Travels With Harry Hurt And The Products He Prefers

Books were once sacrosanct. Now they’re full of display ads and product placement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Harry Hurt III, has written Harry Hits the Road: Adventures in Love, Labor, and Modern Manhood, an account of his cross-country road partially funded by corporate sponsors.

“Our economy is down and the traditional book publishing industry is down, so it’s either cry in a corner, or do something about it,” said Mr. Hurt, whose self-published book will be available for $7 on his website.

“I don’t think that these particular things compromise the editorial integrity of what you’re reading,” he said. “I guess I’m asking readers to trust my judgment and trust my integrity on the basis of a career that stretches back almost 40 years. The stuff that is product placement is stuff that I use myself.”

Here’s a sample from the book that helps explain Hurt’s novel approach.

People are losing their jobs, their homes, and their faith in an American dream that had always promised a better day tomorrow. I’m no exception. In fact, I’m caught in a lethal squeeze unprecedented since Gutenberg’s press killed the Catholic monks’ hand scribing industry.

I’m the umpteenth million casualty of corporate cost cutting. Back in February, the New York Times killed my “Executive Pursuits,” a column I’d written in the participatory journalism tradition pioneered by my late friend George Plimpton, after 98 consecutive installments spanning almost four years. Two high paying Conde Nast glossies I’d written for in 2008 had ceased publication.

I feel like an extra man at the economic table: superfluous, obsolete, expendable, all euphemisms for being a worthless piece of crap. My marketable skills are roughly equivalent to those of a buggy whip maker. My current annual income, which comes from a monthly book reviewing gig that the Times can jerk at any moment without warning, totals $11,400. That’s $570 above the U.S. government’s 2009 designated poverty level for a one-person family, and $3,170 below the level for a family of two.

In other words, this is no leisurely trip with Steinbeck’s puppy. This is the new sport of sponsored travel writing.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.