"Choose Your Own Adventure," one of the most popular children's book series of all time, and the first to puts kids in control of the story, recently expanded its product line to include a DVD with the same name.
"The Abominable Snowman," released on July 25th, is the first in a planned series of CYOA interactive animated DVDs. Kids can use their DVD player's remote control to choose from more than 11 storylines to advance the action. The DVD features the voices of Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Frankie Muniz, Mark Hamill and Lacey Chabert.
"Snowman" tells the story of three daring siblings who travel to the Himalayas to find their missing uncle. Along the way they encounter natural disasters, dangerous animals and evildoers. And at every crossroads a decision has to be made... will they survive avalanches, keep away from evil poachers, and escape hungry tigers? Their fate is in your hands.
We learned today that Life cereal is currently offering a $3.00 rebate off the purchase price of the disc. Look for - as the saying goes - "specially marked boxes" of Original Life, Cinnamon Life and Honey Graham Life at your local supermarket. Buy the DVD and make a qualifying purchase of cereal anytime from now until the end of November, send in the rebate and save three bucks.
I know what you're thinking; that's mighty nice of the Life cereal people to do their part to promote the education of our youth.
As you might expect, though, there's a bit more to this story... which we've continued after the jump.
It's true that "The Abominable Snowman" is a delightful tale chronicling the adventures of three kids who travel to the Himalayas to find their missing uncle. But the DVD also teaches a valuable life lesson - that you're never too young to learn about product placement - when the children encounter a mythical Yeti who enjoys eating Life cereal.
"Even Yeti like the delicious lightly sweetened great taste of Life Cereal!"
At least that's what the press release issued today by the Quaker Oats Company says. Yes, the fine folks who brought us that American cultural icon, the legendary "Mikey" commercial, apparently struck a deal with the producers of "The Abominable Snowman" to include a prominent mention of their product in the story.
Even if no money changed hands - it's possible the product placement was an even exchange for promoting the DVD on 18 million cereal boxes and providing interactive content on the Life web site - this represents a new low in influencing children against their best interests.
Michele Cairns, one of the DVD's producers says:
“Parents will love the concept of "The Abominable Snowman" because it helps teach children the value of good decision making and the consequences of their action. In test, we found kids love the DVD format because it combines the interactivity of gaming with the story-telling of movies.”
Good decision making?
We do indeed love "the concept" of "The Abominable Snowman," Michele; we just seriously question the decision making skills of the production team in allowing the product placement. What were you - and executive producers William H. Macy and Frankie Muniz - thinking?
And here's a good lesson for PR hacks:
We saw the coverage in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. We'd even read the press release from Lean Forward Media and Goldhill Entertainment (which mentioned the cross-promotion with Life, but somehow failed to mention the product placement).
But it wasn't until a separate press release arrived this morning from Quaker touting their unique, um, involvement, that we thought there was a story here. You see, when we get a press release we can choose from an infinite number of storylines and the one we've chosen is that Mikey is a corporate whore.
Now, to be fair, we should mention that we haven't yet seen this
DVD. And it did earn several medium profile honors: it was approved by
the Dove Foundation for family viewing, was named a “Kids First All
Star” by the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media and it received a
2006 iParenting Media Award.
(But - due to the tree and branch structure of the narrative - isn't it possible that those folks never even stumbled across the scene with the blatant prioduct placement?)
Whatever the merits of the DVD - and they seem considerable - why muck it all up by dabbling in shameless shenanigans like this? Hucksterism is most unbecoming when you have a good product, whether it be cereal or a DVD.
Kids don't generally know enough to differentiate between an
advertisement and legitimate usage of a brand within a work of
fiction. Companies that seek to exploit young impressionable minds,
especially under the guise of introducing them to lifelong interactive
learning, should sit down and rethink their marketing strategy.
By the way, according to the Quaker web site, Life cereal isn't even sold in the Himalayas.
I guess Mikey will lie about anything. And what message does that send to kids?
|Subscriptions to the weekly DVD Dossier newsletter are FREE...|
Sign up today and have new release information e-mailed to you every Sunday!