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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

If Dilbert Can Become a Billboard, Why Not Dagwood Too?

By Michael Cavna

Back when publishing titan William Randolph "Does Yellow Make My Wallet Look Fat?" Hearst was going all Citizen Kane on his many minions, he used to order his comic-strip cartoonists to plug products in their Sunday funnies. Hearst owned the comics, he seemed to reason, so why NOT turn them into four-color billboards for whatever he wanted to sell?

Six decades and countless suction-cup Garfield dolls later, another Bay Area businessman -- "Dilbert" creator SCOTT ADAMS -- is now peddling product in a comic strip. The big distinction, though, is it's Adams' own product that's being pushed.

In several "Dilbert" strips last week, Adams referenced a computer file-storage business he's licensed that bears his title character's name. (And yes, I realize that by merely mentioning this controversy, I am inextricably helping raise awareness of his new business. The difference is, Adams has yet to direct-deposit a kickback in my direction. So far.)

Playing the shill game. (United Feature Syndicate) Enlarge Comic

I come here today not to bury Adams and his decision to promote [Dilbert Name-Brand Product Deleted Here For Your Protection]. You're all big enough to have made up your own minds about what you think of product placement in popular entertainment.

No, my mission today is to point out that some cartoonists might be tempted to follow Adams's lead and turn their strip into a big fat ad. That acknowledged, I can only ask: Which strips could have the most fun with cheesy product placement?

Sure, Earl in "Pickles" could shill for prunes, Polident or Viagra (yeeps) -- and Dagwood could lobby for luncheon meat (which he practically has), but that seems almost too obvious. Nah, let's get creative: Perhaps Rob Wilco could become pitchman for Ritalin-Laced Friskies (for that secessionist psycho-cat in your home). Or in "Judge Parker," Sam Driver's new Full-Body Manscaping Kit by Nair.

So what say you, comics fans? If you've got the perfect product to brazenly place in a strip, give it your best shot. Bucky Katt is waiting to sell out for the right price.

By Michael Cavna  | January 26, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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The interesting thing is that I had no idea that this "product" was real at all until you mentioned it. If this was Mr. Adams way of advertising it was a very poor one....

Posted by: comicfan1 | January 26, 2009 7:25 AM | Report abuse

A few days ago in Hi & Lois, Hi gave Lois a Hershey bar. Not just a generic chocolate bar. It said "HERSHEY" right on the label. It made me wonder if the writer and artist were picking up a few extra bucks on the side pimping for Hershey.
And several years ago didn't Bill Amend plug a Foxtrot website in his strip? He was pretty blatant about it, too. Well, it was funny, I thought. I kind of wondered if Scott Adams wasn't doing the same thing, but I never bothered going online to check it out.

Posted by: carol20 | January 26, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps Blondie's catering business could transform into ownership of a 'Hooters' franchise....

Posted by: JkR- | January 26, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Actually, if you look back to 2006, there were a number of Blondie strips that dealt with Dagwood dreaming of opening a sandwich shop. Coincidentally enough, that's when the first Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes began opening in Florida.

Posted by: RoyReynolds1 | January 26, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

>>to: RoyReynolds1

Indeed, when Dean Young (spawn of the strip's creator) opened his Dagwood Sandwich shops, he had Dagwood do the same thing in the strip (though don't recall the shops getting a by-name shout-out as with Dilbert). Thanks for reminding what year that was.

For anyone who missed those strips, here's a link:

Posted by: cavnam | January 26, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

a) I, too, thought it was just part of the storyline. Mr. Adams, get thee a Marketing Director


b) Scott Adams needs more money? Did he invest with Madoff or something?

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 26, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Isn't Pluggers already a daily ad for Wal-Mart?

Posted by: jessecline | January 26, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Pastis probably thought he was slamming HP yesterday, but it really just reinforces their image as a technology leader.

Irony: a cartoonist complaining about the price of ink.

Posted by: MSchafer | January 26, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I recommend this be done with every feature on the comics page. The crossword should be easy: 9 across: popular soda pop

The sudoku, a bit more difficult. I suppose the top row could have the first 7 numerals be "8675309" (although there aren't USUALLY zeros in sudoku), but all that would advertise would be an old rock song. One supposes other phone numbers might be used.

It really could shine in the daily horoscope. In fact, it would give new meaning to the word "hor"oscope: Pisces: "Don't stay away from heavy metal today. Try the special on Atlantic Salmon at Foodmart."

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 26, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Well, Pearls Before Swine could flack for zebra meat:

Posted by: Theophylact | January 27, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

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