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Burger King SpongeBob Ad Too Sexual?

Karlene Lukovitz
MediaPost
April 8, 2009

SpongeBob SquarePants the focus of a sexually oriented controversy? Yup.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that Nickelodeon and Burger King immediately pull a new, "highly sexualized" television ad for BK's 99-cent SpongeBob Kids Meal.

The objections were lodged after the ad ran during the NCAA men's basketball championship and other programming on Monday night.

The ad features BK's King singing a remix of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1990s hit song, "Baby Got Back," with the new lyrics, "I like square butts and I cannot lie." The content CCFC views as offensive includes The King singing in front of women who are shaking their rear ends in front of the camera, intercut with SpongeBob dancing along on a TV screen; the King measuring a woman's behind after she's stuffed a telephone book under her clothes to achieve a square profile; and Sir Mix-A-Lot sitting on a couch with two female admirers and stating, ostensibly in the context of the BK meal deal: "Booty is booty."

"It's bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it's utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women," said CCFC director Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Judge Baker Children's Center. "That Burger King and Nickelodeon would sell kids meals by associating a beloved, male character like SpongeBob with lechery shows how little either company cares about the well-being of the children they target."

"No parent watching a major sporting event with their children should have to worry about being assaulted by sexualized imagery," stated Joe Kelly of TheDadMan.com, a CCFC steering committee member. "Parents who hope to instill values in their children like respect for women would do well to steer clear of Burger King and Bikini Bottom."

In a response provided to Marketing Daily on Wednesday, Burger King Corp. said that it welcomes the opportunity to "clear up any confusion" about the intentions of the advertising.

BK points out that the Kids Meal is a "value-based offer aimed at adults" and requires an adult BK Value Meal purchase. The commercial is meant to appeal to adults who take their kids to BK, and as with all BK adult advertising campaigns, it is being shown "only during shows targeting adult audiences," the company states. The commercial "is intended to show that even adults can have fun, laugh and be silly with entertainment genres -- such as rap and pop culture icons -- that have become part of everyday life."

The chain has developed a second, "completely different" SpongeBob advertising campaign for kids that's currently airing on kid-targeted programming, BK adds.

According to Nielsen/Arbitron joint venture Scarborough Sports Marketing, the average NCAA tournament viewer is male, age 18 or older, educated, married, has a higher-than-average household income, and is 34% more likely than the average adult to have visited a fast food chain 10 or more times during a single week.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that no kids are watching.

 

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