Conversational Product Placement
Market research had indicated for some time
that advertising was having a decreasing effect on product sales.
Initially, marketing consultants reacted to this by an
intensification of advertising. Billboards occupied sides of
office blocks. TV commercial breaks became longer until
advertisers began to resent the interruption to commercials
caused by the programmes. Soon, a survey of 200 channels,
selected at random world-wide, showed one to contain game shows
twenty-four hours a day, one played repeats of the game shows on
the previous channel and 198 contained nothing but advertising.
Still the impact on consumers declined.
Next, companies turned to media placement.
Children began to play computer games in which the objective of
the hero was to locate and drink as many bottles of an unhealthy
American cola as possible. James Bond battled against an evil
band of environmentalists bent on destroying an innocent and
wholesome multinational burger chain - finally saving burger
restaurants for humanity. Still sales fell.
In despair, many advertising executives
killed themselves, sometimes screaming slogans as they plummeted
forty floors. However, Suicide Advertising, as it
came to be known, was generally felt by the public to be in poor
taste, as was Hostage Advertising. A new strategy was
All research showed that word-of-mouth
recommendation was most effective and so was born Conversational
Product Placement. Individuals were sponsored to introduce
advertising into everyday conversations. There was, however, one
drawback. How were sponsors to monitor this?
I am a Conversational Product Placement
Monitor. It is my job to investigate those who are sponsored, to
ensure that a designated advertising slogan is quoted at
five minute intervals during each social conversation.
Sometimes I ring: Im sorry, I
seem to have dialled a wrong number.
Thats OK, but before you hang
up, can I suggest that if you are having trouble seeing the phone
why not contact Specs, the opticians who care.
Sometimes I engage my target in seemingly
innocent face-to-face conversation. One woman I approached in a
bar. One thing led to another, and she invited me to her room
where we had sex all night and much of the following day. Not
once, however, did she mention Diostop, the gentle cure for
diarrhoea or Haemorrhoid-plus, the medication you can
trust. Sadly, when I dressed to leave, I had to inform her
that her sponsorship contract with a national chain of chemists
would be terminated.
Much is now done via phone taps, and hidden
surveillance equipment. Also, of course, many monitors have
infiltrated jobs where they can routinely converse with the
public: the police, telephone operators for the emergency
services, the Samaritans and so forth. We take the line that
there is no crime, fire or depression which is so serious that a
few moments cannot be allocated to highlight National-Midland,
the bank you can rely upon.
Sadly, even this approach is not reversing
the retail decline, and I am regretfully forming the conclusion
that the buying public are just plain cynical.