The Trouble With Eyeliner

June 12th, 2006 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

Here is what we worry about: name-dropping in novels is so prevalent that readers, those poor, innocent readers, might not be able to discern between legitimate product placement and legitimate characterization. That is unfair to marketers who might pay big bucks for a fleeting mention in a 100,000 word novel. We feel sorry for them, we really do.

After all, how carefully must a reader read to make this type of intellectual leap?

…changing a generic reference to “gunmetal grey eyeliner” to “eyecolor in ‘Midnight Metal.’ ”

Setting aside, of course, the minor differences between eyeliner and eyecolor — two entirely different concepts, you realize — one might think the authors were scrambling through a make-up case to find just the right words to describe a character’s cosmetics. “Midnight Metal”, a made-up color if ever one existed, is so much more precise than “gunmetal”, what with guns coming in so many colors these days.

One bookseller expresses legitimate fear about the dangerous road that is product placement:

“I’m not crazy about it,” said Carol Chittenden, owner of Eight Cousins, a bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., and the children’s book buyer for BookStream, a book wholesaler in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “Once you’re under contract to include certain kinds of things, then that narrows the editorial possibilities greatly and has a huge influence over the nature of the writing and the nature of the story.”

We say do not worry about the hapless novelist who knowingly engages in product placement as part of the artistic process. Do not even worry about the readers who might be influenced to purchase “Midnight Metal”, though it’s not a shade for everyone. Worry, instead, about all those products who have benefitted from free placement over the years — do they feel cheapened by the lack lucre changing hands? Or do they feel smug, knowing they have saved their companies money? Let us recall that the Mona Lisa is more popular than ever, and not a single marketing dollar switched hands.

File Under: Marketing For Introverts

1 response so far ↓

  • David Thayer // Jun 12, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Maria coudn’t decide whether to go see the Mona Lisa or apply the delicate hint of gunmetal beneath her eyes. When Raoul appeared with Ritz crackers and Dom Perignon Maria knew her product placement days were numbered.