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The Sexualization of SpongeBob

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The latest Burger King commercial has some parents in an uproar. Is this any way to advertise kids' meals?!

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that Nickelodeon and Burger King immediately pull a new, "highly sexualized" television ad for BK's 99-cent SpongeBob Kids Meal.

"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," said CCFC director Susan Linn in a press release. "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 well-being of the children they target."

In a response provided to Marketing Daily on Wednesday, Burger King Corp. said that it welcomes the opportunity to "clear up any confusion" about the intentions of the advertising.

BK points out that the Kids Meal is a "value-based offer aimed at adults" and requires an adult BK Value Meal purchase. The commercial is meant to appeal to adults who take their kids to BK, and as with all BK adult advertising campaigns, it is being shown "only during shows targeting adult audiences," the company states. The commercial "is intended to show that even adults can have fun, laugh and be silly with entertainment genres -- such as rap and pop culture icons -- that have become part of everyday life."

The chain has developed a second, "completely different" SpongeBob advertising campaign for kids that's currently airing on kid-targeted programming, BK adds.

Do you think this ad is inappropriate ... or is this much ado about nothing?

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50 comments so far | Post a comment now
Catherine April 9, 2009, 2:26 PM

When I saw this commercial for the first time, I was appalled. Sure it requires an adult meal purchase to get the kid’s meal, but as soon as SpongeBob pops up on the screen, kids are going to hone in, whether they’re technically being “targeted” or not. Sick.

amy April 9, 2009, 3:33 PM

This is awful…

birdsfly April 9, 2009, 4:14 PM

I thought it was funny

How_Embarassing April 9, 2009, 5:05 PM

this is NOT okay. I’m sure that it’s people that dont think there is anything wrong with it, dont have young kids. I think it’s really irresponsible for them to continue to run this commercial.It’s kind of made me embarassed to see it. It’s not like I’m a “prude”, heck I still listen to my rap music when i don’t have the kids with me, but this is directed towards the kids! Girls in daisy dukes shaking their butts for a kid commercial? Not ok!

Briellis April 9, 2009, 5:09 PM

Not going to lie, I laughed too. It’s really funny. I have a young daughter, too young for TV. I have my own set of problems when it comes to idiotic TV like Spongebob. It’s not like this commercial is on Noggin. I saw it while watching something on TNT (probably an SVU rerun).

birdsfly April 9, 2009, 5:14 PM

I’ve only seen it on breaks for prime time shows that no children should be watching anyway

mollysmom April 9, 2009, 6:34 PM

i thought it was funny and brought back a couple of memories….anyway i have a 4 year old and i wouldn’t want her to see this and unless they put it on noggin she won’t. this is aimed at parents who will actually buy the crap and they are the ones who need to police what their kids are watching. this is why we don’t watch nickjr, the shows are good but the commercials are awful and not age appropriate.

Pamala April 9, 2009, 6:50 PM

Honestly I’ve never understood how anyone can watch Spongebob in the first place. It’s crap and horrible and bad for children. But hey whatever. And I’ve always believed in being the parent so if Burger King comes out with an ad like this my kid won’t be seeing it because well, she doesn’t watch any shows or channels that have commercials. It’s pretty easy, don’t want your kid to see it, don’t let them watch it.

Gwynne April 9, 2009, 6:51 PM

I found it absolutely hilarious, although inappropriate for children. That being said, where is it being shown? From what I can tell, it’s being shown in slots for adult TV shows, not children’s TV shows. If it’s shown on kids shows, then there’s a problem. Otherwise, it’s just funny.

melissa April 9, 2009, 6:53 PM

the first time i saw it i thought it was funny. but then, i was like…wait a minute, that’s for KIDS meals at burger king. and it annoyed me. so no…it’s NOT appropriate and burger king should be ashamed of themselves for going this advertising route.

justmyrinda April 9, 2009, 6:54 PM

I also saw this (actually I fast forwarded through it) well after the kiddos bedtime.
We don’t love spongebob or fast food for kids here anyway and I am finding all their King commercials slightly creepy and appealing to a more “common” type of person/humor than I find appealing…I have BK, Jack in the Box, Del Taco and Carl’s JR within walking distance as well as several other quick food options that are healthier. BK is probably last on my list anyway, my kids think the apple fries are dumb (though I like them, lol!)…
Hey Burger King, if you’re listening, these ads make me nauseous and I associate that with your food! LOL!

Beth in SF April 9, 2009, 7:02 PM

My thoughts? The ad got our attention, the advertisers’ work is done. Whether or not we like it is another story. Personally I think it’s funny. Though my son is too young to know about sex, so maybe ask me again in a few years.

Ms.V April 9, 2009, 7:03 PM

I can’t stand the word, “booty”.

momof2 April 9, 2009, 7:09 PM

this is not something i want my kids to see on tv. 2 little girls that LOVE spongebob and any time they see an ad with him they are stuck to the tv. so yeah this ad is pretty dumb and i too was appalled.

not a mom April 9, 2009, 7:27 PM

i found all the butt references very unecessary
there are smarter ways of advertising

Kim April 9, 2009, 7:28 PM

I just watched this. It’s the first time that I saw it. I have a 7 year old son. I don’t see the problem with this. It’s funny and the kids don’t see the girls. They see SPONGEBOB. It’s parent’s who make a bigger deal out of things and that makes the kids think that there is something wrong. It’s like if you tell a kid that they won’t fail then guess what…they are less likely to. So if you don’t put it in their mind that it’s wrong then guess what…it won’t be. Kids are innocent until we start teaching them right and wrong. If a kid is watching something like this commercial they see Spongebob. I had my son watch it and he said, “SPONGEBOB!!! That’s Spongebob mommy!” He didn’t say ‘Wow mommy look at all of those girls shaking their butts on TV!’ This is just my opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own.

jordan F April 9, 2009, 7:33 PM

I do not understand how in God’s good name thought this Ad. Though Kim (posted 4/09/09) is certainly correct, I do not feel that the sexuality of the AD truly makes sense and is shameful because a child may not comment on the girls but that is not the point, the point is THEY SEE THAT and think it is how woman are meant to be. (minus the square backend).

Pineapple Under the Sea April 9, 2009, 7:35 PM

OMG that is SO funny!

A commercial like that surely will be aired during something like Family Guy or American Dad or another show of an ADULT nature. Anyone with kids younger than teens who are allowing their kids to watch shows with adult content have no right to balk at the commercial!

Still laughing…

RC in DC April 9, 2009, 7:36 PM

This add is inappropriate for children. Burger King buildings are as well if they decide to have posters with this theme plastered all over the walls. This is an excellent example of how not to market to children and their parents. Grade: F (Epic Fail!)

Kristen April 9, 2009, 7:40 PM

I think it’s hilarious. Does it make me want to eat at Burger King? No. Does it make me remember that BK has Spongebob toys? Yes.

I don’t think children will be scarred by booty-shaking phonebook butts. I could be wrong. But it made me laugh.

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