'Star Wars' Marketing Effort Draws Criticism


Yoda on the Pepsi site (www.pepsiworld.com).
It's already the movie with the mostest—at least in terms of tie-ins.

"Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" has its marketing plan in full force for the nationwide release May 19, but the nature and extent of its tie-ins has a few media watchdogs ready to light their sabers.

 

Nell Minnow, columnist for Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to holding media programming accountable, thinks the franchise has crossed a line.

 

"There is hardly a household item that you won't be able to find with a 'Star Wars' tie-in," wrote Minnow in her May 13 column. It's an exaggeration, of course, but the list is indeed significant.

 

Yoda has been pressed into service to sell Pepsi and Pringles. A "Light-Up Saberspoon" comes in marked boxes of Kellogg's cereals like Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Honey Smacks.

 

M&M's is advertising its new "dark chocolate" line of candy with the slogan, "Dare to go to the dark side," a reference to the evil side of the Force in the "Star Wars" galaxy. Cingular customers can "Get the Power of the Force" by downloading "Star Wars" ringtones.

 

Burger King, which has been tying in to "Star Wars" ever since the first film hit theaters in 1977, has launched a major offensive. It began a six-week tie-in campaign May 10, according to an AdWeek.com article. Print and broadcast ads are promoting the fast food chain's scratch-off game as well as "Star Wars" toys in kids' meals.

 

Minnow wasn't as bothered by the marketing to adults, but she did criticize the heavy marketing to children. She complained that many of the tie-ins appeal to especially young children, even though the latest "Star Wars" installment is rated PG-13 (unlike the previous installments, which were all rated PG).

 

She noted that director George Lucas himself said he wouldn't let young children see "Sith" because of its dark nature (this installment chronicles Anakin Skywalker's descent into the dark side of the Force).

 

"I would take a 9- or a 10-year-old to it—or an 11," Lucas said on CBS' "60 Minutes" newsmagazine. "But I don't think I would take a 5- or 6-year-old to this. It's way too strong. I could pull it back a little bit, but I don't really want to."

 

Minnow quoted Susan Linn, founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who argued that the "Star Wars" marketing strategy is just another example of media hypocrisy because it's promoting products to very young children when the industry itself has said the film isn't appropriate for children 12 and younger.

 

In fact, the marketing for "Sith" marks the first time "Star Wars" characters have appeared in commercials that weren't merely clips from the movies.

 

"Because they're so much a part of the popular culture, we were willing to let the characters exist in situations other than the way in which you see them in the films," said Lucas Licensing President Howard Roffman in a Hollywood Reporter article.

 

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

 

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