Commercials and product placement within movies provide the inspiration for this writing prompt. The idea is to take an advertisement on television, radio, or print medium and write a story about what would happen if the world was just as they depict it in the commercial.
All that it requires to generate a story that’s a little more serious is turn the commercial into a sinister conspiracy. Imagine what nefarious goal, other than making money, a company might have for wanting you to purchase their product. You can even come up with your own diabolical sales campaign and sell us a product no one in their right mind would want to buy.
A third method of using this prompt is through product placement. That’s when you see a product placed in a scene, like Pepsi in the Back to the Future films. Pick a story appropriate for the genre you’re writing and then drop that product right in the middle of the plot. Why is it there? How can it affect the characters and their interactions with one another?
Here are five alternate realities presented in commercials.
Humanized candies (M&Ms) attend a hip party
Life is one big fun-fest if you drink the right kind of beer
Wearing clothes from this store will cause you to dance non-stop
The car you drive defines your status in society
The world will end if you don’t watch this week’s episode of this show
Based on the M&M commercials I developed this pitch.
Food for Thought - Lenny doesn’t have any friends. Unless you count his roommate Stewart; the only person in the world with less social skills than Lenny. Worse yet, he has three weeks to finish his final thesis for psychology and has no idea what to write about. Then Stewart asks Lenny to test his latest chemistry experiment – a food additive that will make people smarter. When Lenny takes the serum he doesn’t get any smarter, but now his food talks to him. Candies, vegetables, even soft drinks want to give him advice on everything from the stock market to his love life. He questions his own sanity and urges Stewart to find a way to reverse the effect until he realizes that what the foods have to say makes sense.
Based on beer commercials that depict a happy carefree atmosphere as long as you drink their product, I’ve developed a conspiracy to give people something to think about while they’re drinking.
Happy Hour - Nate might be in a rut, but what a rut it is. Energy-drink his way through eight hours of complete tedium and then meet up with the gang at The Dive. As soon as that first beer hits the back of his throat everything changes. He laughs. The people around him laugh. They don’t even have to know what they’re laughing about. This is the life. And then Nate hits the jackpot; he wins a tour of the local brewery for him and five of his friends. He is half way through the tour when his alcohol-diminished sense of balance sends him tumbling down a set of stairs. Eventually, he wakes up and overhears a discussion that sends chills down his spine. The company is brewing up more than just some tasty suds, they have laced the beer with a chemical that overrides the human drive to excel thus making the country susceptible to an invasion.
Based on commercials on food storage I developed this pitch.
Canned Goods - While attempting to invent “Ready to inhale” dinners that a person merely breathes in to consume, Todd Frinkle stumbles upon a method of packaging good behavior. Just pop the top off a can of Consideration and breath deep and you will be amazingly gracious all day long. Fame, fortune and dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize all fade away when Todd discovers a group that plans to reverse engineer the technology so they can create a line of products that will turn people into remorseless killers. Even if he can find a way to stop them it turns out that the short cut to good behavior leads to a prolonged inability to tell right from wrong. But how can a crack-pot inventor, a couple of neighborhood kids, and a nearly blind dog going to prevent it?