Idea Of The Day

Extending the Brand

A man was arrested yesterday for attempting to break into the White House. The D.C. police have yet to release the man’s name or to offer details of what he wore for his mad raid—whether he was dressed in what Russell Baker has called “bozo chic” (“all whiskers and no creases”) or whether he was partial to a more respectable line of clothing and a weakness for the “products” of a certain jewelry maker. But, surely, we need to know: Does this man wear Nikes and buy Tommy Hilfiger for his girlfriend—if he has one?

Brands are famously running riot through American and European life—soon, even a mugging in Central Park will surely find corporate sponsorship. It’s therefore not much of a surprise to learn that British novelist Fay Weldon has accepted money from Bulgari in return for mentioning the jeweler’s name in her novel. The New York Times editorial page weighs in on the Weldon saga today, frowning on her acceptance of the cash. “If this idea catches on, how will a mid-list author, encouraged by editor and agent alike, resist the temptation to turn his work into a billboard?” And how could anyone refuse the chance of seeing their face plastered on a huge advertising board in New York’s Times Square? The writers conclude by pointing out that a marriage between an author and a company that wishes to extend a label is never likely to be a happy one. Writers, the Times says, are just too unruly. “Only one thing is really certain. When it comes to choosing where to spend the advertising dollar, corporations will soon discover that writers nearly always mean trouble. They nearly always have.” (Oh, yes; my morning was brought to me by Nokia, Gillette’s Mac 3, Kiss My Face, Palm V, Apple computers, among others, and see you, or rather, see me, in Times Square very soon.)