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Press Release

April 16, 2009

PTC Blasts Burger King, Viacom for Gross Irresponsibility

Burger King Combines Degrading Images with SpongeBob to Sell Kids Meals


LOS ANGELES (April 16, 2009) – The Parents Television Council™ slammed Burger King for its latest attempt to sell kids meals with SpongeBob SquarePants toys by promoting the meals with a TV advertisement that declares the King “likes square butts” to the tune of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” (The controversy surrounding this advertisement follows closely on the heels of another Burger King advertising controversy involving depictions that were offensive to Mexicans.) The PTC also chided Viacom for allowing its SpongeBob cartoon character to be exploited in the degrading commercial. The advertisement first appeared during the championship game of the NCAA basketball tournament and has aired on several other programs including America’s Funniest Home Videos and Lie to Me, which aired at 8:00 pm ET before American Idol.


“The actions of Burger King are grossly irresponsible and patently dishonest. In spite of what their PR-spinners want the public to believe, this is an advertisement that is targeted directly at children – exploiting a beloved cartoon character with graphically degrading imagery,” said PTC President Tim Winter.


“Burger King asserts that this commercial targets adults, not children; but that assertion would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. They are exploiting one of the most iconic children’s brands in all of entertainment, SpongeBob SquarePants. The product is a 99-cent Kids Meal with a SpongeBob toy. And the commercial airs during programs that are watched by millions of families. This has nothing to do with an adult message.


“Viacom defends this use of SpongeBob as a character enjoyed by millions of adults. We would note that Barney the Dinosaur, Dora the Explorer and Elmo are also enjoyed by adults; but it would be preposterous to suggest that those characters target adults. It would be preposterous to say those characters are ripe for exploitation in a television advertisement featuring imagery and dialog that is offensive and degrading to women.


“Regardless of whether their rhetoric is true, which it isn’t, Burger King and Viacom appear to be admitting that the degradation of women in their advertising is appropriate for adults. Both companies should recognize their poor business decision and immediately cease any further airing of the commercial.


“While Burger King panders to controversy and offensive messaging to promote its food, the PTC is encouraging its members – and indeed parents across the nation – to consider more responsible alternatives when making their buying decisions. McDonalds, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen have not only stated their intention to be responsible and respectful advertisers, but they are demonstrating their commitment to those policies on a daily basis.


“Parents have every right to be concerned when popular cartoon characters show up alongside women dancing provocatively to a song that is all about ‘booty’ according to Sir Mix-A-Lot himself in the advertisement. And we hope that Nickelodeon will be mindful not to let SpongeBob become the ‘Joe Camel’ of sexually degrading advertising,” Winter concluded.


To watch the advertisement, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm6d2oy8GRk.

To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver (ext. 140) or Megan Franko (ext. 148) at (703) 683-5004.

The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.




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