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Give Advertainment the Boot

Boston Globe Editorial
October 12, 2010

To keep children from being completely brainwashed by companies trying to sell products to them, a sensible law on the books limits the commercial content on children’s shows to 12 minutes per hour. Now, advocates of protecting children from excessive advertising have blown the whistle on a new Nicktoons animated children’s program that features used in TV ads and comic strips to promote Skechers shoes. The Federal Communications Commission should give the series the boot.

The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood contends that the entire cartoon series “Zevo-3’’ should be considered an ad for Skechers footwear because its main characters — Kewl Breeze, Elastika, and Z-Strap — have done prior duty for Skechers advancing specific models of children’s shoes. According to the campaign’s petition to the FCC, Skechers has been so successful in using these superheroes to brand these models that kids shopping for shoes often refer to the model they seek by the name of the character.

Ideally, commercialism in children’s TV would be a self-correcting problem; a cartoon that amounts to a long footwear advertisement could prove excruciating to viewers of all ages. But if the FCC does not draw the line at Skechers’ use of its ad characters, the agency would establish a precedent inviting shows with even more identifiable promotional figures like Ronald McDonald or Tony the Tiger. Kids deserve cartoons that entertain them, without turning them into robotic consumers.





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