Movie marketing scheme has unhealthy air about it
Atlanta Constitution, June 19, 2003
By ROBERT J. NEBEL
It was my turn to sit through another "kiddie film" with my 4-year-old daughter. My wife endured "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" on her last turn. The taking turns ritual is a fairness rule that my wife and I have been engaging in for quite some time. On one visit to the theater, she takes our daughter to her choice of movie and I get to see my pick. The following time, we flip-flop.
My latest turn was an animated feature. " 'Rugrats Go Wild' on June 13 at a theater near you!" my offspring repeated like a parrot from the television trailers. "Take me! Daddy."
Because "Rugrats Go Wild" is not that far below most of the mindless adult fare in current release, why not check it out and entertain my 'rugrat'?
While "Rugrats Go Wild" is filled with cheap animation, bathroom humor and a corny storyline, there are good one-liners for the adults, great pop music by bands such as Aerosmith and recognizable voices from the likes of Bruce Willis. In other words, parents can easily digest this.
What isn't digestible is the ultimate commercial tie-in, of which I was ignorant and my daughter was fully informed. Every now and then, a number appeared in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. After the feature, I inquired.
"What were the numbers?" I asked her.
"Every time you see a number, you scratch and sniff the same number on your card," she replied in a hurried, excited voice.
"What card?" I doltishly asked.
"You have to get the card at Burger King, Daddy," she said. "Silly!"
"D'oh!" I replied. "You know, that's Smellovision."
"No Daddy, that's Odorama!" my daughter corrected. "I heard about that on Nickelodeon."
My first impression was that this is a lame attempt at reviving Smellovision. It made about as much sense as the new aquarium coming to town, which seems like a wonderful idea at first, but quickly becomes tired.
This movie's fast-food campaign seems to have a rather sinister side: encouraging children to go to a fast-food joint that serves up fattening meals that contribute to diabetes. As studies show that our nation's children are fatter and lazier than ever, this commercial tie-in takes this epidemic to a whole new level.
What should we do? This is a free country, and it is the filmmaker's, studio's and Burger King's right to create this advertising campaign. We need not sue these corporations because their products make us fat or their hot coffee burns our laps. That is irresponsible.
We need not ask the government to create laws to ban this type of advertising. That would be unconstitutional on its face. As consumers, we need to be cognizant of the correlation between the products that large corporations are willing to sell us and how it affects our health and lifestyles. Education is the answer, not litigation and more laws.
The only role the government ought to have in this debate is through positive leadership. Gov. Sonny Perdue's fitness challenge is a great example of how an elected official can inspire the electorate to better health.
So, it is OK to take your rugrats to see "Rugrats Go Wild." It is OK to take them to Burger King once in a while and, I hope, enjoy the healthier offerings. Most of all, make sure that they get plenty of exercise and spend fewer hours in front of the television.
Consumers do not have to be captives of the advertising industry and corporations. We should realize that our actions influence their products. It is a two-way street.
Robert Nebel is a free-lance writer living in Norcross.
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