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Parents Group Slams Mattel's "Imaginary Friend"
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DETROIT, Michigan - Parents Against Misleading Marketing, an organization combating child-focused advertising, is speaking out against Mattel's latest offering, "My Imaginary Friend". "It's an empty package! That's it, just a package," complained PAMM spokesman Arthur McGillikan, "But the ads make it look like you're getting a buddy in a box. My daughter still doesn't understand why I won't buy her one, she thinks I'm the bad guy." The group has organized numerous protests in Michigan and Ohio and hopes to take their message nationally through the summer.

"['Imaginary Friend'] lets their youngsters' imaginations run wild."
-- Mattel spokesman, Kirby Codd
"I bought one for my daughter, and they're right, it is just an empty box," said Marilyn Moore, mother of an 8-year-old girl, "But she wanted it so bad. She thought it would ride the merry-go-round with her, go to school with her, have sleepovers with her, just like in the ads. I tried to explain it to her, but she just couldn't understand." Moore admitted her daughter has not been satisfied with the "Friend". "She was disappointed, sure," said Moore, "But she did have a little fun with the box. It wasn't worth $30, though."

Despite a near universal thumbs-down from parents, Mattel defends the product. Said Mattel spokesman, Kirby Codd, "For years, parents groups have been complaining that toys are replacing their precious children's imaginations. 'When we were kids, the toy guns were sticks,' they said. So we have presented them with an option that lets their youngsters' imaginations run wild and still they complain. We can't win." Sales indicate that whether parents' approve or not, they are buying the toy. Codd said Mattel does not disclose sales figures, but indicated that sales of "Friend" were "brisk". "It definitely hasn't been a loser for us," he said.

"They are on relatively stable legal ground," said marketing legal expert Barbara-Ann Pique, "The question is not at all if they are selling an empty box of air. They are, and there's nothing illegal about that. The question is, are they genuinely misleading the purchaser, the one that is intended to hand over the money in exchange for the product. Not the child, the purchaser. In this case, it would be very tough to prove that any competent adult bought the product without understanding its nature."

Some people don't fault Mattel at all. "I think it's a great idea," enthused Polly-Sue Murmkin, "I bought one for myself. We watch game shows on the couch together. I even bought another one so she wouldn't get lonely while I'm at work. I named them both 'Tabitha', since I can't tell them apart anyway."

"My Imaginary Friend" is available at Toys-R-Us or online at
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