Ad groups suggest the president's request last week -- that the Federal Trade Commission immediately begin a $1 million study to determine if movie, videogame and music marketers are pitching violence to kids -- is inappropriate and an unwise use of taxpayer dollars.
TOBACCO, ALCOHOL FIRST
"Here we go again. Another attack on advertising instead of dealing with the underlying problem," said American Advertising Federation President Wally Snyder, citing the president's attacks last year on tobacco marketers and, earlier this year, on alcoholic beverage marketers.
"It is predictable. It is the government attacking the messenger," he said.
Mr. Snyder suggested the funds would be better spent on urging parents to use the various industries' voluntary ratings systems.
Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers, decried what he sees as an expansion of past attacks.
"They are going from individual products to media and marketing of media. Now it's movies, music, where before it was vice products. The net is widening," he said.
He suggested it was easier for President Clinton to attack advertising then to take action.
"More direct means of getting at problems are usually very expensive and time consuming," Mr. Jaffe said. "Politicians find trying to censor speech cheap and quick. You don't have to create the bureaucracy that additional law enforcement or an educational program would require. But in a free society, First Amendment speech has the highest protection."
A pollster for Republican candidates offered another explanation: He suggested President Clinton might be attempting to deflect criticism from high-profile entertainment industry financial backers to the advertisers.
"He's inserting another party into the equation, and by putting in a new group, he changes the equation," said Mike Davadie, VP of Wirthlin Worldwide.
'LOW ON RESPECT SCALE'
"We know from other polls that marketers are already low on the scale [of respect]. They are not up there with clergy and doctors. It's a pretty good deflection," he said.
In his request to the FTC, the president indicated he wanted to start the study quickly. The U.S. Senate already has inserted language requiring such a study into the Juvenile Justice bill, due to be considered by House committees this week.
"Our children are being fed a dependable dose of violence and it sells," said the president, suggesting that violent content desensitizes kids to violence in real life.
President Clinton cited several videogame ads, including one for the Sony PlayStation game from Atlus Co. called Guilty Gear, produced in-house. It read: "Kill your friends, guilt-free."
Atlus executives last week said they intend to keep running the ad.
"I don't think you can blame societal problems on a lack of censorship," said Dimitri Criona, VP-sales. "If the government wants to take positive action, let them give classes in parenting."
The Interactive Digital Software Association said it was "exploring" ways to discourage placement of violent ads, but also said that many of the ads the president cited ran in games titles whose average reader is in their 20s.
The Recording Industry Association of America suggested Mr. Clinton was grandstanding.
"The music industry does not market violence to children," said a statement from President-CEO Hilary Rosen. "The music industry will continue playing a leadership role in countless initiatives to tackle violence, while the president apparently looks for headlines."
One movie marketing executive said, "It's like being hit in the kneecap. It's knee jerk."
But others said they have responded to the recent school shootings by youngsters.
An upcoming Fox Searchlight movie, "White Boys," from the boutique film division of Fox Filmed Entertainment, will be promoted without footage of a violent gun scene.
Miramax Films changed the name of an upcoming movie from "Killing Mrs. Tingle" to "Teaching Mrs. Tingle."
TV MOVIES CANCELED
Some TV movies, including one slated to be aired on CBS, have been canceled; that film was to focus on a violent incident at a school.
The president also suggested the TV networks need to do more to restrain violent programming.
"I think we are all being more sensitive when ads are being shown to children," said Marc Shmuger, president of worldwide marketing for Universal Studios.
Another movie executive said his studio's current strategy is simple: "In posters and in movie trailers, it's just get rid of the guns."
Entertainment marketers believe they already are doing the right things when it comes to violence, because of restrictions enforced by the TV networks.
For instance, Nickelodeon has strict standards for movie advertising to its core children's audience, especially for ads that run before 5 p.m. And all networks