Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Product Placement Leaves The Big Screen For The Small Screen

Here's a drinking game to liven up that next Saturday night get-together with a few friends. You put on a film, any film but something set in modern times will work best, and then pour the beverage of choice.

Ready? Any time someone spots a commercially available product being featured prominently in the scene calls out "Product Placement" and everyone takes a drink. You'll all be pissed before the credits roll.
Sure we all put the containers on the table so the labels face in the same direction

Hollywood understands that a film's return on investment requires more than just box office sales or DVD sales. There are other ways to gather in the cash, and product placement is an old standard. How many times does an actor walk past a Starbucks coffee shop and there's that iconic logo hovering over their shoulder just long enough for you to see it and think how you'd like a tall caramel mocha latte. Even the makers of Kellogg's Corn Flakes got a product placement in the 2002 film Evelyn. Sitting right there in the final happy scene was that big box of breakfast cereal that no one, absolutely no one who lived in Fatima Mansions in 1956 could have afforded to buy.

But Kellogg's paid to have their cereal as part of the set dressing, and every little bit helps the Hollywood producer.

Product placement is all over the movie industry. Now it's coming to an e-book near you. From the big screen to the small screen of your e-reader, advertisers have found a way to insert their product into your thoughts so that when you mindlessly cruise the aisles of the grocery store, you mindlessly pick up what they want you to buy.

Storyverse Studios has developed a new business model that merges e-books with advertising in the subtle way we're accustomed to from watching movies. According to the report in the New York Times, the founders are launching their venture with a piece of chick-lit that is awash in references to Sweet n Low, the once ubiquitous artificial sweetener that has lost much market share to aspartame and stevia.

Imagine reading a silly novel and getting an info dump about the chemical that isn't bad for you, like, whatevs, the protagonist has done extensive research online and discovered....wait, only the actual verbiage can demonstrate the quality of the writing:
“Hellooo, isn’t it bad for you?” the friend asks. Mags replies that she has researched the claims online and found studies showing that the product is safe: “They fed lab rats twenty-five hundred packets of Sweet’N Low a day ... And still the F.D.A. or E.P.A., or whatevs agency, couldn’t connect the dots from any kind of cancer in humans to my party in a packet.”

Will readers breeze through sections like that, or will that become the part of the novel that readers skip over? Could a paragraph be any more clunky, clumsy, and ridiculous? Who talks like that? Is the target audience considered that stupid as to not see this for what it is?

And what does all this mean to independent authors? It's hard enough to build an audience without the marketing power of a major publisher behind you. Now your potential audience is going to think twice before taking a chance on your novel because it might be one of these new and dreadful advertising things disguised as a novel and who wants to pay money for that?

FIND ME I'M YOURS is coming soon, to be offered just like any other e-book. But it isn't another novel to entertain you with empty-headed prose. No, this is an advert that will set you back $6.99, so not only are you getting a book that doesn't sound promising as far as quality of writing goes, but you're going to be manipulated with product placement that you can spot readily on the big screen, but might not notice on the small one.

What you might notice is that the book isn't particularly well written, and if that makes you hesitate to take a chance on an independent author, the independent authors and the reading public are both going to lose.

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