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Thursday, November 08, 2001

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Advertising by any other name...

Jaiboy Joseph

TRADITIONALLY literature and advertising have shared little in common. However, Ms Ellen Goodman, writing in the Boston Globe talks of a literary breakthrough giving a new meaning to the phrase `commercial fiction'.

There is now, she says, ``a work of fiction that is a commercial''. It is an entirely new genre which Ms Goodman wishes to dub as `Literatisement' or `Litad'.

For all you know the term might find a place in any future edition of a dictionary of advertising and marketing.

Here's what happened. Not so long ago, Bulgari, the maker of exquisite jewellery discovered an absolutely original way of reaching out to customers.

The Bulgari idea it would appear, was dropped, along with a trademark perfume, on the London doorstep of Fay Weldon, the well-known satirist author who then liberally mentioned the crown products of her patron in a fictional thriller she named The Bulgari Connection mainstreamed by both British and American publishers.

Horrified, her sober peers called the Litad a sacrilegious attempt to erase the line between literature and advertising.

There are, of course, now movies which help build brand awareness. Literature, on the other hand, is a medium that is held sacred with no hint of commercialisation.

Needlessto say, in popular novels nowadays there is mention of one well-known product or another, the author's purpose being to reinforce the narrative's contemporary flavour.

Product advertising in films is now an accepted fact of life. Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies advertises an Omega Seamaster Professional, a BMW and an Ericsson mobile.

The American beer company, Stroh's, paid the producers of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge for a 15-second scene in which Shah Rukh Khan, shouting the brand name, downs a canned Stroh's, thus setting a trend.

Another phrase that describes a certain type of advertising could well be part of the growing new terminology. During the 1990s, Benetton group SpA had become notorious for its use of provocative images in advertising.

The tactic earned the name `shockvertising' to describe the company's use of contentious graphics to sell the United Colors of Benetton apparel around the world.

Shocking were the visuals of an actor and an actress dressed as a priest and nun kissing, as also the scene of an AIDS patient on his deathbed.

Anotherrelatively new coinage is `infotainment', an added draw for advertising. It all started when in Broadcast News the anchor William Hurt was accused of crossing the line between news and entertainment.

A little older than all these coinages is the term `advocacy advertising' whose aim is the support of a specific idea, philosophy or course of action on the part of its audience.

This form of advertising springs out of the coinage known as an `advertorial', an advertisement which appears in layout format to resemble news copy. Needless to say, the material appearing as editorial material should always be marked as an advertisement so as not to confuse readers.

In recent times, there have been some good examples of such advertising as when Enron sought to present its case.

Here it must be remembered, advertorials are used generally to present the other side of any story.

Some time in the early part of this year, the International Herald Tribune carried a striking advertorial sponsored by the American Jewish Committee on the holocaust.

There was good reason for such an advertorial as there have been attempts by some writers of late to propagate the notion that the whole business of the genocide by the Nazis was an exaggeration.

This particularly hurt Jewish sensibilities and it was in understandable rage that the advertorial was sponsored.

 
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