The industry’s self-governing body, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, similarly has guidelines preventing marketers from advertising during shows that feature characters related to their advertising. “This has been an area of interest since Davy Crockett was King of the Wild Frontier,” said CARU rep Linda Bean, who noted that both the organization and federal rules prohibit “host-selling.”
Despite being seemingly in accord with federal regulations, Josh Golin, associate director for watchdog group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said he believes the show crosses the line between entertainment and advertising. “It really shows the rules are being exploited, and they need some updating,” he said. “This sounds like a program-length commercial.”
In an ever-more crowded TV marketplace, tying in with a major packaged-goods brand has obvious advantages. “The economy's been brutal on everyone, so carving out a space in the entertainment arena was very advantageous to them,” said Van Cott, referring to Nickelodeon. Indeed, last week, the cable network A&E also partnered with Barnes & Noble for a book giveaway to promote The Glades, a new A&E original series.
Keith Dawkins, Nicktoons general manager and svp, Nickelodeon Programming Partnerships, said that Skechers’ ability to promote the show at retail was a plus, but that wasn’t the main consideration. “For us, it’s just like any of the properties we have,” he said. “It has to be about the narrative, the creative. It has to feel like true character development.”
Continue to next page →