Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Up against the WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the nascent trend of paid product placement in comic books.

The whole idea seems dubious to me on more than one level. Leaving aside my hippy-dippy crunchy granola sentiments about the ubiquity of paid advertising and endorsement deals and the implicit message they carry that everyone and everything can be bought and owned and even our fantasies can be colonized by corporations...as I say, leaving aside that whole train of thought, it raises a lot of questions for me on a purely pragmatic and materialistic level. Does it make a lot of sense for corporate advertisers to move into comics now...when the audience size for comics is in decline?

Given that the diminishing market is moving towards trade paperbacks and graphic novels -- which don't carry ad pages -- one can see the logic of advertisers wanting to get their content into the story pages instead, which will end up in those collections. But in the best case scenario, those stealth ads and product placements will stay on the shelves for years -- do these companies really wants years- or decades-old products still being advertised? I suppose the answer is the same as with outdated product placement in movies and tv shows on DVD: the corporations don't really care if their advertising detritus hangs around for the rest of time.

And what about the money? It won't go towards offsetting production costs or lowering the cover prices of new comics. Does any of it make its way into the pockets of the writers and artists? If so, are they getting the same amount that a professional copywriter or illustrator would get at an ad agency for doing the same work, or is this a way for an advertiser to save some moolah?

And then there's this quote:

DC's Mr. McKillips says Pontiac will not have direct editorial oversight of the comic and its main character. "We're not seeking their approval on everything, and they trust us," he says. A Pontiac spokesman says the company is not involved in the creative process.

"They trust us." We're tame. We certainly won't do anything to threaten this cozy relationship, so they don't need to constantly look over our shoulders. You won't see any stories that implicitly question the corporate behavior of Dodge or Pontiac in refusing to strengthen emission standards, or embrace alternative technologies, or outsourcing their manufacturing facilities. Or any stories that skewer Nike for the corrosive social effects of fetishizing sportswear, or their sweatshops in Indonesia or Mexico or East Asia. (Oops, I said I wouldn't go all sandal-wearing and tree-hugging on you. My bad.) Well, there wouldn't have been that kind of story in those comics anyway, so no harm done...

I suppose this new trend won't really make any difference...which is kind of sad, don't you think?

But look, one good thing: there's a quote in the article from someone we know! I don't disapprove of the article itself...and I note with much approval that when it came time to get quotes from the fan perspective, both fans the author chose to quote were women. Holy stereotype shattering, Batman!

1 comment:

  1. What I said was that it's all about the quality of the art and writing, but if they have a teen using an ipod and say the brand name, I'm okay with that, but if the whole comic is just and ad, I'm not (like the Solstice one they show).
    But it was cool to be called for a quote, and followed by a female prof!


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