This month Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons is debuting “Zevo-3,” an animated show featuring characters that represent different models of Skechers kids’ footwear.


You’d think that somehow runs afoul of stringent federal regulations banning stealth advertising to kids.

You’d be wrong.

The shoe doesn’t fit, MediaPost’s Wayne Friedman notes in his Full Frontal Television column:

Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons says it doesn’t violate the Children’s Television Act when it comes to a proposed animated show coming next month called “Zevo-3” . . .

How can this be? Because the Federal Communications Commission rule is an old and fuzzy one.

The key difference, according to the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, which petitioned the FCC about the show, is that the Skechers’ branded products are now “spokespeople” — talking animated characters — rather than just inanimate products like toys.

(Children’s Television Act here; Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood here.)

From the CCFC call to action:

In response to a petition by CCFC, the Federal Communications Commission has opened an inquiry into whether Zevo-3, the first children’s television program based on advertising spokescharacters, is in the public interest. The animated Zevo-3 stars three superheroes named Kewl Breeze, Elastika, and Z-Strap and a villain named Dr. Stankfoot who, until now, have only been used in advertisements to promote specific lines of Skechers shoes. The show’s broadcast clearly violates longstanding policies designed to protect children from overcommercialization. But the FCC will only act if there is significant public pressure to do so.

Or, as Friedman says, not-so-clearly violates longstanding policies.

But public pressure is clearly in order.

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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