Advertising to Kids Limited

Feb 23, 2004  •  Post A Comment

From snack foods on “Survivor” and soft drinks on “Friends” to paint on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and cleaning products on “Trading Spaces,” product placement is a growing presence in television.
But one place you won’t find this burgeoning advertising strategy is in the world of children’s television.
That’s because the 1990 Children’s Television Act gave the Federal Communications Commission the power to limit the amount and type of advertising on children’s TV.
“The reality is that the restrictions as to what you can do in children’s programming, even on cable, are far different than for adults,” said John Wagner, media director for Starcom USA. “It’s pretty regulated. For instance, we can’t advertise the `Pokemon’ game inside the `Pokemon’ show, and things like that.”
Specifically, these “kid vid” rules say that broadcasters and cable networks can include no more than 10.5 minutes of ad time per hour of children’s programming on weekends, and no more than 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.
What’s more, advertising and programming must be clearly separated within kids shows. So any advertising-related message within the content of a program-showing the `Powerpuff Girls’ playing with Barbie, for example-would result in the entire 30-minute episode’s being classified as an advertisement, not a program.
“Product placement is regulated and not allowed in kids programming, so you won’t find any,” said Kim McQuilken, who oversees ad sales and marketing for Cartoon Network and the Kids’ WB. “You can’t put in products that are identifiable. You can have a generic product in there, but you couldn’t have a cartoon character holding a Coca-Cola.”
Melissa Caldwell, director of research and publications for the Parents Television Council, a nonprofit media watchdog organization that is vocal in the industry, said the FCC has done a good job making sure that advertisers’ messages don’t bleed over into programming.
The FCC doesn’t want children to be confused about whether they are watching a TV show or an advertising message, Mr. McQuilken said. “And we are constantly working with our advertisers to ensure that does not happen. All of the significant kids’ advertisers are very aware of these rules and regulations and they absolutely want to be compliant,” he said.