Despite the P&G-Laden 'Cathy's Book,' Marketers Aren't Rushing Into Novels

Agencies Say Product-Placement Rules Still Apply (Yes, There Are Some)

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LOS ANGELES -- When "Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233" hits store shelves this month, the novel, which prominently integrates Cover Girl makeup in its pages, will become the latest tome to stir up discussion over the placement of products in literature.
'Cathy's Book' includes mentions of P&G products such as Lipslicks lip gloss.

The book, aimed at teens, follows in the footsteps of "The Devil Wears Prada," "The Bulgari Collection" and "You Drive Me Crazy," high-profile novels that plugged brands into their pages. And it certainly won't be the last.

Brand placement in books slow to develop

"When I first started, I never had any requests [for books]," said Lisa Precious, a spokeswoman for the Entertainment Resources & Marketing Association, a Los Angeles-based trade group for product-placement agencies. She also runs Precious Entertainment, a placement agency whose clients include the Brown-Forman Corp. liquor brands Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve wine, Finlandia vodka, Whirlpool, and the Pepsi brand NutriSoda. "When the buzz around branded entertainment started up, I received none. In the last few years, I'm seeing them for the first time. And more each year."

But don't expect publishers to suddenly start flooding or the local Borders or Barnes & Noble with brand-filled novels just yet. The product-placement and entertainment-marketing agencies that typically oversee marketers' integration deals in TV shows and movies are also being asked to choose which literary projects their clients' products might appear in.

And like Ms. Precious' company, they have yet to see a flood of requests come in -- at least not enough to make placements in books a major part of their business.

"It hasn't become a big business," said Devery Holmes, president of Norm Marshall and Associates, that reps such firms as General Motors Corp., Sears and Heineken. "So often it's a function of what the brand objective is, what their budget is and what makes most sense. [Placement in books] hasn't gone to the top of the list."

Tom Meyer, president of Davie-Brown Entertainment, whose client list includes Pepsi, Hewlett Packard and Reebok, agrees. "The publishing side of the integration business hasn't really been borne out the way we thought it would have been. It's defaulted to the traditional stuff."

First-timers with an 'entrepreneurial spirit'

Many of the pitches are coming from unknown or first-time scribes, mirroring the growing movement by first-time or independent filmmakers to try to court marketers for their movies in order to get them funded, distributed or just promoted.

For the authors, the thinking is that landing major marketers will help them land publishers for their manuscripts, because brands give them instant validity. They could collect something similar to a producer's fee for plugging the products. After all, Fay Weldon was paid by Italian jewelry maker Bulgari for "The Bulgari Collection." And there's the potential marketing support a big brand could provide once it's released -- as P&G is providing for "Cathy's Book."

"Some of the savvy writers are asking the same questions that independent producers would be asking," Ms. Precious said. "They're smart. They have the entrepreneurial spirit. They're hearing about product placement and sensing that it's a viable thing to do and one that could be beneficial. Everyone can benefit from a great cross-promotional marketing program."

But landing that brand could be harder than writers may think.

Just like when it comes to independent films, product-placement agencies aren't quick to say yes. In fact, they most often turn down the offers they get. That's because the projects usually don't meet the guidelines marketers' gatekeepers have come up with.

Evaluating book tie-in opportunities

"We would evaluate it the same way we evaluate other placement-integration opportunities," Mr. Meyer said. "There's no reason why we wouldn't evaluate it any differently."

Those guidelines include:

Does the book have a publisher? If it's a well-known publisher, an author is on much more stable ground.

How big is the writer? How many credits does the writer have? If it's a well-known author, there's a better chance a deal will get made.

What's the target audience for the book? Is it being aimed at a small, select demographic, or more of a mass readership?

What is the product association in the scene? What happens in the scene that the product would be written into? Is the product being used in a positive way?

What is the product association with the character? Brand reps say they want positive associations with heroes and more or less stay away from the villains.

How much will the integration cost? What would it cost to build a promotional program around the book?

"All of the same principals apply to books as it does to movies," Ms. Precious said. "We won't take a risk on an unknown writer or an unknown property ... unless the property is so perfect." Product-placement executives joke that they probably wouldn't have said yes to books like "The Kite Runner" or "To Kill a Mockingbird," which were from first-time scribes.

Just like TV shows or movies, writers don't necessarily have to get the permission of marketers to integrate brands. But it could help.

'Win-win to pair up with someone'

"I don't think that in the old days there was much of a thought process to it," Ms. Precious said. "They wrote them in all the time. Now it's safer if anything's slightly identifiable. People have the idea that there's a mutual win-win to pair up with someone."

That was certainly the case for "Cathy's Book."

The novel, about a 17-year-old girl determined to discover why she was dumped by her boyfriend who mysteriously disappears, prominently integrates Procter & Gamble's Cover Girl "Shimmering Onyx" eye shadow and "Metallic Rose" lipstick, as well as Lipslicks, a line of lip gloss, into the plot.

As previously reported by Madison & Vine, authors Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman originally wrote the book with other brands, such as Clinique, in mind, or none at all, mentioning generic makeup colors in lieu of actual products.

They were able to land Cover Girl because the book appeals to young girls -- the same audience P&G is hoping to reach on, the teen website where it's promoting the novel. The authors' reps at Creative Artists Agency introduced the manuscript to executives at P&G, which the talent agency also represents in Hollywood.

No money changing hands

Neither the writers nor the publisher (Running Press, a unit of Perseus Books Group) are receiving money for integrating the products. That's pretty standard, in fact, for such deals. It is rare for a brand to pony up anything other than marketing dollars for an integration in a TV show or film. The same is true for books.

"Even in the independent and feature-film space, our goal is to waive a fee for placement in lieu of a promotional relationship," Ms. Holmes said.

Either way, "Cathy's Book" is already showing signs of benefiting from the support. Initial orders of 30,000 were bumped up to more than 100,000, based on the early buzz. And the book's been sold in five countries. On, it ranked No. 12,026 among products sold on the site as of Oct. 3.

More books like "Cathy's Book" and promotional deals like the one P&G set up with its authors and publisher aren't expected to happen unless the publishers become more active in the space, brand reps say.

"Outside of making books into movies or TV shows, the publishing world hasn't been reaching out to clients and agencies for product-placement opportunities the way the film and television studios have been," Mr. Meyer said. "I can count on one hand the number of calls I've gotten from the publishers."
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