RE: Words From Our Sponsor: A Jeweler Commissions a Novel

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue Sep 04 2001 - 11:38:22 BST

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "RE: Words From Our Sponsor: A Jeweler Commissions a Novel"

    Received: by id MAA02117 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Tue, 4 Sep 2001 12:13:44 +0100
    Message-ID: <>
    From: Vincent Campbell <>
    To: "''" <>
    Subject: RE: Words From Our Sponsor: A Jeweler Commissions a Novel
    Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2001 11:38:22 +0100 
    X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21)
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
    X-Filter-Info: UoS MailScan 0.1 [D 1]
    Precedence: bulk

    That Fay Weldon should sell herself to corporate sponsorship is ironic given
    the themes of many of her works. This really is one of the most distasteful
    thing I've ever heard of in terms of the media.

    When you have product placement in a movie, even when it's really obvious,
    you don't (well rarely) get dialogue naming brands (instantly I think of
    Dirty Harry's immortal speech about the most powerful handgun in the
    world... ah well there's always an exception), rather they just happen to
    drink/eat/smoke particular brands, or in particular locations. In a novel,
    it's going to be absolutely obvious, even without the crassness of giving
    the book a title with the sponsor in it.

    Does this mean, alternatively, that the attention to detail some writers use
    could see them being sued? I recently read 'Hannibal' by Thomas Harris, and
    in that book Hannibal Lecter's predilection for the finest cheeses, cooking
    utensils and so on, might see the owners of those brands suing for
    associating their product with a serial killer. Bret Easton Ellis'
    'American Psycho' is even worse for this- pages and pages of detail about GQ
    lifestyle stuff (I particularly liked the sections where he goes on about
    how good Phil Collins is- certain evidence of severe psychosis).

    The fiction publishing world has been corporatised for ages, of course, but
    there's always been a bit of decency in at least pretending that novels are
    written to order for those publishing companies, but this is just brazen.
    That Murdoch's Harper Collins is behind it is of no surprise whatsoever.


    > ----------
    > From: Wade T.Smith
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Monday, September 3, 2001 3:44 pm
    > To: Memetics Discussion List
    > Subject: Fwd: Words From Our Sponsor: A Jeweler Commissions a Novel
    > Words From Our Sponsor: A Jeweler Commissions a Novel
    > One of the first scenes in the British writer Fay Weldon's new novel
    > takes place amid "the peaches and cream décor" of the Bulgari jewelry
    > store on Sloane Street in London. There, attended to by "charming girls,
    > and men too," the real estate mogul Barley Salt pays £18,000 to buy his
    > scheming second wife, Doris Dubois, "a sleek modern piece, a necklace,
    > stripes of white and yellow gold, but encasing three ancient coins, the
    > mount following the irregular contours of the thin worn bronze."
    > Readers may not know that Bulgari, the Italian jewelry company, paid Ms.
    > Weldon an undisclosed sum for a prominent place in the book, fittingly
    > entitled "The Bulgari Connection." It is scheduled for distribution by
    > the small publisher Grove/ Atlantic in the United States in November.
    > The arrangement is believed to be a first for the book industry,
    > traditionally one of the few corners of the media free of sponsors'
    > pitches and plugs. The Bulgari connection is certainly the most highly
    > visible episode yet in an ongoing courtship pairing authors and
    > publishers desperate for marketing support with companies eager to
    > capitalize on the power of a reader's immersion in a book, from
    > organizing children's books around the names of well-known candy or
    > cereals to holding literary readings in fancy boutiques. As a publicity
    > stunt, one little-known writer last year persuaded Seagram to sponsor a
    > satiric novel that happened to involve Scotch. Ms. Weldon, however, is a
    > marquee author writing explicitly at Bulgari's behest.
    > If "The Bulgari Connection" sells well, publishers and booksellers expect
    > more like it. "I think this is fantastic," said Jane Friedman, chief
    > executive of HarperCollins Publishers, part of the News Corporation
    > (news/quote) and the book's British publisher. "It gives me a lot of
    > ideas < what better way to spread the word than to have a commissioned
    > book? And if you are going to talk about jewelry you might as well talk
    > about Bulgari."
    > Marketing executives are equally enthusiastic. Michael Nyman, who handles
    > similar deals in other media as president of the marketing firm Bragman
    > Nyman Cafarelli, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (news/quote),
    > said books were "part of the next wave of product placement." Consumers
    > spend more time and attention on a book than a film or television show,
    > he said. "It is a more personal relationship with a book; you can curl up
    > on a chair with it, you read it before you go to sleep, it is very near
    > and dear to people."
    > But some bristle at the merger of marketing and literature.
    > "It is like the billboarding of the novel," said Letty Cottin Pogrebin,
    > president of the Authors Guild. "I feel as if it erodes reader confidence
    > in the authenticity of the narrative. It adds to the cynicism. Does this
    > character really drive a Ford or did Ford pay for this?"
    > The Bulgari connection is all the more unusual because Ms. Weldon has won
    > critical accolades as the author of more than 20 literary novels,
    > including a few best sellers. And her United States publisher, Grove/
    > Atlantic, is a literary press.
    > "When the approach came through, I thought, `Oh no, dear me, I am a
    > literary author. You can't do this kind of thing; my name will be mud
    > forever,' " Ms. Weldon recalled last week. "But then after a while I
    > thought, `I don't care. Let it be mud. They never give me the Booker
    > Prize anyway.' " The Booker Prize is Britain's most prestigious literary
    > award.
    > The idea for the sponsorship originated with Francesco Trapani, Bulgari's
    > chief executive. "When you take out an ad in a magazine, you only have a
    > certain amount of space in which to speak," he told the fashion magazine
    > W, which reported the deal last month. "That is why product placement <
    > whether you're talking about books, movies or Hollywood stars < is so
    > important to us."
    > Other executives tapped Ms. Weldon. Mr. Trapani had not read her work.
    > The company initially ordered a special printing of the book, but always
    > hoped that a traditional publisher would embrace it, Mr. Trapani said
    > last week.
    > Ms. Weldon's agent, Giles Gordon, said that he loved the idea. "Does it
    > matter if you are paid by a publisher or paid by an Italian jewelry
    > firm?" he said. He added that he would recommend product placements to
    > other clients, too. The current crop of "chick lit" novels and memoirs
    > about the lives of young women offers potential for touting vodka,
    > cigarettes, clothing and other brands, he said. "The sky is the limit."
    > Ms. Weldon may have been receptive because she once made her living
    > writing copy for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.
    > Ms. Weldon's contract required her to mention Bulgari at least a dozen
    > times. "I thought, this is absurd," she said, "Let's do it honorably <
    > without any pretense. The problem with product placement is when you try
    > to do it without being noticed." She decided to make Bulgari jewelry the
    > centerpiece of the novel, easily exceeding the stipulated requirements.
    > Bulgari approved the manuscript without change, she said.
    > The resulting book returns to some of the same themes as Ms. Weldon's
    > best-known novel, "The Life and Loves of a She-Devil," about a spurned
    > and vengeful wife. But in other ways it is a departure from her oeuvre.
    > Ms. Weldon customarily writes contemplative, literary novels about
    > working women or intellectuals. "The Bulgari Connection," about 200 pages
    > long and written in less than six months, is faster paced, less
    > descriptive and relies more heavily on plot. It is a dark social comedy
    > about the foibles of the very rich. Its heroine, Grace McNab Salt, has
    > recently emerged from a jail sentence for attempting to run over her ex-
    > husband's new wife, Doris Dubois, an avaricious television celebrity who
    > favors Bulgari's bulky jewelry. They clash at an auction over a painting
    > depicting a Bulgari necklace.
    > The world of the novel differs from contemporary London mainly in that
    > Bulgari appears to be the only jeweler in town. Many of the characters
    > are its devout patrons. "The copy editor told me, `I never wear jewelry
    > but I am going to get some now,' " Ms. Weldon said proudly. "It is a good
    > piece of advertising prose."
    > Ms. Weldon said her publishers initially considered changing the title to
    > avoid the taint of paid sponsorship. But they were quickly convinced it
    > was essential to the story.
    > Grove/Atlantic published Ms. Weldon's other recent books in the United
    > States but balked at the commercial nature of "The Bulgari Connection."
    > "They didn't even want to read it if it was associated with a product,"
    > Mr. Gordon, her agent, said.
    > Judy Hottensen, a spokeswoman for Grove/Atlantic, said: "We definitely
    > questioned it. Then we read it and we loved it." She emphasized that
    > Grove/Atlantic had no relationship with Bulgari.
    > Although Bulgari is not paying the publishers, Mr. Gordon and editors at
    > HarperCollins said they expected that Bulgari would help get attention
    > for the book. Mr. Trapani, of Bulgari, said promotions were still under
    > discussion.
    > Bulgari's relationship with Ms. Weldon could also complicate the book's
    > reception. Chris Avena, a manager at the BookHampton bookstore in East
    > Hampton, N.Y., said, "I don't know how many of us here on the staff would
    > be able to get past the concept to find out whether it is a real book or
    > a piece of advertising."
    > But Ms. Weldon said she was delighted with the novel and would consider
    > another commission, if the product and the timing were right. "It doesn't
    > matter where the idea comes from," she said. "The novel is still what you
    > want to write."
    > Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
    > ==============================================================This was
    > distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    The University of Stirling is a university established in Scotland by
    charter at Stirling, FK9 4LA.  Privileged/Confidential Information may
    be contained in this message.  If you are not the addressee indicated
    in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such
    person), you may not disclose, copy or deliver this message to anyone
    and any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is
    prohibited and may be unlawful.  In such case, you should destroy this
    message and kindly notify the sender by reply email.  Please advise
    immediately if you or your employer do not consent to Internet email
    for messages of this kind.  Opinions, conclusions and other
    information in this message that do not relate to the official
    business of the University of Stirling shall be understood as neither
    given nor endorsed by it.

    ===============================This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Sep 04 2001 - 12:18:29 BST