you both. Eventually, life will get back to normal.

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  38. This is a tricky topic, because on the one hand there's something to be said about being specific, and on the other hand it can stand out as promoting commercialism. Mentioning the actual name of a product conjures up a very particular image without a lot of description, so in that way it's handy for writers. To me it's only a problem if it feels overdone.

    Don't even think twice about not having time to comment, DL. I'm amazed that with everything you have going on you somehow you've managed to keep up the insightful posts and orchestrate the Blog Blitz. I hope that your wife's treatments are going well and send my best wishes to you and your family.

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  39. Don't worry, you'd have to do a lot worse than not respond to a few comments to lose us! You have your priorities straight.

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  40. Something I never really thought about. So often brand names become synonymous with an article like Kleenex. Personally I'm not a 'gamer' and don't own those particular toys, so when you say X-Box I think more of a generic gaming device, and on and on and on.

    Family first, don't even think about this whole blogging game in the midst of your trials.

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  41. You must never feel guilty for doing the right thing. Ever. No apologies necessary.

    This is a really interesting post because I spent most of the day going through and listing every trademarked product and brand name mentioned in my last novel. It was a pain in the backside, and I think someone should get paid for it. :) Seriously, if I notice product placement in a movie or TV show, then it's distracting me from the program. If it's subliminal, fine, but I'd prefer not to know when I'm being manipulated.

    In the book referenced above, I write quite a bit about a BMW Z4 and a Porsche Carrera GT. Sure, it would be great to be compensated (a free sample would be fine, thank you very much), but the "brands" that appear in my work are demanded by the story. They're not there for promotional purposes. And frankly, I don't want to read a book with product placement. Brand names required to bring truth to the story? Sure. But deliberate product placement? I think that's a really slippery slope.

    VR Barkowski

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  42. I hope your wife has an easy, speedy recovery and goes through her chemo as well as possible.

    I write 20th century historical, including contemporary and late contemporary historical, so it's inevitable that some products will be mentioned by name. Having been with the Mac since OS 1.0, my contemporary historical characters only use Macs, and since I'm from a Nintendo family, they also use the various Nintendo gaming systems. And given my love of antique cars, I always try to mention what make and color a car is, like a blue Model B Ford, a sea-green Rochet-Schneider, or a blue-green Polski Fiat 518. It would be too generic, and not very good research, to just refer to a car or a computer.

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  43. Wow…this post tingled my toes. I’m so full of admiration and respect for firefighters in general and now you in particular Stewart. Thank you for sharing.
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  44. First, lots of healing energy coming your wife's way!

    As for product placement, I have used it informally in two different WIP. I think, as commercial as our world is, it's difficult to not reference some products as part of a character's day to day life (Coke, Starbucks, McD's, etc).

    Lyre @ <a href="amy-lyre.blogspot.com>Lyre's Musings</a> #atozchallenge

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  45. DL, I hope that all goes well with your wife's treatments. Will say prayers. Interesting post. I usually try not to use mention of products by name, because I worry about infringement and I thought in some cases it dated the book for future readers. Guess I'm wrong. : )

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  46. I hope everything turns out well for your wife.

    I hate really obvious product placement on TV shows... like when they show you how to use this *awesome* new feature on such-and-such car. Grrr

    And that image is hilarious!

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

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  47. Sorry I'm late. I hope your wife is doing well. Remember, treatment is about body, mind and spirit. And take care of you so you can take care of her. So important.

    I know there is more product placement on TV because of the DVR. Once consumers learned to fast forward through commercials they had to put the products into the shows.

    I thought we would have to ask to use a real product name in a story?

    Heather

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  48. Hi Don - I'm sorry to read about your wife and I do hope the chemo will progress and will help her - I agree with Heather above ... you are the important one at the moment: so don't worry about us ... stress over blogging is the least of your worries.

    Product placement - that could work for promoting local products and might be a win-win situation .. cheers Hilary

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  49. Just looking at that image fills me with horror. Especially since I just finished my yearly reread of Lord of the Rings...

    {{hugs}} to you and your wife {{}}

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