No Placement Like Home
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – I read in The New York Times the other day that sponsors are placing references to their products in Broadway shows. As you know, Broadway is the home of one of our most important art forms--shows based on 30-year-old popular music. There is no more pristine and honored artistic venue, and now it is apparently being besmirched by the ubiquitous hand of product placement.

I don't know about you, but this whole trend makes me sick. My stomach constricts and I feel like if I don't have some [reference to YOUR mild, over-the-counter nostrum that treats acid reflux HERE] immediately, I'm going to die. It's quite effective, by the way. One little pill, and you're set for hours of abdominal comfort.

As I said, this drift toward the commercialization of culture is a very bad thing, as [YOUR franchise business author] wrote in [reference to nonfiction thumbsucker that could move YOUR book 1,000 notches on], a prescient look at the invasion of our consciousness by this insidious practice. Everywhere you look, a brand of some sort is staring you in the face--and not as advertising but as a subliminal message placed centrally into [YOUR favorite portion of the brain HERE]. It's impossible to get away from it, even if you go as far as [YOUR bucolic island HERE], which is a world away from the hustle of our pressurized workaday world, with a great climate, white sandy beaches, and drinks with plenty of [YOUR rum or, increasingly, tequila, believe it or not, which is standing in for more and more traditional 100-proof liquors HERE] and pretty little umbrellas.

There's a certain sneaky allure to branded products, particularly when we see them used by people on stage or screen. Names like [YOUR drink, YOUR golf club, and YOUR anxiety medication] have a way of ferreting their way into our minds and conveying a different level of quality from generic stuff that [YOUR generic stuff] just can't swing, especially when used by [CAMERON DIAZ].

Take toothpaste. Offbrands like [YOUR offbrand] are often just as tasty and effective as the big boys like [YOUR big boy]. We're aware that the only difference between them is often in the packaging, thanks to the brilliant positioning and execution of advertising agencies like [YOUR gigantic, monolithic, consolidated hydra of formerly independent advertising, marketing, and public relations agencies HERE], who invented product placement.

The worst part of it is, we don't really mind. After 150 years of being importuned, we're addicted to the process and we don't care how invasive it gets. We're so overidentified with our captors that we end up falling in love with them, like the hostages of [YOUR national liberation organization HERE]. They shouldn't even call it the Stockholm syndrome anymore --they should call it [YOUR ad agency HERE] syndrome!

Like, the other day I went out to buy a cup of [YOUR espresso, latte, or even chai tea, which I'm getting used to after some time on the West Coast, HERE]. I find it helps me think better. I was already down the road in my [YOUR smart, high-powered V-8 vehicle HERE] when I realized that I had grabbed a T-shirt that did not sport any of the usual brands I favor over my left nipple. Or was it my right? I can't remember. No, I guess it was my [YOUR favorite nipple HERE]. It was just one of those pure, unbranded tees from [YOUR underwear] that you never see any star wearing in any of the magazines like [YOUR bottom-feeding, disgraceful, celebrity muckraking slime rag HERE].

Now, what was weird is that without that little design on my bosom, I felt underdressed. No, scratch that. I actually felt sort of naked, which would be a much more disturbing image if I hadn't been working out with equipment I recently acquired from [YOUR sporting goods establishment HERE], on the advice of both [MY doctor] and [MY psychiatrist], each of whom independently observed that a little bit of exercise might help me avoid [YOUR funeral home HERE] just a little bit longer.

And I'd like to. I don't want to pass from this earthly vale quite yet and go to [YOUR vision of the afterlife HERE]. Personally, I imagine that wherever we go, it will be very generic. People will either be dressed in simple robes of [YOUR natural or synthetic fiber HERE] or laboring mostly naked in a blaze fueled by [YOUR global energy company HERE] that burns away all discernable brands, leaving nothing but the naked soul in torment for all to see.

Come to think of it, that's quite an opportunity for specialists in eternal product placement. I wonder what [YOUR Deity HERE] will think about it.

I guess we'll find out, huh? ■

STANLEY BING's latest book, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the REAL Art of War (HarperBusiness), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at