The Checkout

Are you there God? It's Me, Lashexact Mascara

This month, "Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233," hits bookstore shelves. And some fear young adult novels will never be the same again.

The publisher of Cathy's Book, Running Press which is part of Perseus Books Group, has forged a marketing partnership with Cover Girl Cosmetics, owned by Proctor & Gamble, to mention Cover Girl products such as Lipslicks lipstick in the book. P&G is not paying Running Press, but it plans to showcase the book on a Web site aimed at teenage girls.

P&G wasn't as bold as jewelry maker Bulgari, which in 2001 actually contracted novelist Fay Weldon to mention their jewelry in her novel, "The Bulgari Connection" at least a dozen times. The book was initially supposed to be distributed to select Bulgari clients but ended up being published in the U.K. and the U.S.

In the case of Cathy's Book, the manuscript had been written already before a Cover Girl marketing manager got a copy of it and approached the authors, Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. Weisman told the New York Times in June that Cathy was already giving makeup tips in the book, "so, it seemed like there was a natural connection there."

For children's advocates, Cathy's Book is a new low in kids marketing. They contend children are already exposed to ads worked into video games, television shows and movies, not to mention while they're at school and even riding the bus. Books are the last refuge from advertising.

"Books are an incredibly personal medium, and introducing product placement into a children's book is a troubling trend that will open up the door to advertisers hungry for an effective way to reach new and impressionable consumers," Association of Booksellers for Children executive director Kristen McLean said in a statement on the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood Web site.

The CCFC and the ABC are gathering signatures for petitions and launching an e-mail and letter writing campaign.

Do you think "Where Are You God? It's Me Margaret" would have been the same if Margaret had plugged Kotex?

By Annys Shin |  September 18, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Kids Marketing
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

You're kidding me - product placement in *books*? I think this is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Posted by: h3 | September 18, 2006 8:18 AM

So much for creativity and imagination. The entire world is selling out.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | September 18, 2006 10:34 AM

You mean, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret"

Posted by: Correcter | September 18, 2006 10:38 AM

While disturbing, is there really that much difference between product placement in a book on the one hand, and books that are written and designed specifically with marketing and sales in mind (rather than just telling an interesting story) like "packaged" books, or books that revolve around the marketing of characters, movies, or television shows?

Posted by: pghprof | September 18, 2006 11:26 AM

It's Procter & Gamble, not Proctor.

Posted by: Stickler | September 18, 2006 12:23 PM

What?! Ads for products don't belong in books!

Posted by: Elisa | September 18, 2006 12:38 PM

Does anyone have any examples of how exactly product placement is used in these books?

I mean, I remember more than a few kids' novels where the character orders Coke or Pepsi instead of saying a generic "soda" or "pop".

Posted by: tallbear | September 18, 2006 3:34 PM

Presumably people are aware that product placements in books are old hat. CHARLES DICKENS did it for crying out loud! Arguably Shakespeare did too.
Nothing new under the sun. Including people getting all end-of-the-world over things I guess.
Maybe someone should actually read the book before damning it?

Posted by: Touchstone | October 3, 2006 10:33 AM

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