A Harry Potter Happy Meal?

By

"Scholastic Inc., concerned about protecting the investment of printing 8.5 million books - perhaps the biggest press run in book-publishing history - is preparing its biggest-ever national marketing campaign so that J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (See Editor's note below) can hit the ground running." - The Wall Street Journal (May 19)

From: Scholastic Inc. Director of Marketing

To: Potter Publicists

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As we prepare for the magical first-day-of-summer release of the fifth Harry Potter book, I'd just like to review the marketing basics so we're all on the same broom (ha!).

Some have questioned the wisdom of hiring additional staff, but given the importance of this title, we felt it was prudent to assign every child in America his or her own publicist. Obviously, this presents special logistical challenges. We've received early reports that a few parents don't want their children followed by publicists chanting, "Buy it, buy it, buy it, buy it." If you sense any objection to your presence from your target's parents, consider wearing the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak from Mattel ($29.95).

At 896 pages, "The Order of the Phoenix" won't be an easy book to move - or even lift, so please emphasize the optional wheels that can be affixed to the spine ($19.95).

Some muggles may have concerns about the appropriateness of turning a pleasant fantasy novel into the center of a marketing blitz involving Happy Meals, action figures, key chains, room furnishings, clothing, linens, bath accessories, holiday-tree ornaments, and novelty cheese. But at Scholastic Inc., we know that nothing encourages the quiet, solitary pleasure of reading like Nintendo's new "Hogwarts of Doom" ($69).

More than ever, the key to our marketing success is advanced sales and keeping preview copies away from reviewers - Those Who Must Not Be Named! Despite the Hagrid-size ofBook 5, some old-fashioned children may still be looking forward to it as something to read. Our job is to help them realize that it's something to own. Don't over-think it - buy it! Remember: Nearly Headless Nick is our model customer!

And don't forget to push the Super-Duper Gold-Lined Edition encrusted with diamonds, dragon teeth, and Bertie Bott's Beans (available only through Neiman Marcus for $62,500). Any lucky fourth-grader with this copy under his cape will magically turn his friends green with envy!

Younger children may not be interested in a book that weighs more than they do, but don't be discouraged. Try saying that Harry Potter needs them to buy his book so that he can afford to stay at Hogwarts. If that doesn't work, suggest - gently, please! - that if they don't buy the book, Snape will kill them.

You can play a crucial role in our saturation ad campaign by notifying headquarters whenever you spot a surface that does not contain an image of J.K. Rowling's enchanting characters.

Hermione Granger, in our Dallas office, recently won a genuine porcelain Harry Potter shoehorn for her suggestion to reproduce memorable moments from the first two beloved Harry Potter movies on hamburger buns. Way to catch the golden snitch, Hermie.

To the fields, wizards! First one to sell a million copies gets a limited edition Harry Potter potato peeler!

Ron Charles is the Monitor's book editor and an occasional satirist.

(Editor's note: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the new Harry Potter book as 'Harry Potter and the Oracle of the Phoenix.')

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