If the price is right, this column can be yours


Let's face it: this column has grown more than a little bit blah. You know it. I know it. Rupert and Sumner know it. It happens that I've been doing a whole lot of rigorous self-analysis of late, what with a writers strike still raging and my sudden status as one of the few guys who is legally permitted to write in this town without putting his kneecaps at significant risk.

It got me to thinking about what I might do to spice things up in the short term. But my options really are pretty limited. I can't stump for any presidential candidates or publish a map to the scabs' homes (though I'd love to see how that might sell on a street corner in Culver City). I can't go into great detail about anyone's sex life or parenting skills. I can't even disparage the competition. It's all so terribly, tragically unfair.

Then, like a lightning bolt from the sky, it hit me: I can do product placement! Right here! Right now! And I can do it with a subtlety that's so cunningly subliminal you won't even know you're being taken under my diabolical marketing spell!

Pure genius, baby.

This economic inspiration occurred to me while reading a story in our very pages this week about how the NBC comedy "30 Rock" had figured out a way to incorporate a pitch from Verizon Wireless into an episode without compromising their comedic integrity. It was in the show's Nov. 15 episode and ends with star Tina Fey looking directly into the camera and asking, "Can we have our money now?"

If "30 Rock" can jump on the non-traditional advertising bandwagon by poking fun at both it and themselves, well then so can I, dammit. You think the need for new and innovative ways to get a commercial entity's message across is restricted to TV and the movies? Guess again, pal. We're all in this together. It's either this or the gang on "CSI" openly debating the capacity of Lysol to compromise the DNA at a crime scene.

Did you notice how skillfully I just slipped the name "Lysol" into the previous sentence without calling attention to it? And how I just did it again? Get used to it. From here on, I was thinking maybe I would consult with various advertisers (like, say, the incomparable studio Disney) in figuring out a way to balance both their desire for scrutiny-free promotion and ours for alternative revenue streams.

My plan is to term this new practice "targeted media unified literary integration," which admittedly may need some work as it's a tad on the bulky side. While I realize that the arrangement could well alarm journalistic purists fearing an irreparable church-state breach, I would invite them to wake up and smell the Folger's coffee with its rich taste and intoxicating aroma.

We all just need to get over this whole obsession with ethics and integrity, link arms with our fiscal overlords and get with the program -- and when I say program, I am of course referring to the stellar, Emmy-winning comedy series "The Office" that airs Thursday nights on NBC, brought to you by the good folks at Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett-Packard: because you deserve the best.

Don't hate me for being ahead of the curve in terms of embracing the industry's future. I'm not selling out. I'm selling in. Think of it as akin to taking out an insurance policy on this column's future viability, something that could well be offered by State Farm (like a good neighbor, they're there).