The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) determined recently that Skechers, the maker of Red Phrans-Phavorite Sneakers, and Marc Ecko Enterprises, which markets the product, should modify or discontinue advertising that suggests the shoes shine red when used. CARU picked up the ad during its monitoring practices, as it aired during after-school hours on Nickelodeon. Vanessa Hudgens is shown dancing in the commercial, and as she does so, her shoelaces light up in bright red. Her back-up dancers also wear shoes that appear to light up. There is even a close-up of the laces illuminated in red. Oh, and did I mention the shoes are called “Reds”?

Red-faced with frustration, Skechers and Marc Ecko Enterprises have decided that CARU is wrong to assume that kids think the laces really light up. So they are going to appeal to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB). Appeals from CARU cases are rare, so this should be interesting. It should be noted that CARU has no power to pull an advertisement, and it cannot refer the matter to the FTC while an appeal is pending under its procedures. Thus, Skechers and Marc Ecko might be planning to run the spot through Easter and then pull it before the NARB hearing. If so, that’s an interesting strategic move.

Why This Matters

You can’t misrepresent how a product works, but the threshold is very low when it comes to kids. Shoes that appear to light up or that make you jump really high are two ways in which CARU has limited marketers’ ability to exaggerate in the area of kids’ advertising. Also, when it comes to the self-regulatory process, it’s good to know the rules.