"The Lexus loaner turned out to be a GS Hybrid. To say it was an upgrade from the battered Crown Vic I'd driven with the LAPD would be an understatement. For one, you don't need a key. You keep the remote control thing in your pocket and to start the car you just push a button on the dash. Like on a computer. In fact the car's more like a super-powered laptop on wheels than anything else."
The story is being published in three installments in the Lexus quarterly magazine. It's also available, with interactive features, on the company's Web site.
Writers have always made artistic compromises. This one seems pretty clear cut. After all, the reader is seeing it in the Lexus magazine. There was a YA book a while ago with product placement paid for by Cover Girl, I believe, and that seems a little more iffy, since it wasn't obvious from the outset that they had paid to be there. (Actually, I guess they didn't pay. Running Press signed an unusual marketing deal with P&G's makeup division Cover Girl. Press reports say no money changed hands. Cover Girl makeup was showcased in the book and, in return, the book was promoted on Beinggirl.com, a website directed at adolescent girls. The book included references to Cover Girl Lipslicks, a brand of lipstick, and a specific color of Cover Girl eyeliner.)
Still, being a writer is all about compromises with yourself, with your editor, for your audience. And writers need to live as much as the next person.