Now, a Word From My Sponsor
by Mad Dog
This concept may
be new to books, but it’s nothing that doesn’t happen every day in
the movies, where being paid for product placement has been happening
since Frankenstein’s neck bolts came to you courtesy of Sears
It’s official: the world is one big commercial venture. If you
had any doubts about it before, the new novel by Fay Weldon should
eliminate them once and for all.
Weldon, until now a highly
respected British writer, cut a deal with the Italian jeweler Bulgari to
feature its stores and products in her book. In return for big bucks, of
course. She mentions the company 12 times in 190 pages, which is once
every 16 pages, or more often than characters in a Jackie Collins book
have sex, if you can believe that. She was going to title the book Chicken
Soup for the Pocketbook but didn’t want to be crass. Instead she
subtly worked the jeweler’s name into the title—The
which I’m sure she received a well-deserved bonus. Creativity like
that shouldn’t come cheap.
This concept may be new to
books, but it’s nothing that doesn’t happen every day in the movies,
where being paid for product placement has been happening since
Frankenstein’s neck bolts came to you courtesy of Sears Craftsman
Tools. It hit a high—or low depending on your point of view—a few
years ago when Pierce Brosnan, who played James Bond in Tomorrow
Never Dies, not only used products in the movie, but shilled them on
TV, in magazines, and on billboards.
He flashed his Bondian smile
for products including BMW, Heineken, VISA, Smirnoff, Ericcson cellular
phones, Omega watches, and even L’Oreal cosmetics. If he had his way
we would have been drinking and driving while placing a credit card
order for hair care products on our cell phone. And checking our watch
to make sure it didn’t take too long, of course. Maybe it’s a sign
of the Age of the Whore, but I don’t remember Marlon Brando pitching
butter after Last Tango in Paris or
Nicholas Cage endorsing Wild Turkey when Leaving
Las Vegas was released.
Depend could be
the Official Incontinence Diaper of Medicare, which pisses our money
away anyway. Band-Aids could be the Official Cover-up of Congress.
Part of what may have lead Weldon to accept money to sponsor her
book is that in England, product endorsement has a long and noble
history. For years a wide assortment of items have carried a regal
looking emblem emblazoned with the words "By appointment to her
Majesty the Queen." What this means is that a tractor-trailer
filled with Robert's Golden Shred Marmalade backs up to Buckingham
Palace every Tuesday and unloads enough jelly to keep Charles and
Camilla Parker-Bowles happy doing, well, let’s move on why don’t we,
there are things we really don’t need to know about. In return, the
company is allowed to reproduce that charming crest on the label of
their product so thousands of her Majesty's loyal followers will flock
to the stores and demand that they too be allowed to wear frumpy clothes
and wave without moving their fingers.
In this country we go about it
a little differently. Here money changes hands. For a slight fee—pick
a number from one to ten and put lots of zeros behind it—your product
can be the "Official [fill in
the blank] of the [fill in the
blank]." The New York Marathon has an official pasta, bagel,
athlete's foot cream, and breathing device (and they’re not your
lungs, either). Mars, Miller, and Maidenform were registered as the
Official Chocolate, Beer, and Undergarment of the Millennium. In sports,
there's the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl, the St. Jude Liberty
Bowl, and my favorite, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Any day now they’ll
announce that the two lowest ranked college teams will compete in the
Ty-D-Bowl Toilet Bowl. Held in Flushing, NY, of course.
Why not expand this concept
from the private sector to the federal government (commonly known as the
tax sector)? They’re always looking for money, and it’s usually
yours and mine. Corporate sponsorship could stop this practice by
creating a whole new source of revenue. Depend could be the Official
Incontinence Diaper of Medicare, which pisses our money away anyway.
Band-Aids could be the Official Cover-up of Congress. And The War on
Terrorism could be brought to you by Hefty Trash and Body Bags. In fact,
there's no reason soldiers' uniforms and armored tanks couldn't be
covered with sponsor's patches just like a race car driver's. In
camouflage, of course.
The way I see it either the Intel Pentium or Doritos
could be my official chip. Velveeta or an Elvis impersonator could be my
Actually, this has been tried. NASA offered to sell ads on the
side of its rockets but there weren't any takers. Russia lowballed it
and got Pizza Hut to ante up $1.5 million for a 30-foot logo on a Proton
rocket that went up last year. Obviously it can be done, we just have to
market it right.
"We're at 'T' minus twenty Swatch seconds and counting...Ten, nine,
eight Bioré Pore Perfect Deep Cleansing Nose Strips seconds to
liftoff...four, three, there's a two-for-one sale at Wal-Mart this week,
"Roger Houston, we have
AC Delco ignition."
"It's a perfect Post-It
Note liftoff, Challenger."
"We're ready to separate,
"This separation is
brought to you by Jacoby and Meyers personal injury and divorce
"Separation is complete,
Houston, we're attaining maximum Xanax orbit."
So what would this launching of
a multi-gazillion dollar space shuttle actually cost the United States
government? Nothing. In fact, it would probably earn enough money to buy
every man, woman, and child an Oscar Mayer hot dog, the Official Weenie
of the White House, any sitting president notwithstanding.
Which brings us to the real
point of all this—getting sponsorship for me. The way I see it either
the Intel Pentium or Doritos could be my official chip. Velveeta or an
Elvis impersonator could be my official cheese. And Merriam-Webster and
my third grade teacher could battle it out over being my official
reference. My bank account is open for further suggestions.
©2001 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them now, before they're sponsored by Immodium AD.