Editors Asked Not to Review Book With Product Placements
Commercial Alert has sent emails to 305 book review editors asking them not to review a teen book called Cathy's Book because it will contain product placement from Procter & Gamble Cover Girl products. There's always a mixed feeling about this. One the one hand, completely eradicating brand names from everything makes it seem as though one is living in an artificially fake world. On the other hand, reading a book is supposed to do just that - whisk one away from the stress of the real world and provide a temporary sanctuary from it all. It's a tough call. What do you think? Commercial Alert's letter is below.
Dear book review editor:
You may have heard that Running Press is publishing a new written work for teens titled "Cathy's Book. " This "book" is actually part of a marketing campaign for Procter & Gamble's Cover Girl line. The book contains a prominent mention of a Cover Girl product, and the corporation will market it on this basis.
According to the New York Times, a passage in "Cathy's Book" refers to "a killer coat of Lipslicks," which is a line of Cover Girl Lip Gloss. In the galley version, the reference was to a "killer coat of Clinique #11 'Black Violet' lipstick." But the product was changed in accordance with the marketing agreement with P&G.
It is not unknown for works of fiction to advance political and other agendas, but this crosses a line. "Cathy's Book" is in the form of a novel. But in reality it is an adjunct of a corporate marketing campaign aimed at impressionable teenagers. Its contents have been altered to that end.
Will you treat this book as a novel to be reviewed, or as an advertisement, which is suitable for discussion in the business pages?
We strongly urge you to choose the latter. Something large is at stake here. There is a difference between a novel and an ad; and if you do not uphold that distinction, then who will?
Jonathan Rowe, issues director, Commercial Alert
Gary Ruskin, executive director, Commercial Alert