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Kids TV Ad Monitor Takes Aim At Superman

The ad industry's self-regulatory kids commercial review unit says that studios should not be advertising PG-13 movies in kids TV programming.

Superman may be back, but the Childrens Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has advised Warner Bros. that ads for the PG-13 film shouldn't have run in kids TV. The company disagrees.

CARU, the self-regulatory ad industry monitoring panel, says Superman Returns, which has a PG-13 rating for action violence, should not have been advertised in kids shows before 8:30 at night on Cartoon Network because, it said, that would "create an interest in the film by the child audience and send an implicit message that the film is. appropriate for all children."

CARU has previously cited several PG-13 films advertised in kids programming, and with Wednesday's decision sent the message that it believes such a move clearly violates its guidelines. "By airing PG-13 rated films during children’s programming, the advertiser is substituting its judgment for that of the parents," CARU said.

Warner Brothers asserted, says CARU, that "a PG-13 rating does not mean that children under age 13 should not see a film or are barred from seeing it without a parent and therefore airing the commercial during children’s programming is consistent with the self-regulatory guidelines for children’s advertising." 

“We believe that the placement of the advertisement was consistent with CARU’s guidelines,” Warner Bros. told CARU. That guideline is that "products and content which are inappropriate for children should not be advertised or promoted directly to children."

Warner Bros. countered that both the spot and the movie passed Cartoon's standards and practices. “We value our brand and are committed to responsible marketing,” Warner Bros. said. “We will continue our current practice of making media placement decisions for our films on a case-by-case basis."

CARU has no enforcement authority, but can refer cases of deceptive ads to the FTC.

That does not apply in this case, says CARU Director Elizabeth  Lascoutx. "CARU’s Guidelines extend beyond what is required by federal law. Because this is not a case of advertising that is unfair, deceptive or a violation of COPPA (kids online protection act), we have no basis for a referral to the Federal Trade Commission," she told B&C.. 
 "We will, however, continue to monitor children’s programming for advertising for content that is inappropriate for children and will continue to pursue modifications to such advertising through our self-regulatory process.”