Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsors

I am not naive. I live smack dab in the middle of our mass consumer culture and know that every object, institution, idea and tradition carries at minimum a small stain of commercialism. This modern fact of life causes minor tremors of nausea when I ponder the specifics in detail, so mostly I avert my eyes and hum to myself. However, every once in a while there is a cataclysmic lowering of the bar that manages to catch my attention and drain the few remaining drops of optimism I have left.

Case in point, these two recent stories from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times:
Chew on This: Hit Song Is a Gum Jingle
Sharp-eared pop-music fans may have noticed a brief reference to an old chewing-gum jingle buried in "Forever," Chris Brown's top-10 hit. "Double your pleasure/double your fun," the R&B singer croons in the chorus.

What listeners don't know -- and what Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. planned to reveal Tuesday -- is that the song is a commercial.

A Product’s Place Is on the Set
In recent weeks, anchors on the Fox affiliate in Las Vegas, KVVU, sit with cups of McDonald’s iced coffee on their desks during the news-and-lifestyle portion of their morning show. The anchors rarely touch the cups.

Executives at the station, one of 12 owned by Meredith Corporation, say the six-month promotion is meant to shore up advertising revenue and, as they told the news staff, will not influence content.
Again, I am no Pollyanna when it comes to the pervasiveness of product placement and both of these events seem kind of inevitable, but I've always been slightly buoyed by the pretense that the content of music and news are sacred ground. Now it looks like all pretense has sunk and the race to the bottom has begun.

This got me wondering whether fine art might be the next sacred cow to tip and, more importantly, how I can ride that product placement vanguard all the way to the bank? I had it all wrong when I dreamed of mass merchandising my work. Clearly, the surer path to riches can be found by charging others to place their products in my work. Bridgestone Tires, please call me now.

Here now a musical editorial from our correspondent, Neil Young:

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