Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Mine was busy, but productive, so I capped it off with a little bit of reading last night. Seriously, just a little—about 20 pages. That’s when I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s also when I got a new idea for today’s post, and the old idea got thrown out the window.
I was reading a book by an author I normally like, and it was a book I was really looking forward to. But, in those first 20 pages, I found more than 25 product names dropped, including three Apple products used by two different characters (MacBook, iPhone, iPod touch). Not only were the names dropped, but the attributes of a lot of the products were discussed as well. Not cool.
Now I have no problem with the occasional product placement. For example, I read a book that referred to Pepsi several times—when the MC went to a restaurant, she always ordered it. When she was stressed, she longed for it. Still, it went well with the story line and wasn’t obvious. I will never know if the Pepsi was an actual product placement, or if the author just had an affinity for it. Maybe both.
In the book I was reading last night, however, it was distracting. I felt like I was reading one big commercial. I even had Pookie read a couple of pages (without telling him why) and he said the same thing. Even though all of the products were high-end (cars, jewelry, etc.), thus establishing the characters economic status, there was too much. Rather than showing something about the character—a addiction to Pepsi—this was simply distracting.
This isn’t just in books. One of my favorite shows is Bones. In the past year or so, Toyota started advertising during the show. Suddenly, every character is driving a new Toyota and spouting that amazing things it can do (”My Prius can…”). For some characters, this works, but for others it seems out of character and it is a distraction.
Maybe this is just me. A few years ago I took a mass communications course. One of the things we discussed was product placements in movies, in television, and yes, even in books. Ever since that section of the course, I seem to pick product placements out wherever they are. May I was just ignorant before, but now they jump out at me.
As I said, sometimes they don’t bother me. Sometimes they enhance the character or storyline. I may still notice them, but it is not an annoyance. I will even give credit that the scene wouldn’t have worked without the product.
I also understand why companies are turning to them. Given today’s technology, many people record every show they watch so they can fast forward through commercials (myself included). The publishing industry is struggling in a changing time. I get it. It is a way to make some extra money. And, as long as it doesn’t take away from the content, I have no problems with it.
Still, at some point, it become too much. I have seen it across platforms—books, movies, television—where it becomes a distraction. This particular book was probably the worst I have seen so far. It made it so I couldn’t read the book, because I couldn’t follow the story among too many commercial interruptions. It was similar to some stations that give you 3 minutes of program then 2.5 minutes of commercials. You just can’t follow the story.
Have I given up on the book completely? Probably not. The book is part of a series, so I really want to see what happens with the main character (which is another reason a well-developed MC is important). Will it be the usual fun, light read that the series is known for? Absolutely not.
So, that is one of my biggest pet peeves when I am reading (or watching television or movies). What are some of yours?
What are your thoughts on product placement? Is a little OK, as long as it enhances the story, or is anything too much? As an author, would you ever agree to allowing a product placement in your book?
From a different point of view, would you be willing to put up with more product placement (in television) if it meant the end of traditional commercials, a trend economists are predicting is in our future?