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Sneaky Trix in kids' books

When I got the news, I was so shocked I almost smeared my L’oreal Endless Color Undeniably Mauve lipstick all over my Old Navy Intimates velour yoga pants!

A new book series – targeted at tween girls – is about to blow the (Calphalon) lid off of product placement. HarperCollins confirms it: the new Mackenzie Blue series for girls will feature product brand names prominently throughout the stories.

Excuse me while I retrieve an Owens-Corning receptacle for my enthusiasm.

The she-devil – oh! I mean author – behind this series is none other than Tina Wells, chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, which advises companies on how to get their products placed in all sorts of media targeted at tweens and teens.

For its part, HarperCollins isn’t worried about parents like us refusing to buy such twaddle for our impressionable young girls. Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, tells The New York Times: “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.

“It gives us another opportunity for authenticity.”

Yep, that’s authentic! Just like Abercrombie & Fitch.

The good news is that great books for this age group abound. There’s just no need to buy into Mackenzie Blue when the first book oozes onto book shelves in summer of 2009. I just hope they put a warning sticker on ‘em so no one accidentally buys these books for their (Ugg-wearing) tween.

I’ve just heard from Ralph Nader’s group, Commercial Alert, which is all over this one. If you’re so inclined, you can fill out their handy online petition, telling HarperCollins to blow it right out their Ralph Lauren blowhole.

Sorry if I seem upset. Calgon, take me away.

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