VIEWPOINT;BETTER TV ADS FOR KIDS, TOO

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On the small screen, pre-pubescents with sharp attitudes and sharper tongues "dis" their elders, grotesque aliens wage war and pre-schoolers down treats with all the nutritional value of cardboard.

And here you thought you were being so careful about what your kids were watching.

Last week's agreement between the White House and the TV industry requiring stations to program three hours of educational shows a week will please most parents, many of whom also view the coming v-chip as a helping hand in their effort to raise good kids. Advertisers should press for better shows, too. But they also need to look at their own commercials.

No matter how closely parents monitor the programming, they have no control over the messages being communicated to their impressionable kids during commercial breaks. And that's increasingly as true for public TV-where "brought to you by" messages now often include animation, taglines and jingles-as it is for commercial TV.

Too often commercials aimed at children present values, attitudes and behavior that many parents would find unacceptable in the home. And the wonders of technology make it possible to get around the sticky issue of only showing toys doing what they can actually do by blending live action, animation and fine print to draw fine lines not distinguishable by little eyes.

Neither the v-chip nor last week's agreement addresses the quality of these ads, but marketers can and should do so. Which is why we call on all marketers of children's products and services to seize this opportunity to review the content of their ads, support the work of the self-regulatory Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, and ask not only whether their commercials mislead children but whether they encourage bad behavior or endorse violence.

With TV trying to deliver programs that better serve children and parents, advertisers can benefit from the attendant goodwill by raising the quality of their commercials.

Air ad barrier

The kiwi bird doesn't fly, but Kiwi International Airlines does. And in a bold departure from unwritten airline-marketing rules, it's running an ad campaign touting its "perfect safety record."

Kiwi has opened a new marketing route for airlines, especially "value" carriers, in the wake of the grounding of ValuJet after the recent crash of a ValuJet plane. It's not one to be shied away from because of the subsequent TWA tragedy; that event only heightens concern about the safety of airplanes and airports.

Major air carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines can always couch safety messages behind code words ("experience," "reliability"), but the low-fare airlines in particular face a huge task in settling consumers' jittery nerves. News report say a number of them are reacting by lowering fares still further; their best bet instead may be to directly confront the subject, assuring consumers they aren't cutting corners on safety to do so.

What seems to be needed is a serious "sound barrier" breaker on this important issue. Since Kiwi's modest print advertising started, the carrier has gone through an extensive FAA inspection process. Maybe consumers should be told about it through advertising. And if ValuJet

doesn't follow a similar plan, boldly proclaiming the measures that will give it back its wings, it may find itself-like that New Zealand bird for which Kiwi is named-flightless.

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