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Meanwhile, in Hollywood, your intrepid reporter slung his Timbuk2 “blogger bag” over his shoulder, and dashed from the Virgin America terminal to a random rental car shuttle. And since he hadn’t the foresight to book a car prior to departing Sonoma, he booked it via his iPhone while en route. Mysteriously, at no point did he realize that he had become a brand cliché. He was a walking-talking amalgam of various themes and associations projected by the products with which he perceived the world and himself within it, um, through Ray-Ban sunglasses.

As advances in online media continue to poach eyeballs from traditional media, advertisers have had to find new ways of integrating their messages to a public, which increasingly has the means (and the right) to avoid them. This is where brand-integration enters the picture – a notion I encountered firsthand while searching for my 11 a.m. meeting with a client to discuss partnering on a new TV series. I had managed to get lost in the convoluted corridors where Lions Gate Films and other notable entertainment brands create tomorrow’s graven images in cubicles. Fortunately, I found myself receiving directions from a gentleman also wandering the hall, who works for a leading brand-integration agency. I looked them up later and according to their Web site, “Brand Integration is the process of building a brand into an entertainment property in a way that creates a direct interactive experience between the product and the characters or audience.” Moreover, an “entertainment property” can be anything from movies, TV shows and video games to comic books, novels and (presumably) newspaper columns as old-school broadcast commercials, and the sundry other means of mass messaging are trundling like mammoths into the evolutionary abyss.

“We bring you money,” the man said drolly, while, inexplicably, an image of a rumpled brown paper bag loaded with small, unmarked bills came to mind. I had casually mentioned that I produce television content under the aegis of FilmArt3 (our in-house cinema brand). He gave me his card and I made a mental note that mentioning money and a second-person singular pronoun in the same breath is a tremendous way to Win Friends and Influence People (it should come right after the directive “smile” in Dale Carnegie’s book). I rejoined that I being brought money seemed like a positive position to be in and gave him my card.

Now, I’m rather attuned to brandable concepts. In fact, I’ve been laboring of late to become a brand myself for reasons too avaricious to share in polite company. Sadly, brandable writers are few and far between – there is likely a reason that Hunter S. Thompson is the only one with a recognizable logo (my labyrinth-in-a-talk-bubble motif seems to be gaining traction, though somebody remarked that it suggests I “talk in circles.” That’s not a bad thing when you’re paid by the word, which I’m not).
Suffice it to say, after performing my lecture “From the Byline to the Brand Name” at a writer’s conference last year, I decided to take my own advice and the results have been interesting. Daily, I don my “action figure outfit” and endeavor to project a consistent image of myself through whatever media I’m working in that moment. The results, like my metaphors, are mixed. Perhaps it was more than mere synchronicity when the auto-correct mechanism of my word processing program replaced a botched keying of “character” with “caricature.” The universe tells us about ourselves in interesting ways.