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May 14, 2008


Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>

Max Greenberg (617.278.4174;



CCFC to MPAA:  Stop the Marketing of Violent PG-13 Films to Young Children

Ads for Summer Blockbusters and Related Merchandise Flood Kids TV


Citing thousands of toys and kid-targeted promotions already under way for a slew of violent summer blockbusters, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood launched a letter-writing campaign today to the Motion Picture Association of America urging the MPAA to stop allowing film companies to promote PG-13 movies to young children.  In January, in response to a complaint by CCFC, the Federal Trade Commission urged the MPAA to develop an “explicit policy, incorporating objective criteria” to “ensure that PG-13 movies are not marketed in a manner inconsistent with their rating,” but the MPAA has refused that request.  As a result, ads promoting PG-13 movies and their related merchandise continue to be a staple of children’s television programming.


“By allowing film companies to relentlessly market PG-13 movies to young children, the MPAA undermines its already flawed rating system,” said CCFC’s Director, Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe.  “The PG-13 rating states that parents should be ‘strongly cautioned’ that ‘material may be inappropriate for children under thirteen,’ but the film industry is doing everything and anything to ensure that violence-packed movies are the talk of elementary and preschool playgrounds.  In their cynical attempt to wring every last dollar from families, film companies are undermining parents who are trying to shield their children from media violence.”


While the MPAA claims it reviews marketing plans for every PG-13 movie, they focus primarily on the content of the ads, not whether the film advertised is appropriate for a younger audience.  Equally concerning, the MPAA does not review ads for licensed toys and movie-linked food promotions, even though these ads are a significant component of a deliberate strategy to promote the films to young children.  Paul Gitter of Marvel, which owns the rights to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, recently told USA Today, “Especially for kids, they'll see the toys before they'll see the movie ads. If they want the toy, they usually want to see the movie." 


On Saturday, May 10, CCFC found ads for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull-themed Lunchables and Frosted Flakes on children’s programming on Nickelodeon.  Earlier this month, children’s television was flooded with ads for Iron Man, rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence,” as well as ads for toys linked to the movie, and for a Burger King Iron Man Kids Meal promotion for children as young as three.  If the MPAA does not take action, CCFC believes that The Incredible Hulk (not yet rated, but the 2003 version was PG-13) and The Dark Knight (rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace) will be advertised to young children as well.  The Incredible Hulk has 260 new toys, many of which are recommended for children as young as three.  The Dark Knight has 950 toys and another 4,000 merchandising items, as well as promotions with General Mills and Hershey’s.


“Film companies put profits over children’s well being when they market PG-13 films to little kids,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige author of Taking Back Childhood.   “Way too many children are seeing movies that confuse and scare them and harden them from an early age to the pain felt by others.  These unethical marketing practices must be stopped.”  


For more information:


CCFC’s FTC complaint about the marketing of PG-13 Transformers to preschoolers:


The FTC recommends the MPAA adopt an explicit, objective policy for the marketing of PG-13 films:


More than 20 advocacy groups urge the MPAA to adopt the FTC’s recommendations:




PG-13 isn't for young children

Boston Globe, 6/7/08


Teen flicks targeted at children

LA Times, 6/5/08


A barrage of movie ads is headed your kids' way

Seattle PI, 5/25/08










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