The Daily Telegraph reports that the novelist Carole Matthews has been paid an undisclosed sum (thought to be several thousand pounds) to promote the Ford Fiesta car in her novel, The Sweetest Taboo. A Ford spokeswoman explained the deal saying: "Young women are interested in style, fashion and the way that they look and car magazines don't cater for that…We have linked up with Carole Matthews because we want to show young women what the Ford Fiesta is like and for them to consider choosing it for a car." Other writers have criticised the practice, claiming that it dulls the link between the reader and the book and have raised the prospect of coercion of authors. Matthews however is unrepentant, arguing that there were no constraints on her writing. She opined “I think it's a perfect match and to be linked with a premier brand like Ford is great because it will bring my books to a wider audience. I appreciate the commercial pressures on writers. Publishing is changing. It is getting harder and you have to explore all the opportunities”.
The IPKat notes that unlike product placement in films where the goods themselves can be depicted, the only way an author of a novel can refer to the goods of an identified maker is by using the word mark of those goods. Moreover, he wonders if this is a two-way street. If, as Matthews claims, she benefits from including the trade mark in their products, can we expect to see authors being made to pay to use those marks? Additionally, once the use of trade marks in books becomes a commercial proposition, can we expect that their depiction in an unflattering light will lead to pressure being brought to bear about authors by the mark proprietors? (This occurred in the US over the summer, concerning unfavourable uses of trade marks in films).

Chick lit here
Sweet taboos here and here
Car taboos here


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