A letter-writing campaign launched in response to a controversial new ad by Burger King has mobilized nearly 10,000 concerned citizens over the course of three weeks.
"Almost 10,000 emails (9,800) have been sent by CCFC members to Nick and Burger King," Josh Golin, associate director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, reported Tuesday to The Christian Post.
In the meantime, the contested ad had run nationally more than 1,950 times, including twice during a Saturday afternoon screening of the Scooby Doo movie.
"It also ran during American Idol, frequently the top-rated show for children twelve and under," Golin noted.
Burger King, however, has claimed that its new "Kids Meal" ad is directed toward parents of children and not toward children.
"The 99-cent BK Kids Meal is a value-based offer aimed at adults and requires an adult BK Value Meal purchase. This value offering enables the entire family to enjoy an affordable quality meal," the company explained in a statement to the media.
The ad, which first appeared last month, features "The King" singing a remix of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1990s hit song "Baby Got Back" with the lyrics, "I like square butts and I cannot lie." The ad shows images of The King singing in front of women shaking their bottoms for the camera intercut with images of SpongeBob dancing along. At one point during the ad, The King even measures the bottom of one of the women who has a stuffed phonebook under her dress.
"It's bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it's utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women," commented CCFC director Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Judge Baker Children's Center.
"Featuring SpongeBob in an ad like this is a new low," added Joe Kelly of TheDadMan.com, a CCFC Steering Committee Member. "Parents who hope to instill values in their children like respect for women would do well to steer clear of Burger King and Bikini Bottom."
CCFC – a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents – is encouraging concerned individuals to join in their campaign to get Nickelodeon and Burger King to "immediately" pull the ad.
The group is also asking whether Nickelodeon Television President Cyma Zarghami approved the controversial SpongeBob SquareButt television commercial.
"Parents deserve to know whether Nickelodeon-the most popular children's television network-signed off on the use of SpongeBob in a commercial that celebrates lechery and objectifies women," said CCFC director Linn.
"Cartoon characters play a powerful role in the lives of young audiences," she argued. "That Burger King and Nickelodeon would sell Kids Meals by associating a beloved, male character like SpongeBob with lechery shows how little either company cares about the wellbeing of the children they target."
CCFC is a program of the Judge Baker Children's Center at Harvard University.