Back in 2006 there was a novel published called ‘Cathy’s Book’. In it, the main character discusses how she loves to put on lipstick made by Clinique. That was in the first edit of the book. After that, it was actually changed to another brand – Lipslicks which is a product produced by none other than Cover Girl. Funnily enough, Cover Girl had an agreement with the publishing company that they could have their products placed in the publishers books above and beyond other brands that didn’t have the same legal arrangements in place.
Behind this agreement was Procter and Gamble. They actually own Cover Girl. What’s more they didn’t pay the writer, publisher or anyone involved in creating the asset – or in other words the book. Instead they offered to advertise the novel on one of their websites for teenage girls called Beinggirl.com. It’s a site that provides games, adolescent coping advice, and other things like make up and fashion how to articles.
People who watch TV and films have been seeing this kind of thing for years. They have a pretty good understanding that when products appear on the screen that the brand or company behind it has purchased the rights to have a spot on that film or show.
However, it’s probably a bit different in the wold of books. People have not been seeing this kind of thing much at all in the recent past. Some believe that even the most subtle placement of reference to products could be an ethical issue.
There are a lot of books for the younger adult readers that currently do this type of advertising. They include among others gossip female and the a list. It should be noted too, that there aren’t actually any real product placement contracts or pre book agreements formalised between the authors and the companies.
However, formal arrangements of this nature have actually taken place before. About half a decade before 2006 a jewelry organisation paid an author to promote their stuff in her book bulgari connections.
When that took place, the jewelry people approached the writer. She was already a relatively famous author in Britain. She had already been entering such deals with other companies too. So she showed that she was open to that kind of thing. She clearly had a price. When her agent approached the make up company mentioned earlier they had no qualms.
The book is about a young lady who is intrigued as to why her partner won’t go with her any longer. She teams up with one of her mates. Together they encounter more and more puzzling snippets that lead them to believe that he may be on his death bed. There are other pieces of information to suggest he could be involved in the seedy underworld or a technology related issue. In fact, they think he could even be a killer.
When the boss of the lipstick company read it he could not put it down. He gave it to his colleagues who, after their reading, thought it was a great opportunity for business.
The writer was not too concerned about the product placements because the products themselves were more or less already in the content of the story. They wouldn’t have to change much but add in the brand names and what not.
Prior to that arrangement, Cover girl hadn’t entered such a situation. Given that with this book it was obvious and easy to implement they went ahead with it. They were positive about the relationship because they thought that if readers liked the character they would be more likely to buy what the character wears and uses.
Despite potential controversy, the author had no problem with the arrangement. After all isn’t it the authors work? Can’t she do what she wants with it? Along the way though, it had been suggested to her that she could integrate ads for products such as tampons. She declined those offers though. She felt that these types of ads would be going too far.
Some authors and book distributors have been worried that this would establish an awkward precendent. They say that even if subtle, the influence of having to add certain things to books can greatly affect the way in which they are created by the author.
The author and cover girl responded to criticism by arguing that the book had already been sold all over the world in previous books runs anyway. This was all without the product placement, which came a bit later. Therefore, nothing in the book was changed other than adding product names to the object ‘lipstick’ for example.