Product Placement: Modern and Victorian

At this point, product placement as an advertisement method is an idea firmly embedded into the media psyche. Quite famously, films like E.T. have incorporated real-life products into their plots, while others mention products in passing or have them visible in the background. Considering the massive commercialization that exists today, this concept is not hard to too grasp, but it’s harder to imagine it dating back to time periods before such widespread capitalism. So, while this practice is fairly common now, just how far back does it date?

Well, I recently came across an interesting article concerning Charles Dickens and this common phenomenon. Apparently, Dickens’ friend Edmund Yates once claimed that Dickens had refused an offer from Holloway’s Pills and Ointments to include a line in one of his stories that complimented the product in exchange for money. In its heyday, Holloway’s Pills and Ointments was one of the most lucrative businesses of its kind, and its proprietor Thomas Holloway was one of the richest men in England. So, to refuse an offer like this, especially since Dickens seems to be quite interested in the financial benefits of advertising, is quite interesting. Perhaps Dickens felt that his written works were above the lesser-art of advertising. Though many people speculate that Yates’ story might not actually be true, it is still very fascinating to consider the possible motives that Dickens would have to refuse such an offer. Additionally, the fact that product placement was a phenomenon that existed back in mid-19th-century Victorian England is fun to think about. Perhaps the advertising methods of Dickens day and our current advertising methods are not so different after all.

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