Today I see in the Sunday Age that Harper and Collins have introduced product placement in their children’s books. (‘Are books for kids where little ideas – or big brands – grow? by John Mangan). Cashed up kids are the target, and the brands include the usual suspects: over-priced sneakers and cosmetics. H & C Australia claim not to be considering it for their Oz list authors, and ‘have not yet decided whether to distribute’ the US titles which do (and I’m not going to give them any publicity by naming them).
Fay Weldon started product placement, I think, with a (very forgettable) book promoting a certain type of jewellery, and of course it’s widespread in film, but the idea of marketers paying authors and publishers to include references to their products in books seems grotesque.
Here in Australia there are strict regulations against product placement in children’s TV programs but only a voluntary code against product placement in books. Children’s books are supposed to avoid using brand names and use generic terms such as ‘ice-cream’ or ‘fast food’ instead. Vigilant teachers and children’s librarians who care about exploiting kids as consumers will need to keep a keen eye out for breaches of this code in future, especially if purchasing books from overseas publishers online from that global bookstore.