Product Placement - nothing new

Sometimes precedent crops up in the strangest places, hmm? On Tuesday, Radio 4 told me of the fortunes of John Newbery (1713-67), one of the most successful publishers of his period. One book in particular, the ultra-didactic The History Of Little Goody Two-Shoes, was a roaring success. In fact, it was one of the milestone texts we studied at Uni... but did he make his money in publishing?

Do TV producers make their money in producing?

In both cases, the answer is no! Like the broadcast media of today, Newbery made his great fortune in advertising - for he had another product:

Doctor James' Fever Powder! Which sounds utterly awesome by the way, to the extent that you can almost imagine it as a powder designed to cause fever. What a horrible idea, Doctor James. Shame on you!

Anyway, Newbery's masterstroke that set him above the other quacks was one of the first instances of those two 'evils': a) product placement, and b) advertising to children. Check out this passage from Goody Two-Shoes:

"Care and Discontent shortened the Days of Little Margery's Father.--He was forced from his Family, and seized with a violent Fever in a Place where Dr.James's Powder was not to be had, and where he died miserably"

Hmm, what a truly wonderful powder this must be! I wonder I might find it? And then, at the end of the book:

By the KING'S Royal Patent,

Are Sold by J. NEWBERY, at the Bible and Sun in St. Paul's Church-Yard.

1.Dr. James's Powders for Fevers, the Small-Pox, Measles, Colds, &c. 2s. 6d.
I guess there are two ways to look at this. One is exploiting and terrifying children at their most impressionable (in the midst of an educative book) for personal gain.

The other is to see it as a necessary 'tax', without which this otherwise morally-enriching and popular text might have never seen daylight. Which is true?

I don't know. But the debate's resurfacing!


  1. My favourite product placement to date is still really old books that are so think they have advertisement on the back.

  2. Those are awesome! I guess we can only find them endearing now because they're interesting artifacts of the period, though.

    I wonder what people thought of them at the time?