July 25, 2006 in Nation/World

N.C. woman offers ad space on baby to highest bidder

Colleen Long Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Mother Traci Hogg holding Jake, and holding out for more.
(Full-size photo)

Every mom thinks her baby is the cutest. Traci Hogg has turned that conviction into a business – if not an obsession.

Hogg thinks her 15-month-old Jake is so adorable that someone will want to fork over $100,000 to use him as advertising for a year. She started a Web site, www.buyjake.com, where companies can bid on her son.

“When I’m taking him places, everyone seems to notice him and notice what he’s wearing,” she said from her home in Huntersville, N.C. “They always say he wears the cutest outfits, and I thought, ‘Someone should be paying me to put their logo on him. He gets so much attention.’ ”

If this seems a little like “Gypsy,” or perhaps a cautionary tale about child labor laws, Hogg swears it’s all in good fun. The Web site is written from little Jake’s point of view, and pictures of him are superimposed with photos of Ellen DeGeneres and other stars. Hogg hopes a company will want to, um, rent Jake for the year, or for a month, or maybe a week. For the right price, she’ll dress Jake in onesies and/or baby hats and T-shirts with the company’s logo.

“I really think they’d get their money’s worth out of Jake,” said Hogg, 36. “It doesn’t have to be a baby-related company, but it has to be approved by me – it can’t be vulgar.”

It is true that Jake is cute – big blue eyes, a cute smile and a squished-up nose – but cute enough to warrant $100,000? So far, she’s had one bid from a company called “Perfectpopcorn.com” which puts home movies on DVD. They are offering $350 for one month. Hogg is holding out for more; she is hoping to start a bidding war.

Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist in Maryland and chairman of the television and media committee of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, said Hogg is exposing Jake to danger by plastering his photos on the Internet.

“Who knows what kind of pedophile is trolling Web sites looking for young people,” he said.

And although Hogg insists it’s all meant to help Jake’s career, children in show business can grow up feeling they’ve been exploited by their parents, Brody said, and they can’t deal with it when their careers are over by age 9 or 10.

“There’s so much pressure now,” he said. “Kids can’t just take the SATs, they have to have tutors. … Can’t we just let kids be kids for a while before we force them into work?”

Hogg isn’t the first to come up with the child billboard idea. Earlier this year, a St. Louis woman auctioned off rights to advertise on her baby’s clothing for $1,000. Last year, a Connecticut woman sold the right to name her baby for $15,500 to online casino GoldenPalace.com – a site that also paid for ad space on a woman’s cleavage and on the stomachs of a pregnant woman and a 400-pound man. The child’s name is Golden Palace Benedetto.

The pull of a cute kid is undeniable in advertising, said Walter Guarino, author of “How to Evaluate Advertising,” even if over-the-top stage mothers are usually at the root.

Hogg, a stay-at-home-mom, says whatever money she makes will go into a savings account for Jake. “It’s all for Jake. We’re not trying to use him for our profit,” she said.

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