Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Speaking of the hard sell

I mentioned in my last post that I hate the hard sell. Well, visiting Bookninja just now brought me this charming tale: BMW and Random House have joined up to produce short stories featuring certain BMW models. The stories are meant to be listened to while driving said models. "The audio books take a traditional creative process and twist it into a unique offer for a forward-thinking audience," says BMW UK Marketing Communications Director Richard Hudson. As a second-hand bookshop owner, "a forward-thinking audience" is the last thing I want (or want to be). I'm backward-thinking: Dickens, Twain, Austen, Keats, Homer, how far back is far enough? I guess the whole concept isn't much worse than featuring products in films. It just turns my stomach in a new way, and makes my eyes go all narrow and squinty. Are the stories any good, I wonder? Can they be? Am I out of step here? No, no I'm not.

I'm trying to come up with any traditional books that do this (rather than audio), and the only thing I can think of is a great antiquarian children's book my friend Sue showed me recently, from her collection, in which each story features a popular household cleaner doing its necessary work. It's actually very droll, we were chuckling over it, but it's not trying to be literature, just straight propaganda. Also, perhaps the short story collection printed on pink paper called Mondo Barbie. But in that, Barbie is treated as a cultural icon that we all are imprinted with in some way, and the stories were not collected or written to sell more Barbie dolls. Intent is everything, I guess. This is looking sadly like a rant, so I'll call it a day.

This is not quite book related but it is an example of the hard sell-in a recent episode of Smallville,a character openly did a product placement(for contact lenses that were only moments ago plugged during the commerical break)and another character had to qoute the ad slogan as a witty comment(to her credit,the actress looked like she'ld rather eat raw sewage than sprout advertising lingo).

Of course,it's easier to tolerate that from movies and TV than books. Remember that Fay Weldon Bulgari Diamonds novel? I'm not even much of a Fay Weldon fan but it did seem pretty sad to me for such an author to resort to gimmickery.
Oh Fay, Fay. Well, I hope she got some diamonds out of the deal.
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