April 30th, 2009

Multi-Platform 'Mackenzie Blue' Arrives

By Evie Nagy
Publishers Weekly

When HarperCollins publishes the first Mackenzie Blue novel on May 5, author and Buzz Marketing Group founder Tina Wells hopes the book will be only one of many ways that tween girls will engage with the title character—a 12-year-old student and aspiring pop star. In addition to the TV, music and interactive online plans for the property, Girls’ Life magazine’s June/July issue will feature a Mackenzie Blue advertorial flip cover, the first in the publication’s 15-year history. There will also be a comprehensive promotion on Girlslife.com for approximately two months following the magazine’s May 19 street date.

As PW reported last February, HarperCollins signed a four-book deal with Wells to create the Mackenzie Blue series, about the red-headed character and her friends and enemies at an affluent Southern California private school. At the time, Wells hinted that she was pursuing cross-branding and multi-platform partnerships for the property, including a deal with an “international recording company.” In January of this year, Island Def Jam announced it had would conduct a talent search and release a Mackenzie Blue EP coinciding with the first book’s release. That deal, however, fell through, and while neither Wells nor label representatives would comment on reasons for the termination, Wells says she is in active talks with music publishing companies and has plans to release property-exclusive music digitally via MackenzieBlue.com.

Girls’ Life and Girlslife.com publisher Karen Bokram, who has worked with Wells previously via her Buzz Marketing clients, says the book’s premise and Wells’ expertise in the tween marketing and research space made the promotion attractive for the magazine’s audience of 10- to 15-year-old girls. “We’ve done a lot of work with Meg Cabot and her Allie Finkle series, and we knew from that that the story of a girl with ups and downs and trials and tribulations would be a hit,” Bokram says. “Mackenzie will have her own fresh spin, and we can’t wait to see what the reaction is going to be.”

The musical extension grew directly from the story Wells developed for the books. “Every character in Mackenzie Blue plays an instrument, and a lot of their character involvement takes place in their first-period music class,” Wells says. “So music is huge—it isn’t just ‘oh, this is cute, let’s add music.’ It’s really a key part of the series, from Zee [Mackenzie’s nickname] writing her first song in the book, to the singing competition at the end, to her group being formed.”

Wells also reports that an animated television show based on the book is under development and has been picked up by a network (she says an announcement is forthcoming). “From the moment I created the property, I thought of having books, TV, merch, music and possibly a DVD spinoff,” Wells says. “Tweens like to experience brands in all ways, shapes and forms, so I knew that for me, just doing the books wouldn’t be enough.”

The multi-platform announcements come after the original book deal drew fire from critics and consumer groups for its reported pursuit of corporate sponsorships that would affect the novels’ content. In the book, real name-brands are frequently identified—Mackenzie uses a (T-Mobile) Sidekick for texting and instant messaging, wears Converse high tops, and owns a Nintendo Wii, while her older brother works on a MacBook. But Wells says these references are meant only to connect to the everyday experiences of young brand-familiar readers.

“We don’t have any deals with brands, and contrary to published reports, we are not considering it for the books,” Wells says. “Our Web site is also brand-free. Throughout Book 1, I mentioned a handful of brands that I consider relevant to my characters. These mentions aren’t meant to be endorsements.”


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