I've been thinking about this whole plug-products-on-blogs deal, discussed with such eloquence and profundity by the mighty Patroclus. Reduced to a syrupy consistency, the deal is this: consumers have become wise to ads; they're not consuming old media enough; advertisers now need to rebuild trust through new media; bloggers have the audiences and the trust; let's get a blogger to say how great our stuff is; oops, blogger has now betrayed trust of readership; blogger and advertiser both screwed; death of both global consumer capitalism (yay!) and, er, blogosphere.
I'm not actually sure why this should be. Does anyone really think that celebrities in ads actually consume the product? It's common knowledge that Rutger Hauer couldn't stand Guinness; and have you ever seen Sharon Osbourne rooting through the reduced-to-go ready-meals in Asda? So why should consumers of my blog hold me to higher standards than those demanded by people who watch The Hitcher; or people who like watching a revolting, talentless, middle-aged woman shouting?
Well, if my loyal readers really think I'm utterly pure and sincere in word and deed, then so be it. But there is something I can offer. Most advertising codes of practice have stringent rules about "knocking copy" - essentially, the extent to which an advertiser can slag off the opposition. Otherwise, those witty, groundbreaking, surreal Guinness ads could use the tag "All Beamish drinkers have tiny willies", and then where would we be?
But such rules, for the time being at least, do not apply to blogs. So here's the deal. I will not "big up" your product to help you get "down wiv ver kidz" who hang out on my virtual street. Readers will immediately be suspicious if I break into one of my customary tirades about Radiohead and Baudrillard to discuss the merits of a new brand of feminine hygiene product. However, on payment of a small consideration, I will be happy to drop in a casual sideswipe about the complete bollocksness of your leading competitor, while maintaining a dignified silence about your own stuff, however vile it may be.
For example: "Have you tried that new Coke Zero? Crikey, it's a bit rubbish, isn't it?"
C'mon, Pepsi, surely that's worth, say, ten quid? See, I'm considerably cheaper than Sharon Osbourne.
And there aren't many people who can say that.