Sasha and Malia Dolls Irk First Lady

Marketing mania confronts Obamas before first weekend in White House.

January 23, 2009, 12:36 PM

Jan. 23, 2009— -- Washington has quieted down. The president is hard at work. The Obama girls are back in school. The Jonas Brothers have left the White House.

But as the first family settles into its first weekend in their new home, an interruption in Sasha and Malia's privacy has already given them a taste of the new normal.

Watch "Nightline" for the full report.

This week Michelle Obama's spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, explained how the first lady feels about new dolls on the market that share her daughters' names.

"We believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes," Lelyveld said in a statement.

Though dollmaker Ty Inc. initially said it hoped the Obama girls would like the "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia" dolls that debuted this month, it now says they are not modeled on the first daughters.

At every turn, marketing mania has engulfed President Barack Obama, from Obama action figures to cocktails and cupcakes. Daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, have inevitably entered the spotlight with their dad -- from appearing on magazine covers to creating a spike in demand at J. Crew for the coats they wore on Inauguration Day.

At Pew Research Center's project for excellence in journalism, Deputy Director Amy Mitchell told that today's rapid spread of information makes for a unique challenge in maintaining the girls' privacy.

"As with news, commercial items can spread much faster as well when you have Craigslist, when you have eBay, when you have Amazon," Mitchell said.

But she said the blitz is one thing when it comes to the president and another when it concerns his daughters.

"The creating of Obama dolls, Obama cookies, all sorts of Obama paraphrenalia, that's part of a free market system in the country, of commercialism," Mitchell said. "People tend to get not as upset, I think, when it's of an individual who has chosen to be a public figure versus young kids who are just trying to grow up," Mitchell said.

The Obamas are hardly the first family in the White House to confront the challenge of maintaining its privacy in a bright public spotlight.

First daughters like Chelsea Clinton and Caroline Kennedy have long put a premium on their privacy. As recently as last year, Chelsea Clinton refused an interview from a 9-year-old reporter while campaigning for her mother.

"I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press, and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you're cute," Clinton told fourth-grader Sydney Rieckhoff, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Caroline Kennedy has also dodged the spotlight, a strategy that continues today as she remains mum on why she withdrew her bid for U.S. Senate. Following the 1963 assassination of her father, President John F. Kennedy, Caroline was shielded from the press by her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

"Her mother was intensely private, and Caroline was brought up in a way that avoided unnecessary publicity," Ted Sorensen, speechwriter and special counsel to President Kennedy and longtime friend of the family recently told ABC News.

The president and first lady got an early taste of their daughters in the spotlight in a family interview with "Access Hollywood" during the July 4th weekend.

During the interview, a candid Malia talked about decorating her new bedroom and giving her father advice on greeting her friends. Afterwards, Obama said the publicity hadn't been "healthy."

Yesterday, Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs said he's confident the first family will adjust to what comes next.

"This is a monumental testament to Michelle," Gibbs said. "The girls have always had a very strong routine that's kept them away from all of this and all of the political campaign. They're very much the same four people that I met five years ago when I went to work for them."

ABC News' Russell Goldman and Jennifer Parker contributed to this report.

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