The Girls Intelligence Agency (GIA) claims to have 40,000 “secret agents” aged from eight years old. Their mission is to spy on their girlfriends on behalf of corporations such as Disney, Hasbro, Mattel, Nestlé, Lego, Sony and Warner Bros. GIA takes its clients “behind enemy lines” to “see what is inside her bedroom, closets, drawers, backpacks and bathroom.” GIA monitors instant messaging (IM) between girls who are “sharing secrets and advice among their peers” and it uses spy cams to “watch the girls interact” with its clients’ products.
GIA is best known for its slumber parties that are held in the homes of their secret agents, attended by 10–12 friends. The agents receive a “Slumber Party in a Box” with branded games and activities and free samples. GIA tells clients that this Box “gets you into the guarded fortress – the girls’ bedroom” and “prompts a very intimate focus group” with “unedited feedback” on their product. GIA claims that each of these girls will talk to ten or so other girls about the party and they in turn will talk to ten more so that “1000 parties connect you to nearly 1MM [million] girl friends”. GIA’s website offers “Espionage you can trust”.
The Agency’s ‘secret agents’ are not paid but manipulated into collecting marketing intelligence for the Agency with free samples, games and music previews. The website where the girls apply to be agents, which is a different website to the one where it boasts of its ability to access private information about the girls, has all the appearance of being an exclusive club for specially selected girls. On this website for girls it refers to its marketing function as follows:
GIA: Ruthless spies saving the world from making more lame stuff for girls.
You talk, IM, email, (ahem, totally CONFIDENTIAL)
we listen and decode and translate… to help companies go from LAME to SWEET!
Secret agents are asked to take note of their friends reactions to products for the Agency: “be slick and find out some sly scoop on your friends”. The Agency recruits girls “by playing to their need to be recognized as special when in fact the girls are being used and deceived” and encouraged to do the same to their friends. Such schemes have been criticised for commercialising human relations and encouraging teenagers to treat their friends as advertising pawns.