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Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams fell into a bit of controversy last week when he decided to promote his latest business venture, DilbertFiles, a file transfer service, three times in his daily comic strip. This didn’t sit well with some folks:
While this may have small repercussions today, it is scary to consider what can happen within the next years. If Adams succeeds with this promotion, his footsteps will be followed by a lot of comic authors. If you think about it, comic artists do not make a lot. But once you mix in product placement, it changes a lot of things.
However, what happens to the art? Comic strips have always been pure humor in three to six captions. Inserting a product placement in these captions can compromise the three or six frames. Authors have to take note that, while profit is always welcome, creative integrity should be given a premium.
In a recent interview with Editor and Publisher, Adams remained unapologetic about the promotional ploy:
“The purpose of comics is to sell newspapers,” Adams said, noting a past Charles Schulz viewpoint. “A comic strip is a gross commercial product. I am never against commercialization. The only test you need to meet is entertainment – who is hurt by that?”
He stressed, however, that placing images of products or text referring to them could impede the entertainment value of a comic strip because of the space. “Because the art form is shoved into such a tiny box, there is a limited space to fit it in,” he explained. “There is no elegant way to do it.”
Citing the three strips he drew this week that mentioned his Dilbertfiles business, he admits, “I would agree they were not as funny as they could have been; I was serving too many concepts. But it served its purpose.”
Adams added that he doesn’t plan on mentioning DilbertFiles again in the strip, at least not for some time to come.