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MPAA Says It Won't Block Marketers' Movie Promo Plans


Claude Brodesser-Akner

Advertising Age

May 16, 2008

LOS ANGELES ( -- The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is barking up the wrong tree, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Earlier this week, Boston-based CCFC launched a letter-writing campaign urging the MPAA to stop allowing film companies' marketing partners to promote PG-13 movies (and their associated products) to children younger than 13.

But the MPAA said such marketing concerns don't fall under its purview. It said it reviews marketing plans for every PG-13 movie, but its focus is on the content of the ads of its member companies, not whether the film advertised is appropriate for a younger-than-13 audience. Nor does it supervise the ads of companies that aren't members of the MPAA, such as licensed toys and tie-ins, because they are frequently created by promotional partners such as toy companies, fast-feeders and beverage makers.

Who has the authority?
In an interview with Ad Age, MPAA President Bob Pisano said the CCFC "is mischaracterizing what PG-13 means. It's designed by parents, for parents. We don't tell them their kid can't see something."

But if the MPAA believes the ads of its member companies are worth regulating when it comes to children, then don't the often more than $100 million marketing partnership blitzes that accompany most blockbusters merit some oversight too -- if not by the MPAA, then by someone or something else?

Mr. Pisano doesn't dispute that point, but said such oversight won't and shouldn't be coming from the MPAA.

"They [the CCFC] have an excessively regulatory view. Sometimes the role of a parent is to simply say, 'No,'" he said.

Skeptical of industry position
The CCFC, of course, sees things a little differently. While that PG-13 rating is usually viewed as a stern warning from the MPAA to parents that kids under age 13 may not be old enough to view the motion picture, to the CCFC, it's merely a signal that Hollywood will be doing its utmost to get those kids to go anyway.

The CCFC said it found ads for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"-themed packaged foods like Lunchables and Frosted Flakes on children's programmer Nickelodeon as recently as May 10 and noted that Burger King's current "Iron Man" kids-meal promotion is aimed at children as young as 3.

In January, responding to a complaint by the CCFC, the Federal Trade Commission largely dismissed that group's arguments against the Hollywood organization, but did urge the MPAA to develop an "explicit policy, incorporating objective criteria" to "ensure that PG-13 movies are not marketed in a manner inconsistent with their rating." But so far, ads promoting PG-13 movies and their related merchandise continue to be a staple of young children's TV programming.

"In their cynical attempt to wring every last dollar from families, film companies are undermining parents who are trying to shield their children from media violence," said Susan Linn, the CCFC's director, in an e-mailed statement.


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