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Baby billboard



Published: Mon, June 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



One mother has auctioned off the right to advertise on her baby boy's clothing for a month.

By AMY S. ROSENBERG

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

PHILADELPHIA -- So what sort of person will offer up her baby, not yet born, for ad space?

How about Michele Hutchison, 26, stay-at-home mother and Langhorne, Pa., resident, who while pregnant saw a story on television about a woman offering to temporarily tattoo her body with ads for cash?

"I jokingly said to my husband that we should do this on my baby," Hutchison said. "The next day I couldn't get it out of my head."

Ad space for sale

And so, in a flash, her future newborn son -- or, at least, the right to advertise on his future clothing -- became a commodity for sale on the Web sites Craigslist and eBay, where a similar auction run by a Canadian couple was recently ended after a torrent of bad press.

Hutchison sees nothing wrong with or exploitative about auctioning (minimum bid, $1,000) the right to provide her with logo-emblazoned babywear, in which she will garb her son throughout July as her family goes about its summer travels and sends pictures as proof. She'll also accept logo-fitted strollers or other equipment. The auction ended on Memorial Day, and a note on her auction site thanks goldenpalace.com for its winning bid. The final price is unclear.

"They are an awsome (sic) company and you should all check them out. Our family will be sporting their clothing towards the end of june through the month of july so look for us. We will be at the jersey shore for the 4th of july weekend," she wrote.

"We put Old Navy on my son every day," Hutchison said of her 5-year-old firstborn, Dylan. "We're advertising that for free.

"Everyone looks at babies. We're going to be out and about all the time. For one, around the Fourth of July weekend, we want to go down to the beach."

Guerrilla tactics

Besides, is it any worse than advertising to babies, which has become commonplace, as any parent who's picked up a Cheerios advertisement masquerading as a board book can attest?

"We've moved way beyond commercials," Harvard psychologist Susan Linn, author of "Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood," said in a recent interview in New England Psychiatrist magazine. "Marketing is in the fabric of children's lives -- their education, their social system."

But really, is it any more offensive than dressing your baby in a $58 designer T-shirt featuring a Rolling Stones logo, complete with trademark tongue and lips now on sale at a fancy baby store near you?

Linn said she found nothing amusing about Hutchison's quest. "Babies are increasingly targets for marketing," she said. "What this woman is doing is turning her child into an object to be bought and sold, basically."

Drawing the line

Hutchison's postings say she will not accept any advertising that is of a "sexual nature or that has anything to do with alcohol or drugs ... we will not allow anything that has any profanity on it, no cursing!"

Plus, no girlie stuff for her little guy, due to be born by Caesarean section last week and to be named Devon Joshua Hutchison.

Todd Feldman, president of the Dan Ryan Group, an Erdenheim advertising firm, says the market is so dense that this kind of lark might appeal to someone -- especially with the added lure of publicity.

"It's the ultimate buzz marketing, wouldn't you say? There's people who have sold advertising on a bald head. So there's a lot of that going on these days as the market is trying to find new ways of penetrating through the clutter."

Similar cases

Other recent examples include a couple on eBay who sought ad space for their daughter's wardrobe "to finance college education/filmmaking gear," as reported on Filmmaker Magazine's bulletin board. And then there's a couple from Canada, never fully identified, who pulled their eBay ad that offered to let companies place ads on their baby's outdoor clothing for a year.

Hutchison says her plan is simple: no Web sites, no tattoos, no undue publicity (oops), and they'll do it for only a month. Little Devon Joshua will never know the difference, she said.

"I figured this would help with the baby's needs," she said. "We're doing our normal things that we do. I'm not going out of my way to go anywhere specifically. It's only for a month. I can deal with that."




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