Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Real Toy Story

I do not believe that this book is going to go away any time soon. It is starting to get some legs, and it appeared in USA Today on January 28, 2007.
Clark writes about the toy sweatshops, which is nothing new. However, what is new is his attack on what he sees as the toy industry’s culpability in marketing to young kids. Here is what he had to say on the subject in the USA Today article:

"Kids are also abandoning toys at an earlier age. Ironically, Clark writes, the trend of KGOY — kids getting older younger — is partially the fault of the toy industry's marketing tactics of using sex and violence to attract kid sales."

Clark traveled far and wide to interview more than 200 people for his exposé. He opens at the annual toy fair in New York, journeys to small-town, independent toy stores, and ends the book where about 80% of toys sold in the USA are made: China's Pearl River Delta. Along the way, he adds fun facts to the doom and gloom, including:

* Fewer than 4% of the world's children are American, but American kids consume more than 40% of the world's toys.
* Tickle Me Elmo was Tickles the Chimp in prototype.
* Play-Doh was first marketed in 1956 as a wallpaper cleaner.

Clark saves the worst for last. The final two chapters, "Grabbing Them Young" and "Santa's Sweatshop," may send shivers down grown-ups' spines. "Grabbing Them Young" reveals the sometimes nefarious marketing methods aimed squarely at kids as young as 6 months.
“Beyond the bombardment from television, companies are increasingly using the Internet to both reach and analyze kids. One company, in one day, analyzed 475,000 individual blog posts to learn what they had to say about products. “
“Hasbro, Mattel and Disney have all been clients of Girls Intelligence Agency, which recruits 8- to 13-year-olds to host slumber parties by giving them products. The girls report back what their friends think, and as viral marketing, are encouraged to spread word of the product in their environment. “

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