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

by Steve Hall    Jun-13-06   Click to Comment   
Topic: Product Placement   

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Gee my kids dug through Readers Digest and Teen Magazine and a bunch of others that stunk up the house for years. I'm not going to mention my fishing magazines. Nothing like paying for some bunch to advertise to your kids. Nothing new.

Posted by: Roy on June 13, 2006 11:12 AM

As avid YA fans, the bloggers at bookburger have a real problem with this new development...Why does changing a character's lip color from Clinique to Cover Girl matter? We explain at http://www.bookburger.com.

Posted by: bookburger on June 13, 2006 12:13 PM

Much ado about nothing. Is the issue the fact that this book is directed at teens? No one complains when someone lights up a Camel in a spy novel.

Posted by: liebowriter on June 13, 2006 12:37 PM

... and please don't go see that movie because there's a Ford in it ... and don't watch that TV show because there's a Pepsi can in it ... and please don't listen to that song because Nike's in it ...

Posted by: Edward on June 13, 2006 5:24 PM

the issue isn't using brand names...it's choosing them. A writer chooses to make a character smoke Camels or wear Clinique lipstick because that brand fits that character and says something about him or her...it's a conscious choice...and when product placement enters in, it becomes something different altogether, and, if you ask us, less compelling and believable.

Posted by: bookburger on June 13, 2006 9:52 PM

I have seen product placement extensively in public school materials, and it is quite disturbing. It seems unfair that our children's time and attention is up for sale to the highest bidder; especially when they are quite literally a captive audience in the schoolroom.

I think that the reason this is not 'much ado about nothing' is because of the target audience. In this country, we don't like censorship for *adults*, but we're still pretty big advocates of it for kids! I guess the same could apply for product placement.


Posted by: Gradiva Couzin on June 16, 2006 6:40 PM