Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Should children’s books be used for advertising?

This question popped up in a discussion group recently, and as you can guess, there were different opinions. Some laughed at the idea, while a few admitted to feeling disturbed.

A blogger who seems to be all for it had this to say:
It’s time that books embrace advertising. You could do it in so many tasteful ways.
1. Limit it to three advertisements per book.
2. Have a single sponsor for the book.
3. Allow consumers discounts on the book price if they agree to receive emailed ads from a selected advertiser.
4. Insert an advertising flier into a book.
Put ads only between chapters, or at the end of the book.

However, what if publishers resort to product placement, like it is done in movies? Would it have raised eyebrows or seemed part of a consumerist world if J.K. Rowling had written, “Harry pulled on his GAP shirt and Levi’s, and made sure his VISA card was in his wallet, before heading to Hogsmeade”?

How about Roald Dahl’s favourite poem reading like this:
“The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set –
(Unless it’s a Sony, or better yet,
A Panasonic 72)”

Some feel it would be crass, and could cause problems. If the brand image of the product takes a beating. Or, what if an unthinking publisher advertises Pan Parag in John Greene’s The Fault in Our Stars?

Then again, advertising in books, even in children’s books isn’t very new.

A popular advertisement for the Charles Atlas Bodybuilding Plan
In the 1970s, most books for children carried advertisements for other books from the same publishing house. The Archie comics regularly carried mail-order advertisements for costume jewelry, Hostess Twinkies, toys and magic tricks such as X-Ray Spex!

Kirk Demarais, artist and historian, made a short film, titled, “Flip”, about a boy who dreams of buying all such $1 products and living a wonderful life. Demarais also wrote Mail-Order Mysteries, a book about the truth behind these advertisements.

So, should we allow children’s books to be appropriated by marketing? Children’s movies (and books) already have a lot of merchandising tied up with them. Is the next step product placement and full-page glossy ads for toothpaste and doughnuts?

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