Ads in the Strangest Places

I just finished the book Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. Just like the Washington Post review on the front cover said it would, the story kept me going late into the night. I had to know what was going to happen to the narrator, Connie, and her ex-hippie mother, Sibyl–the titular character.

And as soon as I was finished, I wanted a cup of herbal, chamomile tea.

Throughout the story, set in the 1980s, the characters are turning to herbal tea for relaxation–or in some cases, to induce childbirth. It appears over and over again, often referenced to in an almost belittling manner as a tool for hippies. It isn’t something normal, sophisticated, sensible people drink. It is something that creates a soothing, calming sensation for those who are into earthy, sentimental sensations. I wouldn’t go so far to say that the tea became a character within the book (example: the fish in The Tin Drum) but it had a specific presence.

Tea was not being marketed in the book. At least, not that I know of. No where in the story was a particular brand mentioned, but I can only imagine how simple it would be to write Celestial Seasons or Tazo in front of chamomile tea and suddenly, you have an advertisement. You have more money for the author, for the publishing company, for the literary agency. You have income besides consumers.

Product placement in a book could be even more powerful than in a movie, as the book allows for that characterization, that sentimentality and sensation to be brought up again and again. I think it would really work. I think that people would be drawn to the products in books. Advertisers, copywriters specifically, would love it: 1,000s of words to get a message, a feeling, a lifestyle into the minds of consumers.

In no way am I proposing that there should be product placements in books. As an English major, I feel that would be an infringement on the art of the writing and the story. Selling the book’s soul, if you will. However, I can see that would perhaps be able to float a flailing industry. If it happens in movies, and books often turn into movies, couldn’t ithappen in book? If product placement could save books (if the industry flat-lines instead of merely flailing around looking for more profits) I might be all for it. I’d rather read a book that talks about Celestial Seasons tea than not read the book.

For now, I’ll drink whatever chamomile tea I find in the grocery store and I’ll connect with Sibyl and her ex-hippie friends.

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~ by monifree on September 14, 2009.

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