Fuse #8

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cabot Gone Corporate

Not too long ago the blogosphere was up in arms at the idea of product placement in teen lit. But since the books being mentioned (Cathy's Book, anyone?) weren't exactly written by anyone well-known, I ignored them for the most part. Now I've discovered that Meg Cabot has teamed up with Clinique, even going so far as to have a page of her own on Clinique.com. It's one thing for an unknown to go about hawking goods via literature. It's another entirely when a much beloved author sells her already well-paid soul for product placement. Good thing I'm not a YA librarian or I'd be up in arms. *sniffle*

One of my co-workers doesn't think it's a big deal. Another thinks it's akin to selling out, big time. So whatcha think? Is Meg Cabot now "The Man"?


At 8:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am probably going to get in so much trouble for saying this, but I have to. I just have to.


I thought the Cathy's Book controvery was a little tempest-in-the-teapot-ish. They're not pressing anyone to buy, or giving discounts. And when it comes to product placement, I'll happily grab a Bret Easton Ellis novel and start counting the mentions of Hermes, Patek Philippe, and Rolex. Not to mention that bestseller, The Devil Wears [Brand Name Shoe. But this?

No big deal? There are hordes of teenaged girls out there who think this woman is God with a tiara. If she laughingly suggests she personally likes Clinique, they will buy these expensive products to be more like her. They'll find the money from somewhere.

Cabot has talent, and oodles and poodles of bestsellers and movie deals. She doesn't need this. She--

Awww, heck. I can feel bile coming up again. Gotta go.

At 9:11 PM , Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I agree. I put those little ads on my own blog and all but pre-teen girls don't worship me (just ask the one I labored for 36 hours to birth and nursed for 4.5 years; not even a hint of worship)...Cabot (said daughter's current second favorite) really has the worst audience for that....

At 12:20 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Tammy, I for one salute you as the gutsiest (sp?) hot momma to ere work the literary fold. By your comments I'm going to assume that the next book you write will not suddenly launch into the many merits and fine qualities of Cover Girl. Though, admittedly, I've just collapsed into giggles on my couch at the thought.

What I can't figure out is why I'm seemingly the first person to notice what Cabot's done. I mean, she posted it on her website! It's not as if it's a secret or anything.

Anywho, y'all are very cool. And, more importantly, you have the ability to put into words the frustration I myself feel. Doffed hats to all of you.

At 6:47 AM , Blogger Leila said...

While I'm definitely horrified, I'm not all that surprised -- I love her books (well, some of them), but really? She's a shameless self-promoter. That video at VidLit is an example of it -- as is (and I feel like a jerk for saying this but it's true) her blog. I don't think I've ever read one of her blog entries in which she DIDN'T mention one of her books -- if you had a friend like that, you'd want to kick them in the teeth, no?


I suspect I'll be swiping the link, Fuse#8 -- thanks for the heads-up.

At 8:08 AM , Blogger Saints and Spinners said...

I think Mia Theropolis AND Lilly Moskowitz would both be ranting by now. I don't fault Cabot for constantly plugging her books-- it's what you've gotta do, man. If an author is going to promote a product, though, I think s/he should take out an ad in a magazine. I expect ads in magazines. I don't want them in my storybooks.

At least the product line is cruelty-free. So are other product lines. Harumph.

At 11:05 AM , Blogger Beth said...

Cabot is Cabot. Certainly part of the fun of her books, and of her blog is that she revels in popular culture. So what if she's teaming up with Clinique? Anything that gets the word out about books is fine with me. I don't care if THE PRINCESS DIARIES is promoted as part of a TAB commercial--which is actually a great idea. I LOVE books and I am always excited to share my love for them with the world at large. Anything that gets people intrigued enough to pick up a book when they might not ordinarily do so is FINE with me.

At 12:01 PM , Blogger Saints and Spinners said...

O I love arguing about books.

I'm fine with Cabot reveling in popular culture. Of course. But what about the responsibility that goes along with success? I know people have to pay the bills, but I'm still disappointed when I see an actor or other famous person shilling for [popular soft drink] or [sweatshop-made running shoes] instead of something that actively needs a little sparkle to make it accessible to the masses.

I love it when famous people use their clout to bring out of print children's books back into print. Then again, I'm biased.

If I'm ever a famous author like Cabot, I'm going to plug dental floss and get Zigger Beans back into print.:)

At 12:40 PM , Blogger Gail Gauthier said...

I am a little bit torn by this. After all, TV fiction (meaning TV shows) has a long history of corporate sponsorship. If this promotes the books, makes it possible for more sales that will mean better support for authors, how is this a bad thing?

But corporate sponsorship for books in general opens the doors to problems. Should this type of thing become common, will we have authors/publishing houses that have connections with corporate marketers? If so, how will this influence the content of books? If I'm a publisher with a relationship with a corporate sponsor, will I be careful to only publish books that won't offend my corporate sponsor? If I'm a big name writer with a corporate sponsor, will that have an impact on what I write?

And what about book banning issues? Nowadays, groups act locally--they usually just want a book pulled from their local school or library. But if authors/publishers have relationships with corporate sponsors, banners will be able to work on much bigger scales by encouraging bans of the sponsors products in the hopes that they will put pressure on the author/publisher. It's been done with television programs.

I know I'm talking about things that don't pertain to what Meg Cabot is doing with this particular book. But this whole product placement thing could be the beginning of something that could radically change publishing.

At 2:12 PM , Blogger Greg Pincus said...

Gail -- I do think you speak EXACTLY to what Meg Cabot is doing -- the specific case is one thing (and frankly, she has earned the right to do what she wants and I know nothing of her needs/finances) but it's the broader implications that need to be thought about.

Product placement on TV (and in movies) is a constant now, but I have yet to hear of a case where the PLOT of a show was altered by corporate pressure. Two extra seconds of screen time for a car logo? Sure. The director having to plan a shot to get that in? Ya, that happens, and that does start to leak into the creative side. But so far, no pressure has been exerted to change story points (though I'm sure some sponsors have refused product placement over story concerns). Still, does this balance have to impact what a writer writes? And is that anyone's business other than that writer? At least she's being totally public about it. Imagine if the deal was NOT public knowledge.

The censorship/corporate thang is also worrisome. None of us have seen Meg Cabot's deal, but I'd be surprised if it has content related clauses. But what if?

Again, just like Fuse considering ads on her blog, Meg Cabot is treating her writing "celebrity" as business. We might not approve of her choice, but we aren't her, don't know the specifics of the deal, and can always vote with our dollars.

At 2:14 PM , Blogger Colleen said...

What I find really interesting about this is that she chose a company that does not need any of Meg Cabot's help when it comes to promotion. It's not like Clinique isn't doing just fine selling its products anyway - and its not like teen girls need help figuring out that makeup exists. Really, the only reason anyone would do this is for the money - that's it. Cabot's books already sell hugely and so do Clinique's products. So they team up strictly to sell more.

And that's where you have to ask the question - do we hold an author to a higher standard then the folks who create a tv program or movie? For me, I just think this whole thing is a bit crass. There is no reason for it - it's not like the Devil Wears Prada which, love it or hate it, made a point with it's title - you got a picture of that woman based on the brand she chose. (Plus she worked at a fashion mag for God's sake.) Cabot's stories will not be enhanced by her characters choosing Clinique, by her books carrying a Clinique label, or by her signing books at the Clinique counter. Clearly, she needs more money and that's her choice but then you do get into the sellout issue. Is she going to have characters do something they wouldn't normally do for the sake of making Clinique happy? I watch Gilmore Girls all the time and they buy makeup but they don't tell me what brand it is. Do I need to know the brand to enjoy the show? And slowing the plot enough to tell me the brand (on tv or in a book) - doesn't that damage the story?

In other words, who are you writing for Ms. Cabot - teenage girls or the folks who want to sell them something?

And please, don't try to give us this crap that you care so much about teen girls that you signed up with a cosmetics company. Just say you're in it for the money and at least we will still be able to respect you for being honest.

At 3:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a confession to make. I have to hang my head in shame.

I have done a commercial plug. No, really, I did. In the Protector of the Small books, Raven Armory, over whose works the pages and squires drool, is a real armoury in England, that makes truly gorgeous weaponry. But I didn't make any kind of deal with them, I swear! (I don't think they even know I named my drool-worthy armory for them.)

And I believe in the product!

So does this make me a hypocrite? I don't know. But then, I have yet to hear of any of my fans popping out fifteen hundred pounds for a Raven sword, as opposed to twenty-five dollars for Clinique skin cream.

You know, if the brands were just mentions in the books, like Greenpeace in Cabot's books, or the brand names in Ellis's work (or Stephen King's, as my Spouse-Creature reminded me), or even Georgette Heyer's mentions of Weston and Stultz as clothiers, I would just consider that texturing fiction to the time. It dates a book, but at least in the cases of King and Heyer, it's also meant to evoke a particular time and milieu (and may well prove the same for Ellis and Prada's writer).

And we do have merchandising for kids' books--I own Stellaluna stuffies, for cryin' out loud! I know it's been done. It just really bothers me here. For five years I helped to run a board with a sizeable Cabot fan collection. I know how devoted they are. And I know they're going to listen to Meg, because they respect her.

This does raise the specter of future censorship by sponsors, certainly. At this point, they're welcome to join the hordes of other people looking to censor teenlit. We'll fight them, too. And maybe I'm a hypocrite, with my little Raven homage. But I also know that I'm not in Meg's financial league--I could use the money--and I would not do a deal like this. I wouldn't want to peddle something like this to fans who would be all too likely to buy, because I suggested it.

At 1:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK you for bringing this up. When I read her blog and she gushed about how she was teaming up with Clinique and how great their line of products were, I rolled my eyes. It would have been different if she was a fan of it from the beginning (like Tab), but to suddenly think it's the best skincare line in the world because someone's paying you to think that?
Now I have a headache. I think I'll take a couple Excedrin (the headache medicine) and wash them down with some Pepsi (the choice of a new generation).

At 12:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No problem with an author mentioning a specific product in a story. None at all. Not if it's right for the story. But this particular type of a deal... it's hard to define exactly why and how it crosses a line. But it does. I guess, it's like another post mentioned--whose tune are you truly dancing to. The Muse or the "La Muse Creme" by Clinique.

At 10:10 PM , Blogger Literaticat said...

I posted a comment on someone else's journal about this. As a bookseller, I have a slightly different perspective:

Maybe Clinique will give me lots of free things to give away at my event with Meg!

(Will Sell Out For Cosmetics)

In all seriousness - if it makes someone pay full price for a hardcover... I mean, err, read - who wouldn't normally, then I have to say fair enough.

It's like this Starbucks / Mitch Albom thing - It won't affect my sales, because the sort of people who will buy a book in Starbucks probably wouldn't be shopping in my store anyway. Plus they aren't discounting it, so it's fair. So why should I be upset? I shouldn't.

In the case of Meg - Clinique products are good quality, healthy, and the thrust is on skin care NOT makeup. It isn't the same thing as shilling the Burger Hut or Busty's Hooker Shoes Inc. to teens. If this respectable and teen-friendly company wants to advertise her far and wide, I say good for Harper, good for Meg - maybe a little weird, but hey.

QUESTION: You write a book. It's some cool futuristic computer story. Steve Jobs reads it and LOVES it. Apple Computers says that they'll advertise heavily, feature it on their website and in-store, basically promote the living hell out of it... YAY! or nay?


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