Company agrees to rejigger ad featuring superhuman acrobatics
The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), as an organization sponsored by the Better Business Bureau, is admirably sober in its public pronouncements. But sometimes the subject matter of its investigations gets the better of it. (We are talking about advertising aimed at children, after all.)
In the middle of a recent CARU press release, readers were treated to this wonderful sentence: “In one sequence … a boy jumps so high that he reaches and eclipses the sun, remains airborne long enough to do a 360-degree flip and high-five with an animated frog while remaining in the air.”
We have Stride Rite to thank for this gem, which describes an ad for the company’s Leepz brand footwear that recently came under CARU review.
Drawing its design inspiration from a frog’s padded feet, Leepz also boasts a high-tech angle: LEDs light up the side of the shoe when the wearer’s heel strikes the ground. As you might expect, the advertisement for sneakers like these is colorful and hyperkinetic. But the acrobatic feats accomplished by the animated kids in the ad, when combined with the ad’s messaging, gave CARU pause.
As noted earlier in the greatest sentence ever crafted, the kids in the commercial engage in unbelievable leaps and midair flips. The children jump distances more than twice their height, soar through the air and so on. CARU notes that text at the bottom of the ad reads, “Does not make you jump higher.”
CARU asked Stride Rite to provide substantiation for the “implied claim” that Leepz allowed kids to jump higher than they would without the sneakers. CARU also requested backup for the explicitly stated claims in the ad: “the incredible shoe with sky-high technology” and “reach new heights with Leepz!”
Stride Rite maintained that “sky-high technology” referred to the “high-tech” nature of the LEDs on the side of the shoe. As for the second tagline, the company claimed that “reaching new heights” was allegorical and did not literally refer to heights jumped.
CARU was not persuaded. In its analysis, it held that the ad copy, combined with the extreme heights achieved by the children jumping in the ad, might lead children to believe that they would gain enhanced leaping ability if they wore the shoes.
Two additional points of interest were addressed in CARU’s decision. First, CARU dismissed Stride Rite’s argument that because shoes are generally purchased with adult supervision, any confusion the children might have regarding the powers conferred on them by the sneakers would be mitigated by an adult at the time of purchase. CARU noted that it has “long held that a child’s first contact with a product is generally the advertisement itself” and that subsequent clarity does not alleviate a misleading ad.
Additionally, CARU noted that the text that appears in the ad was not sufficient to avoid censure. Superimposed text – especially if it is small or difficult to read – is “not an adequate means of conveying material facts” to children. Stride Rite agreed that it would modify the ad accordingly if it chose to air it again.