The summer before my daughter started kindergarten was filled with firsts. First summer camp, first swimming lessons, first back-to-school shopping. Thanks to a school uniform policy, clothes were the easy part, but finding a backpack turned out to be an adventure -- not only did we visit countless stores in our search, but we learned a lot about which media brands were working overtime to catch my 5-year-old's eye.
With back-to-school shopping raking in more than $30 billion a year for retailers, it's a prime time to target both parents and kids. And advertisers know that the earlier a kid learns about a brand -- whether it be McDonald's or Tinker Bell -- the more likely she'll be to buy it or beg for it later.
Barbie tries to befriend my daughter
Our first stops were the usual big box stores; there we found backpacks swimming in a sea of sparkly pink, where characters from TV shows and movies frolicked joyfully on the racks. The Hannah Montana backpacks glittered,