An opinion piece in last week's Monitor discussed the publicity tactic known as product placement. Companies that make soft drinks and other hip consumer goods are paying top dollars to movie makers so popular brands will be seen and talked about on the big screen.
No one should be surprised that folks who devote their careers to advertising and marketing are constantly seeking new venues for commercial development. I'm just wondering when the trend will come crashing through my front door.
Musing on the possibilities, I settled into an overstuffed chair, and the following scenario suddenly flickered out from the projection booth of my imagination: I was standing in front of a refrigerator, very thirsty. But a surprise awaited me inside the chilly monolith. It was packed with containers of one specific beverage.
"Honey!" I called to my wife. "Why is the fridge loaded with Glug citrus cooler? Nobody here drinks Glug."
"We do now," she replied, emerging from the den with a can of Diet-Glug in one hand. "Glug just made a deal with our schools. The district gets a huge infusion of cash in return for serving Glug exclusively in every cafeteria and vending machine. And I signed up for their neighborhood promotional campaign."
"So we're getting big bucks, too?" I asked, excitedly.
"Not yet," she answered. "Since we aren't celebrities with proven market impact, all we get for now is free drinks. But if Glug sales increase significantly at local stores, we'll qualify for a monthly stipend, or coupons for other Glug products."
"I'm not sure how I feel about this," I said. "I want to take a walk and mull it over."
"Fine," she said, striding to the hall closet. "The contract also requires anyone leaving the house to carry or display an item of Glug gear, like this jacket."
She handed me a yellowish-green windbreaker emblazoned with a cloud of tiny bubbles that spelled out "Chug Some Glug!"
"I can't wear that," I said. "The color is awful!"
The phone rang, and when I picked up the receiver a stern voice said, "On behalf of Glug management, I'm ordering you to wear the jacket."
"Good grief!" I exclaimed. "Are you people spying on us?"
"Not exactly spying," the caller said. "Just keeping tabs on our investment. Modern surveillance technology taps into the existing cable TV and phone wires throughout your home."
"Well, the new millennium is obviously going to the dogs," I muttered.
"In fact," said the voice, "We'll have Pet Formula Glug in supermarkets before long. And your dog will probably get a better marketing deal than you did."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Because," the voice concluded, "he's already hired an agent."
*Jeffrey Shaffer is a Monitor humor columnist. He lives in Portland, Ore.