Transformers Marketing: Still Not Transformed

For Immediate Release

Transformers Marketing: Still Not Transformed

After 16 Months, MPAA Still Ignores FTC Staff’s Request on Marketing Violent PG-13 Movies to Children; CCFC Urges FTC to Take Action.

WASHINGTON - Yesterday the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent a letter to
Chairman Jon Leibowitz of the Federal Trade Commission urging the FTC to stop
the marketing of violent PG-13 movies targeted to children. CCFC cited over
2,700 ads shown on children’s television stations for four of this
summer’s violent PG-13 blockbusters including Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek, Terminator Salvation,
and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The commercials were shown between
6:00 am and 8:00 pm on children’s stations such as
Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, and include ads for the films, as well as
movie-related licensed toys and Burger King Kid’s Meal promotions.

CCFC’s appeal comes two years after the national advocacy
organization first urged the FTC to act on the marketing of PG-13 movies.
CCFC’s initial request was spurred by the 2007 premiere of the first Transformers film which was marketed to
children as young as two through ads, toys, and food promotions. In response to
CCFC’s initial complaint, the staff of the FTC urged theo Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA) to devise a marketing plan for PG-13 films that
is “consistent with the rating.”

“Because the MPAA continues to ignore the FTC’s request,
this summer preschoolers are once again being subjected to a barrage of
advertising for violent PG-13 blockbusters,” said Susan
Linn, CCFC’s Director and a psychologist at Judge Baker
Children’s Center. “When it comes to the film industry and
children’s wellbeing, it’s clear that self-regulation has
failed.”

From March 17th to June 14th, CCFC tracked over 2,700 commercials for
the violent PG-13 movies, as well as ads for associated toys and Burger King
Kid’s Meals, shown between 6:00 am
and 8:00 pm, on children’s
channels. CCFC found that, of the 915 ads for licensed toys associated with the
films, 68% were shown before 5:00 pm,
a time when very young children are even more likely to be watching. Two of the
films, Star Trek and Transformers, have Kid’s Meal
promotions. Of the 487 Star Trek-related
Burger King Kid’s Meal promotions, 349, or 72% were found by CCFC to have
been shown before 5:00 pm. Ads for
Transformer-related Burger King
commercials began airing on June 22nd.  

Professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige, author of Taking Back Childhood and a CCFC Steering Committee member
said, “Research shows that children are more affected by the violent acts
they see on the screen than adults and that they are less able to understand
them in the context of character, motive, and plot. Because of this, children
are especially vulnerable to the desensitizing effects of violence in
entertainment.”

She added, “Marketing violent PG-13 movies on children's
television stations is harmful to children and confusing for parents. When
PG-13 films come with toys and Kid’s Meal promotions, parents think these
films are fine for children to see but they are not."

Research shows that many of the PG-13 films routinely marketed to
children as young as seven today–and often marketed to
preschoolers–are films that would have been rated R fifteen years ago.
Noting that, CCFC’s letter said, “Despite the urging of the FTC,
parents, advocacy groups, and CARU, the MPAA has refused to develop
and enforce an explicit policy for the marketing of PG-13 movies. As a result,
PG-13 films–including movies with significant violent content–are
consistently marketed in a manner that contradicts the 'Parents Strongly
Cautioned' message accompanying their PG-13 rating.”

Added Dr. Linn, “It’s bad enough that movie companies advertise
violent, PG-13 films on children’s channels before 8:00 pm. But marketing the films through ads
for licensed toys and kid’s meals is especially unfair and deceptive. For
years, the FTC has expressed concern about violent, PG-13 movies being promoted
to children. Now the Commission needs to act.”

CCFC’s full FTC complaint is available at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/lettertoftcjune09.pdf.

The FTC’s January, 2008 recommendation to the MPAA is available
at

http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/mengleletter.pdf.

 

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The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).

 

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