'Transformers' ads target young kids, group says


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A child advocacy group complained Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission that ads and toys tied to the upcoming "Transformers" movie are aimed at children as young as 2 years old even though the film is rated PG-13.

The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood called on the commission to work with the toy industry and media companies to develop a uniform rating system so toys tied to PG-13 movies would not be marketed to children younger than 13. It also asked the FTC to investigate the marketing of PG-13 movies to children.

"We are reviewing the letter with great interest," said Jackie Dizdul, a spokeswoman for the FTC.

Hasbro Inc. spokesman Wayne Charness said in a written statement that parents can rely on the existing toy coding and movie ratings to decide whether they are appropriate for their children.

"We believe that we are already taking the necessary steps in keeping the public informed so they can make decisions within the home, as opposed to further government mandates," Charness said, pointing out that Transformers toys have been around since 1984, long before the movie.

Representatives from the Toy Industry Association and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount and Dreamworks, which produced the movie together, did not immediately return requests for comment.

"Transformers," due to be released nationwide July 4, is rated PG-13 for violence and other content. Hasbro has released dozens of toys related to the film, some for children as young as 3 years old.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood told the FTC it monitored the Nickelodeon cable channel Monday and recorded "Transformers" movie ads during the shows "Fairly Odd Parents" and "Jimmy Neutron," both rated TV-Y for all children, including those ages 2 to 6. It also recorded ads during "Ned's Declassified," which is rated for children 7 and older.

"'Transformers' is a film that the industry itself deems to be too violent for children under the age of 13," said Susan Linn, a psychologist who co-founded the group. "When the toys and the film have ads during shows that children watch, the message that everyone is getting is, 'Well, it must be fine.' Yet the industry is actually saying that it isn't."