Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Product Placement Discovered in 19th Century British Novels

Back in the Saddle Again!
Inspiriting Action!
Feeling Better than Ever!
Neurasthenia a Bad Memory!
Men. Who Needs Them?

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Get Ready for Ads in Books, with the drop in e-reader prices, tech players entering the book retail trade, and the ever-downward pressure on book prices, e-book or otherwise, publishers, facing diminishing profits, are turning to product placement in books to bolster their sagging bottom lines.

This should not come as a shock; television, movies, and video games have been planted with product advertisements for quite some time now. It's been a veritable Victory Garden for the Mad Men of Madison Avenue.

What is little known is just how far back this practice dates. Recently, the Annenberg Center for Communication, established to cleanse  the family name of patriarch Moe Annenberg's  highly dubious activities, has been conducting a survey of nineteenth century British literature. To their surprise, they have, in the process, discovered advertising so subtly placed within classic texts that it has hitherto gone unnoticed by scholars and readers alike. Many of the ads, it has since been learned, were part of an ongoing campaign by Ogilvy & Mather, the ad agency originally established by Patrick Ogilvy and Cotton Mather in the 17th century, with offices in Edinburgh and Boston, to promote fire, brimstone, and treacle for everyday use in the home.

Below, a few examples. Read carefully. See if you can discern the advertisement so well-woven into the text as to be indivisible from it. Truly,  copywriting genius at work.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Chapter Three
I Have a Change

The carrier's horse was the laziest horse in the world, I should hope, and shuffled along, with his head down, as if he liked to keep people waiting to whom the packages were directed. I fancied, indeed, that he sometimes chuckled audibly over this reflection, but the carrier said he was only troubled with a cough. If only he’d given the horse Dr. Locock’s Pulmonic Wafers. They provide perfect freedom from coughs within ten minutes and instant relief and a rapid cure of asthma and consumption, coughs, colds, and all disorders of the breath and lungs. The carrier had a way of keeping his head down, like his horse, and of drooping sleepily forward as he drove, with one of his arms on each of his knees. I say 'drove', but it struck me that the cart would have gone to Yarmouth quite as well without him, for the horse did all that; and as to conversation, he had no idea of it but whistling.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Chapter Twenty-Two

Fanny, having been sent into the village on some errand by her aunt Norris, was overtaken by a heavy shower close to the Parsonage; and being descried from one of the windows endeavouring to find shelter under the branches and lingering leaves of an oak just beyond their premises, was forced, though not without some modest reluctance on her part, to come in. A civil servant she had withstood; but when Dr. Grant himself went out with an umbrella, there was nothing to be done but to be very much ashamed, and to get into the house as fast as possible. Oh, to have a W. & J. Sangster Alpaca umbrella! The superiority of Alpaca over every other material for Umbrellas being now generally acknowledged, W.&J. Sangster also always have a Stock of cheap Silk Umbrellas. The two sisters were so kind to her, and so pleasant, that Fanny might have enjoyed her visit could she have believed herself not in the way, and could she have foreseen that the weather would certainly clear at the end of the hour, and save her from the shame of having Dr. Grant's carriage and horses out to take her home, with which she was threatened.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Chapter Eight

"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?"

I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie comprehended in the answer "No."

"Do you know what I touch here?" she said, laying her hands, one upon the other, on her left side.

"Yes, ma'am." (It made me think of the young man.)

"What do I touch?"

"Your heart."


She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards, she kept her hands there for a little while, and slowly took them away as if they were heavy.

"I am tired," said Miss Havisham. "I want diversion, and I have done with men and women. Play."

I think it will be conceded by my most disputatious reader, that she could hardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in the wide world more difficult to be done under the circumstances.

"I sometimes have sick fancies," she went on, "and I have a sick fancy for my Vigor's Horse-Action Saddle. It invigorates the system by bringing all the vital organs into inspiriting action! And I haven't had any action, inspiriting or otherwise, since the sun dawned upon the day you were born. There there!"

Silas Marner by George Eliot
Chapter Two

There were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall that would stir Silas Marner's benumbed faith to a sense of pain. In the early ages of the world, we know, it was believed that each territory was inhabited and ruled by its own divinities, so that a man could cross the bordering heights and be out of the reach of his native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and the groves and the hills among which he had lived from his birth. And poor Silas was vaguely conscious of something not unlike the feeling of primitive men, when they fled thus, in fear or in sullenness, from the face of an unpropitious deity. It seemed to him that the Power he had vainly trusted in among the streets and at the prayer-meetings, was very far away from this land in which he had taken refuge, where men lived in careless abundance, knowing and needing nothing of that trust, which, for him, had been turned to bitterness. The little light he possessed spread its beams so narrow, that frustrated belief was a curtain broad enough to create for him the blackness of night. Would that he had a passel of Field’s “Ozokerit Candles” for brilliant light, safety, economy and reliability to burn the Star-Lit Nights!

His first movement after the shock had been to work in his loom; and he went on with this unremittingly, never asking himself why, now he was come to Raveloe, he worked far on into the night to finish the tale of Mrs. Osgood's table-linen sooner than she expected...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Chapter Ten

When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention on the school. Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation in a high degree. The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and accommodations--all these things were discovered, and the discovery produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to the institution: Frampton’s Pill of Health. This most excellent Family Medicine is the most effective remedy for Indigestion, Bilious and Liver Complaints, Sick Headache, Loss of appetite, Drowsiness, Giddiness, Spasms, and all Disorders of the Stomach and Bowels; and where an Aperient is required nothing an be better adapted.

Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and clothing introduced; the funds of the school were entrusted to the management of a committee.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Chapter Eleven
Dr. Seward’s Diary

Without an instant's notice he made straight at me. He had a dinner knife in his hand, and as I saw he was dangerous, I tried to keep the table between us. He was too quick and too strong for me, however, for before I could get my balance he had struck at me and cut my left wrist rather severely.

Before he could strike again, however, I got in my right hand and he was sprawling on his back on the floor. My wrist bled freely, and quite a little pool trickled on to the carpet. I saw that my friend was not intent on further effort, and occupied myself binding up my wrist, keeping a wary eye on the prostrate figure all the time. When the attendants rushed in, and we turned our attention to him, his employment positively sickened me. He was lying on his belly on the floor licking up, like a dog, the blood which had fallen from my wounded wrist. He was easily secured, and to my surprise, went with the attendants quite placidly, simply repeating over and over again, "The blood is the life! The blood is the life!"

Yes, indeed, For the Blood is the Life - Clarke’s World Famed Blood Mixture is warranted to cleanse the blood from all impurities, from whatever cause arising. For Scrofula, Scurvy, Sores of all kinds, Skin and Blood Diseases its effects are marvelous. Thousands of testimonials from all parts.

I cannot afford to lose blood just at present. I have lost too much of late for my physical good, and then the prolonged strain of Lucy's illness and its horrible phases is telling on me. I am over excited and weary, and I need rest, rest, rest. Happily Van Helsing has not summoned me, so I need not forego my sleep. Tonight I could not well do without it. If only I had some of Dr. J. Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne, the Original and Only Genuine. If you wish to obtain quiet refreshing sleep, free from headache, relief from pain and anguish, to calm and assuage the weary achings of protracted disease, invigorate the nervous media, and regulate the circulating systems of the body, you will provide yourself with that marvelous remedy discovered by Dr. J. COLLIS BROWNE (late Army Medical Staff), to which he gave the name CHLORODYNE, And which is admitted by the Profession to be the most wonderful and valuable remedy ever discovered.

Vanity Fair 
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Chapter Twenty

The idea of hitting his enemy Osborne such a blow soothed, perhaps, the old gentleman: and, their colloquy presently ending, he and Dobbin parted pretty good friends.

“My sisters say she has diamonds as big as pigeons’ eggs,” George said, laughing. “How they must set off her complexion! Surely she avails herself of Madame A.T. Rowley's Toilet Mask (or Face Gloves), a natural beautifier for bleaching and preserving the skin and removing complexional imperfections. It is soft and flexible in form, and can be worn without discomfort or inconvenience. A perfect illumination it must be when her jewels are on her neck. Her jet-black hair is as curly as Sambo’s. I dare say she wore a nose ring when she went to court; and with a plume of feathers in her top-knot she would look a perfect Belle Sauvage.”
• • •

Miss Belle Sauvage, "The Woman in the Toilet Mask"

All products were real; the text for the advertisements copied verbatim.


  1. What an interesting post! Modern advertising that will be done in books is not surprising, but that it was done in the 19th century (and so subtly) is! Thanks for bringing it up.

  2. Linda, it's just a joke! If you read any of the featured books you'll see there's no such thing as product placement in them... I have to admit, though, that the 'melange' is quite clever.

  3. This is indeed a hoax, but if you look on Google, this story is being picked up and published by newspapers all over the world!

    I think what makes it seem real is the first entry for Dickens "Dr. Locock’s Pulmonic Wafers" is really in some of his books on Google Books. But there was no add agency in the 17th century called Ogilvy & Mathe (!), and most/all of the entries are nonsense, the books contain no such text.

    I wonder if Booktryst got hoaxed, or where this started?


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