Product Placement In Tween Lit Is "Another Opportunity For Authenticity"

Our sister site, Jezebel, has posted something awesome about the product placement that’s infiltrated the teen lit genre. One particularly sad example features a character called “Mackenzie Blue” whose tastes seem to be for sale before the books have even been written.

Jezzy says:

The author of the books, Tina Wells, is not even a writer by trade; she is, according to the NY Times, “chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, which advises consumer product companies on how to sell to teenagers and preteenagers.” But this is nothing new: Clique series author Lisi Harrison used to be a Senior Director of Development at MTV and is the brains behind such classics as “Room Raiders.” (Also, the middle schoolers in the Clique series are apparently grossed out by menstruation, but that’s a whole other post. We miss you, Margaret, and your menses loving ways!).

Ms. Wells claims that brand sponsorship will not interfere with Mackenzie Blue’s content. “Mackenzie loves Converse…Does Converse want to work with us? I have no clue. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Mackenzie loves Converse,” Wells told the Times. When reporter Motoko Rich asked her if she would refuse a lucrative contract from Nike even though Mackenzie is a “Converse girl,” Wells said, “Maybe another character could become a Nike girl.” Don’t you see, brands won’t be dictating her content at all!

Even worse is Mackenzie Blue publisher Susan Katz. “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.” [Cue gagging sounds here. -Ed.]

Please add our voice to the chorus of gagging. Sure, Nancy Drew drove a Mustang, but if we suspected Ford was sponsoring her youthful hijinks… it just wouldn’t have been the same.

In Books for Young, Two Views on Product Placement [NYT]
Young Adult Novels Plumb New Depths Of Product Placement [Jezebel]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dripdrop says:

    Well, I am one MacKenzie who cannot be bought.

  2. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    The Converse/Nike question is a silly one, considering that Nike owns Converse anyway.

  3. arch05 says:

    opportunity to authentically STFU.

  4. crescentia says:

    Nice…….encourage girls to care about brand worshipping even more than they do already.

  5. Spamwich says:

    Well… at least they’re reading, instead of watching The Hills or something.

  6. thesuperpet says:


    As long as the quality of the writing is decent, whatever. Brands exist in real life, why cant we mention them in books for teenagers?

  7. clevershark says:

    This remind me of a book I read called “Jennifer Government” by Max Barry. Eventually such placement will be so commonplace it’ll only seem odd when we notice it’s not there.

  8. rkmc12 says:

    @thesuperpet: Or encourage her to read everything but chick-lit. She’ll be better in the long run.

  9. llcooljabe says:


    my thoughts exactly. move along. nothing to see here.

  10. whatdoyoucare says:

    I have 3 young daughters and this genuinely makes me want to vomit. Books have always been a safe haven from the marketing overload they get on tv. Now they don’t even have this :(

  11. JeffCarr says:

    There isn’t any problem with mentioning brands, however books written primarily as a marketing tool, with just enough entertainment in them to keep young girls reading, are going to be completely void of any redeeming qualities.

  12. johnva says:

    Apparently to soulless marketing droids, “authenticity” = “product placement”.

  13. Peeved Guy says:

    Authentic, just like beer commercials.

  14. ShadowArmor says:

    What if this carries over to other opportunities, like re-writes of classic pieces. Maybe the Joads had a subprime mortgage and could refinance through a new lender. Maybe Willy Loman could hock energy drinks.

  15. marsneedsrabbits says:

    me = bangs head on wall.
    I just had a related conversation with one of my teenagers about how the book Go Ask Alice [] isn’t actually a diary and isn’t even non-fiction, even though it says it is on the cover and inside and everything and how yes, sometimes adults bend the truth for the purposes of marketing and yes, it’s wrong, and yes, they shouldn’t, but they do anyway…
    Now this?
    Jeezy pete.
    Reading is Fundamental (to marketing to kids).

  16. bobblack555 says:

    Authenticity? Shilling products in a book is rather underhanded and pathetic. I swear advertisers would project ads into your dreams if they had the technology.

    I’ll bet Ms. Katz goes home at night and wishes her life wasn’t so devoid of meaning.

  17. noquarter says:

    @thesuperpet: I think the Jezebel article did a better job of explaining the omnipresence of the ads. The point is that the writing is absolutely not decent, but just a vehicle for advertising references. The reviewer said of a similar book: “In fact, it broke down to 1.8 brand mentions per page, which is staggering when you consider that each page had about 160 words.”

    And they were brands like Neiman Marcus, Prada, and “Chantico drinking chocolate,” not Cover Girl.

  18. bobblack555 says:

    Another thought just came to mind, too –

    Does Ms. Katz check out books by Hemingway at the library and think to herself, “This would be a great chapter in the book to promote fish sticks!”

  19. tsunamibombsquad says:

    all those signs placed at knee level for adults for smoking showing Joe camel…too low for an adult to notice but perfect for a kid…duh…same thing…there are ads INSIDE school buses. soda machines on campus, and at my high school, a local car dealership’s logo everywhere!!!

  20. bobblack555 says:

    FYI –

    If anyone would like to email Tina Wells directly and thank her for her deep and meaningful contributions to literature, her email address is:

  21. @thesuperpet: My favorite reverse example of this was when the bigwigs at Fox told the O.C. guy the characters had to stop wearing white earbuds because it was a free advertisement for Apple and they weren’t getting paid, and he was steaming mad because obviously his brand-conscious characters wouldn’t use anything BUT iPods, but authenticity not allowed if it wasn’t paid for.

    @clevershark: That was an entertaining book. :)

  22. SVreader says:

    @ShadowArmor: And surely Pfizer has something on the market that could help the patients of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest!

  23. Scuba Steve says:

    Oh we can mention brands.. Just not objectively. Everything is always popular, and made with quality materials and craftmanship. Who wouldn’t want them?

    Buy Buy Buy!

    Anyways, Its not a big deal, the pop-writers will always be pop-writers, and good writers will usually stand out from bad ones.

    Just like music.

  24. @whatdoyoucare: Nah, even when I was a kid 10-15 years ago, there were plenty of corporate sponsors in kids books like the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley. I remember craving Malomars, because that’s what Claudia always had. You could also agrue that simply promoting materialism and not even one brand yields the same results.

  25. bakerybob says:

    “…whose tastes seem to be for sale before the books have even been written.”

    Not saying that product placement is a good thing, but when else could placement possibly be sold, except for before the books are written?

  26. CyberSkull says:

    I’m not gagging at this. More like vomiting blood if I ever even pick up this dreck.