Everyone In Silico is set in a world even more corporatized than our own, and so I've mentioned a lot of brands. I felt silly about giving companies free advertising, so I invoiced ten of them them for product placement. I got a few responses (though none with enclosed cheques) so once the invoices were past due, I wrote follow-up letters. You can read them, and see the original invoices, here.

There's lots of good reasons for corporate brands to appear in art. Realism, for instance — they're a part of the world, like it or not, and no-name products can be jarring. But product placement is like inviting someone to a party just because they have a car — on the surface, everyone wins, since the driver gets to go to a party, and no one has to pay for a taxi. But it casts an insincere light over the whole affair.

It's no coincidence that television and magazines are less respected than movies and books. Most people not even in the industry know that controversial television shows lose their advertisers, and that the ad sales department at a magazine is more powerful than the editorial. People dare to say things in books and movies that people in magazines and television wouldn't even bother to try getting past the sponsors, and our lives are the richer for it.

Movies and books still have the kind of cultural power that allow us to speak to ourselves in a profound and honest voice, without the single-minded marketer cracking jokes in the back. Allowing the same kind of ad saturation in movies and books that we allow in other mediums means that we're willing to trade off this power for something much less important.