I can remember way back when I was an eight year old spending many hours of pleasure reading in my public library. Those were innocent days compared to the marketing blitz the publishing industry has in store for today’s children. Forget about Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and Wuthering Heights. Nowadays, Jane would be hawking product placement rights for appearing in her novel. Miss Havisham would be promoting tie-ins with the bridal industry. What is this world coming to?
Those of you who don’t have young daughters probably see this as the price of living in modern society. But those of us looking at the world our little girls will grow into are appalled at what they’ll face according to this N.Y. Times article:
In “Mackenzie Blue”…a new series aimed at 8- to 12-year-old girls from HarperCollins Children’s Books, product placement is very much a part of the plan. Tina Wells, chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, which advises consumer product companies on how to sell to teenagers and preteenagers, will herself be the author of titles in the series filled with references to brands. She plans to offer the companies that make them the chance to sponsor the books.
…Ms. Wells, 27, who founded Buzz Marketing when she was just 16, is also seeking a tie-in with a music label to produce a soundtrack for the books. She said she was also interested in enticing companies to sponsor the books in exchange for references to their philanthropic initiatives related to themes like global warming that she plans to address in the story lines; one idea would be to include resource pages at the back of the books.So, for example, one of the characters in the series, Ally, is the daughter of journalists who end up in the Sudan in one of the books. Ms. Wells suggested she could work with Procter & Gamble, which sponsors projects to donate feminine hygiene products to girls in Africa.
She’s got to be kidding. I spent my career as a non-profit fundraiser and reading tripe like this fills me with embarrassment that someone could exploit philanthropy in such a shallow and self-serving way. But not to be outdone, this children’s publishing executive isn’t phased in the least by a potential backlash. In fact, in her inside-out, upside-down world such a barrage of advertising somehow embodies authenticity:
Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, said she was not concerned about a possible backlash against corporate sponsorship in books aimed at such a young audience. “If you look at Web sites, general media or television, corporate sponsorship or some sort of advertising is totally embedded in the world that tweens live in,” Ms. Katz said. “It gives us another opportunity for authenticity.”
People like Katz are so obsessed with selling that they see marketing as somehow embodying authenticity. I’ve got news for her. It’s life and reality that are authentic, not products. No doubt modern reality is so infused with mass marketing that you can’t get away from it as an intrinsic part of a young child’s reality. But do we have to go so far that we can’t tell the difference between simple unadorned childhood and the publishing industry’s hyped up version?
The whole Disney (grrrrr) “princess phase” (grrrrr!) of our daughters growing up is terrible.