Advocates Ask FCC to Stop Skechers Program-Length Commercial for Kids; Nicktoons' Zevo-3 Will Violate Children's Television Act's Ad Limits

Date of Release: 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14, 2010
Contact:  Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh@commercialfreechildhood.org)
For Immediate Release

Advocates Ask FCC to Stop Skechers Program-Length Commercial for Kids
Nicktoons' Zevo-3 Will Violate Children's Television Act's Ad Limits

UPDATE: September 22 -- The FCC responded today to CCFC's petition, opening an inquiry into Zevo-3, the Skechers show to be aired on Nicktoons. 

BOSTON -- September 14 -- Today, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission urging the FCC to rule that the upcoming broadcast of the animated children's program Zevo-3 on Nicktoons is not in the public interest.  Developed by Skechers, the footwear giant, Zevo-3 is the first children's television program to feature characters known to children only as commercial spokescharacters.

Zevo-3 features three superheroes whose only existence to date has been in television commercials and marketing materials designed to promote Skechers shoes to children.  Because the animated stars of Zevo-3--Kewl Breeze, Z-Strap, and Elastika--embody specific lines of shoes, the entire show will be an advertisement for the Skechers brand.  The broadcast of Zevo-3, therefore, will violate the requirement established by Congress in the Children's Television Act that that no cable operator shall air more than 10.5 minutes of commercial matter per hour during children's programming on weekdays.

"It's clear that Skechers and Nicktoons are flouting the policies established by Congress to protect children from excessive commercialism," said CCFC's Director, Dr. Susan Linn.  "Zevo-3 is a twenty-two minute commercial masquerading as a kids' TV show."    

In order to allay fears about the commercial nature of Zevo-3, the show's producers emphasize that the show will not include product placement.  But CCFC's petition conclusively demonstrates that the characters Kewl Breeze, Z-Strap, and Elastika are inextricably linked to the specific lines of shoes they promote.  

"The characters themselves are ads," said Dr. Linn. "Any television appearance by Kewl Breeze, Z-Strap, or Elastika--whether in a traditional commercial or on Zevo-3--should be considered commercial matter, regardless of whether the characters are wearing actual Skechers shoes."

The characters originated in comic books developed by Skechers in 2006 to promote their lines of children's shoes.  The comics, which are distributed in Skechers shoe boxes, are little more than thinly-veiled advertisements for Skechers shoes. For example, in one comic, a group of kids are able to defeat the evil Dr. Stankfoot after Kewl Breeze gives them Skechers Airators that have special cooling technology to combat foot odor. In another, the villain's shoe laces are his "weak spot," proving inferior to Z-Strap's Velcro fastener.  In 2007, Skechers began airing commercials featuring Kewl Breeze, Z-Strap, and Elastika during children's television programming.  The characters are so successful at promoting Skechers that retailers report that children often ask for shoes by character name rather than by shoe model.  The success of the comic book promotions and television commercials led the company to form Skechers Entertainment, which is producing Zevo-3.

To date, there has never been a children's television program based on commercial logos. In 1992, Fox Television planned to air Yo! It's the Chester Cheetah Show!, starring Frito-Lay's spokescharacter for Cheetos.  But plans for the show were scrapped after advocates petitioned the FCC.  In the intervening eighteen years, no children's television program based on spokescharacters was developed.  But now Skechers and Nicktoons could unleash a flood of hyper-commercialized children's programming.

Added Dr. Linn, "Zevo-3 is just the beginning.  What's next?  Programs like Clowning Around with Ronald McDonaldHave It Your Way with the Burger KingTony the Tiger Toons?  That's what we can expect--unless the FCC stands up for children and prevents companies like Skechers from violating laws that Congress enacted specifically to protect kids from such commercial exploitation."

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