P&G’s Cover Girl’s Product Placement In Cathy’s Book

Procter & Gamble has signed a marketing deal with the publisher of a new “interactive” novel to promote its Cover Girl make-up brand in a new form of literary product placement.


“Cathy’s Book: If Found Call (650) 266 8233”, described as a genre-bending mystery for young adults has become one of the few books to collaborate with a brand in a product placement deal with Procter & Gamble. The book, about a teen determined to find out why her boyfriend dumps her before then mysteriously disappearing, will feature P&G products such as Cover Girl’s “Shimmering Onyx” eye shadow and “Metallic Rose” lipstick woven into the narrative.


Neither the authors, games developer Sean Stewart and fantasy novelist Jordan Weisman, or the publisher Persues Book Group, have actually been paid a flat fee for the the placement. Instead, P&G will promote the book through its own teen girl targeted website www.beinggirl.com


The deal came after Weisman’s agent showed the manuscript to P&G marketers, who offered to promote the book if Cover Girl could be incorporated into the narrative. So, for example, a reference to a brand of lipstick was changed to Cover Girl product “Lipslicks”.


Promoting the book online seems appropriate for an interactive novel that sees readers provided with working mobile phone numbers, voicemail messages and real website addresses that work and thus establish fictional people, places and companies as semi-living entities. Readers can Google the company names and dial the numbers to retrieve voicemail messages, in a move that Perseus claims will enhance their experience of the story.


The design of Cathy’s Book was also linked to the deal. Its creative appearance mimicked that of a high school student’s journal, complete with doodles. Some of those doodles also feature the P&G brand: Scrawls on one page include “UnderCover Girl,” “Waterproof Mascara in Very Black” and “Eyecolor in Midnight Metal”.


“It’s a pretty revolutionary idea,” says author Weisman. “P&G’s willingness to help expose an audience to this book was very helpful in getting bookstores and publishers confident enough to step up and take a risk on something so new.”




Common place in films, becoming increasingly prevalent in TV, but literature was so long seen as a pure art form free from sponsorship and product placement. Well, no more.


Both authors and publisher have been the subject of much criticism amongst the book world and a significant degree of negative PR (although the book has certainly generated more free column inches than most teen-targeted novels could expect).


Among the critics of this approach was the Ralph Nade headed advocacy group Commercial Alert (which urged book review editors to boycott it) and the novelist Jane Smiley who wrote a disapproving article for The Los Angeles Times.


Despite the criticism, this isn’t the only move into literary product placement. Swedish appliance brand Electrolux commissioned a book it released in 2006 called ‘Men in Aprons’ (a tale of a guy who has to master housekeeping after his girlfriend moves out). Whilst the text doesn’t reference Electrolux, the cover does. And at the end of each chapter has tips for a tidy home with generic mentions of appliances (which Electrolux sells).


Also, back in 2004, chick-lit author Carole Matthews agreed a fee with Ford to include a Fiesta in her women’s novel The Sweetest Taboo. While high end jewellery brand Bulgari paid novelist Fay Weldon for promotion in her 2001 The Bulgari Connection.


Such corporate-sponsored book commercials are part of the overall blurring of lines between advertising and entertainment.


Does the publishing world now need develop a code of conduct relating to sponsorship and product placement? Particularly to ensure that there is transparency and readers are aware of any commercial deals struck between authors and brands.









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