Cover Girl Goes Under Covers

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It's one thing to teach and expect your teens to be savvy about product placement in their summer blockbusters and on "American Idol:" "See that Coke cup, kid? That's product placement. Simon would have rotten teeth if he drank that much Coke." But, darn, if it hasn't seeped into their beach reading.

Running Press, the publisher of a young-adult novel coming out in September called "Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233," has made a deal with Procter & Gamble to mention Cover Girl products in the book. In exchange, rather than pay for the product placement, P&G will promote the book on Beinggirl.com, a site for adolescent girls.

Books have typically been outside the realm of product placement, and the fact that this one is targeting young adults makes it trickier. It's a generally accepted notion that young minds are naïve and sensitive and malleable. These kids are worried enough about clammy palms, who they're going to the school dance with and why their parents are trying to ruin their lives that we don't need them worrying about whether they have the right shade of lip gloss or whose fake Louis Vuitton purse is bigger than theirs.

But who are we kidding? These kids are a gold mine for marketers. We're not saying it's ethical, but at least Running Press didn't strike up its deal with Frederick's of Hollywood. There are worse things than a 13-year-old wanting some Cover Girl lip gloss.

But, ah, yes, the slippery slope. It always comes back to the slippery slope. The book's authors, Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman, have got that covered. Mr. Weisman told The New York Times that the folks at Beinggirl.com suggested they consider product placement deals for feminine hygiene products.

"We said while that might be very funny, we think that would be very far over the edge," Mr. Weisman told The New York Times. Of course, that may have been an effort by the two male writers to keep the word "tampon" out of their book.
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