Most of us understand that the primary purpose of children’s televison shows isn’t to entertain our kids but to sell stuff to them. A child who watches any amount of television at all is bombarded with commercials for toys, games and other things that they otherwise wouldn’t even know existed. It’s up to parents to educate them about what’s really going on and help them recognize the difference between the entertainment and the commercials.
But what about when a children’s television show blurs the line between the two? When the product is the premise for the show? That’s exactly what some say is going on with the new Nicktoons show “Zevo 3.”
The animated show, which began airing on October 11, features 3 teen characters who also happen to appear in commercials for Skechers footwear as well as comic books that can be found inside Skechers shoe boxes. This, says the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC), makes the show the equivalent of a half-hour Skechers commercial and has prompted them to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to have it taken off the air.
Skechers created these characters to promote specific lines of shoes to children and have used them extensively in marketing campaigns aimed at children. For children, the characters Z-Strap, Elastika, and Kewl Breeze embody the shoe lines they represent, so much so that retailers report that kids often refer to the shoes by character name rather than by the shoe model.
Despite the obvious tie-in to their product, the Skechers people say they don’t see what all the fuss is about.
The plot lines of Zevo-3 do not center around shoes and do not include any product placement. None of the characters derive their ‘super powers’ from their shoes. Neither the Skechers brand nor any Skechers shoes will be mentioned by the Zevo-3 characters during the show.
Because the FCC limits commercials on children’s television to twelve minutes an hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes an hour on weekends, the question is clear: Is “Zevo-3” nothing more than a 30-minute Skechers commercial? Or is it a bona fide children’s show?
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