Skechers agreed to modify television advertising for its “Air-Mazing” shoes in response to concerns from the Children’s Advertising Review Unit that kids might believe the product could make them run faster and jump higher, as well as encourage them to engage in unsafe activities.
The animated commercial was set at a school and featured the “Air-Mazing kid” sporting the Air-Mazing shoes. First, he runs through the school “with superhero-like speed and agility,” and then outside into the middle of a basketball game where he steals the ball from the players on the court and slam-dunks it. Next, he runs onto the outdoor track and flies over the high hurdles before returning to the school cafeteria. Using a lunch tray as a skateboard, he flies across the top of lunch tables.
Without slowing down, the animated kid then returns outside, this time to the football field, where he outraces the receivers to catch the ball. Running back inside, he defies gravity by leaping on and off the hallway walls before flying into a classroom and sitting down between two girls in cheerleader uniforms.
A voiceover states, “Air-Mazing shoes, new from Skechers. Designed for kids who want to run faster, jump higher…Go beyond the amazing to Air-Mazing.”
CARU expressed two principal concerns about the ad: whether young children might believe they could run as fast and jump as high as the animated boy and the possibility that children could try to imitate the boy by skateboarding on cafeteria tables.
Looking at the overall net impression, the self-regulatory body “determined that one reasonable takeaway message was that some young children may believe that wearing Air-mazing shoes make them run faster and jump higher,” and “generate unrealistic performance expectations among young members of the overall child audience.”
CARU rejected Skechers’ argument that the animated, fantasy nature of the commercial would not confuse children into thinking they would have special abilities by wearing the shoes. The group’s guidelines apply to commercials in all media, the opinion emphasized, from animation to live action to stop action, all of which can still convey a misleading message to children.
Skechers’ contention that the ad constituted puffery was similarly unpersuasive. “CARU has long held that young children are not like adults when it comes to puffery and because of their still developing abilities young children cannot understand advertising techniques like puffery,” according to the decision.
A lack of consumer complaints about the ad – touted by Skechers – was irrelevant, CARU added, as a lack of complaints is not dispositive of whether claims may be confusing or misleading.
Skechers voluntarily stopped airing the commercial during CARU’s proceedings and made edits, including deleting the cafeteria skateboarding scene and changing the voiceover to: “Are you a kid who runs fast, jumps high, and plays hard? We have the shoe for you! Why just be UH-mazing when you can be AIR-mazing?”
CARU said it was “pleased” with Skechers’ modifications and recommended “that in future child directed advertising, Skechers either refrain from making claims about its products or be able to offer substantiation for all reasonable takeaways from such claims that children may have.”
To read CARU’s press release about the case, click here.
Why it matters: “Children are not just little adults,” CARU cautioned. “Advertisers should take into account that children are prone to exploration, imitation and experimentation and may imitate product demonstrations or other activities depicted in advertisements without regard to risk.”