A Smart Way to Save : Newborn Naming Rights

by Corras-Martin Blair

Social Critic staff writer


Verizon Glazier wore bright red pants and a green cable knit sweater on the first day of kindergarten.
It was important for the little girl to stand out.
In a class of 20 students, there are six other girls and four boys also named Verizon.
In fact by 2005, Verizon is expected to bump Taylor and Ethan off the top ten names lists for babies.
Verizon officials say their business plan never even contemplated making the top ten list in this decade. But the company's ``birth right'' naming program has proved wildly successful with young parents.
``We never dreamed this many people would sell out,'' said Beatrice Hsu, mastermind of the program.
Little Nextel Nishbaum is more interested in dinosaurs and small rocks that wireless phones. But his parents say it was worth the two free years of unlimited air time they received to name their child after a corporation.
``Listen I was named after some dead Jew in the bible who didn't really do anything,'' said Nextel's father, Isaac. ``Nextel is an extraordinarily successful company. They provide quality cell phones to millions of people. They employ thousands of people. They have an aggressive internal recycling program. Nextel will understand when he grows up that it wasn't just about getting free nights and weekends for the rest of our lives - it was about honoring a truly great corporation.''
But there are downsides.
One of the first children to be named in a corporate birth right program was Kodak Keller. He was one of many adorable young children featured in a series of ads that ran in 2000 and 2001. But in early 2003, little Kodak managed to get behind the wheel of his family's minivan and viciously ran over 14 neighbors. The whole episode was captured on videotape by a camera installed inside the minivan - ironically by Kodak (the massive corporation, not the child).
When asked why he did it, Kodak, as if on cue, told a swarm of television cameras he perpetrated the worst mass murder in Maryland history because ``mama took my Kodachrome away.''
The local media re-dubbed the boy ``Kodak Killer'' creating a public relations nightmare for the company. 
While the whole episode was clearly the mother's fault, the company ended up taking the brunt of the blame. Fourteen company executive have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Kodak Killer case.
``Suddenly everyone was associating Kodak with getting run over by a minivan on a cul de sac. Did you know that more than 85 percent of Americans now live on a cul de sac? It doesn't get any more `it could have been me' than the Kodak Killer case,'' said Kim Smith-Boxwood, a media analyst who has followed the naming rights trend and even named her own child Botox Boxwood. ``Even though we've all enjoyed the magic of Kodak for decades, suddenly when someone said Kodak, we don't think about treasured pictures of loved ones - we think of our loved ones wrapped around the tailpipe of a Dodge Caravan on our front lawn.''