Since the Super Bowl, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition has received hundreds of calls and e-mails protesting the FedEx commercial ["Oz"] with helium-huffing munchkins ("FedEx bump in the yellow brick road," Adages, AA, Feb. 14).
People have contacted FedEx. FedEx has responded by saying that their reseach with medical and toxicological experts indicated no medical problems associated with huffing helium. Unfortunately, that is not the point. The issue at hand is the message being sent to kids that it is fun and okay to put a gas in their bodies.
I believe FedEx and its agency [ BBDO Worldwide, New York] did not intend to send any inappropriate message nor did they realize the implications of their message on young viewers.
The power of advertising is its ability to impact bahavior and [the] choices people make. Hopefully, FedEx will use this opportunity they created for themselves to join efforts to reduce and prevent this type of substance abuse. They can do this by pulling this ad and embarking on an education program to prevent inhalant use and abuse.
FedEx has created a teaching moment with their ad. They can assist families to get the information they need to make it possible to talk with their children about inhalants and ultimately influence the choices young peope make.
Director, National Inhalant Prevention Coalition
Editor's note: FedEx Corp. last week said it pulled the commercial while it considers revisions. FedEx said in a statement, "The FedEx advertisement `Oz' has received extraordinary positive feedback since it debuted in the Super Bowl. However, some concerns have also been expressed about the content of the ad. FedEx, as always, strives to portray our company in a responsible manner and to be responsive to our customers in all of our marketing initiatives. In order to be more sensitive to the concerns that have been expressed, FedEx is considering revising `Oz'. While under consideration, `Oz' will be removed from our scheduled advertising rotation."
CBS has company
Scott Donaton makes some interesting points in his column "Latest `breakthrough' from CBS another setback for its viewers" (Viewpoint, AA, Jan. 24) about CBS' string of bottom-line focused programming decisions. While the examples he cites are certainly questionable, I think he came down a little hard on one network. The blurring line between entertainment and promotional messaging is not a new trend and certainly not the exclusive providence of CBS. Consider:
* NBC's "Friends" ran an episode earlier this season where the purchase of a table from Pottery Barn was a central plot point. Two of the characters waxed ecstatic about product lines and furniture selection.
* MTV has blurred out logos on its "reality based" programs like "The Real World" and "Road Rules" for years. Except, of course, [logos of] those products made by MTV advertisers. The only brands that exist, apparently.
* News programming routinely disguises program promotion as information we must know.
* And, as fascinated as I am about the behind-the-scenes ruminations from the cast of "Buffy," I don't need to see them on my 9 PM newscast.
This is the tip of the iceberg. In all honesty, I don't think CBS' transgressions are all that bad. At least they're being blatantly exploitative and admit to hawking product as opposed to some of the more insidious and disguised versions we see every day.
Just because I'm awake doesn't mean I need to be smacked in the face with a product message, no matter how cleverly (or not-so-cleverly) that message is disguised.
Manager, Internal Communications
* In "Searching for right spot" (Feb. 14, P. S12), Jack Sullivan is VP-media director for out of home advertising at Starcom USA, Chicago.
* In "F.Y.I." (Feb. 14, P. 76), Ewen/Gilson/Partners, Tarzana, Calif., is the agency for Taxes4Less. Spending was not disclosed.
* In "The Big Push" (Feb. 14, P. 76), the Daewoo Motor America commercial shown is for the Leganza, not the Lanos.
* In "Privacy debate continues to rage" (AA, Feb. 7, P. 44), the name of Dan Jaye, chief technology officer at Engage Technologies, was misspelled.