In order to really tap into the methods used by marketing agents, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching advertising agencies and marketing corporations. There are many companies who make no effort to hide their intentions; they want kids to buy products, and they will do just about anything to find new/more effective ways to market and advertise.
The GIA (Girls Intelligence Agency) is an organization that uses “real” (as in normal, seemingly innocent) young women as plants, to further “the business of girls”.
“Girls Intelligence Agency is a unique organization comprised of approximately 40,000 ‘Secret Agents’, ages 8-29, living all over the United States. GIA communicates with these Influencers daily, seeking out their opinions, ideas, motivations, dreams and goals and translates that information to help hundreds of corporations in the U.S. to strategically reach and connect with the female youth market. GIA uses a variety of means- from texting to sleepovers-to tap into the business of girls.”
This quote is taken directly from the front page of the GIA website, and the emphasis is their own. This may seem unbelievable, but it is all too real. There is no disputing the ferocity, boldness, and down right creepy nature of their mission statement. And they aren’t bending the truth, either. GIA has the ability to infiltrate slumber parties through the use of an Alpha Girl, or Influencer- a pre-teen agent who is sent a box of never-before-seen products to share with her sleep-over pals. The girls rate the products, listen to demo CDs, and give there veto vote to up-and-coming styles.
Lauren Groppe, president of GIA, says that she’s empowering young women by “giving them a voice.” There are ways to empower young girls, but teaching them to spy and using their reactions as fuel for product development does not give young women a voice.
Though the GIA is not at all secretive about their motives, their website is very private and is not user friendly. In 2004, GIA was featured on 60 Minutes. This video is only available on the GIA website, and though it does not put an entirely positive spin on the work done by GIA, they give Groppe an awfully large amount of air time. Juliet Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College, is the only expert voice of reason in the segment. When asked about the outcome of the GIA “$lumber” parties, Schor says
“What is that host girl being taught? She’s being taught that her friends are an exploitable resource. She needs to get those friends over there, get that information out of them. It’s an instrumental use of friendship.”
The GIA is just one example of many, many marketing groups who directly target children for their own profit. We may be surrounded, but as long as we keep our eyes and ears open, we may be able to remain critical of the children’s marketing machine.