CARU Examines Consumer-Generated Imagery In Advertising For Mega Brands ‘Dragons Universe’

 New York, NY – May 11, 2011 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has determined that advertising for MEGA Brands, Inc., “Dragons Universe” construction sets could, through the use of computer-generated imagery, mislead children as to the capabilities of the advertised toys.

The advertising at issue came to the attention of CARU, the children’s advertising industry, through CARU’s routine monitoring practice.

The Dragons Universe products include the “Alliance” and “Predavor” lines of construction toys. The Alliance line features troopers and ships, while the Predavor line features dragons.

The broadcast advertising at issue employed extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). In the opening scene, Dragons Universe “Torchwing” flames are shown glowing, smoking and lighting up, which the toys do not do. Dragons Universe ships are shown flying through the air with animated pilots shooting computer generated images of lasers – actions a child could not duplicate with the actual toys.

The commercial featured the sounds of firing lasers and explosions, synchronized to the actions of the toys, which do not make noise. At no point during the commercial was there a display of the products’ actual method of operation or required hand manipulation.

The commercial featured a voiceover which stated: “Digitize—Rebuild!” “Enter a new adventure at MegaBloks.com. You can join the battle. This is Dragons Universe.”

The commercial continued with CGI and product shots, followed by the voiceover: “Digitize. Rebuild! Dragons Universe. Battle for your lives in 15 levels of game play. The adventure begins at Megabloks.com.” The commercial closed with a shot of the Dragons Universe logo and the Megabloks.com URL.

Upon initial examination, CARU was concerned that the commercial could potentially mislead children. CARU guidelines direct that copy, sound and visual presentation “should not mislead children about product or performance characteristics.”

Further, the guidelines note that the performance and use of a product “should be demonstrated in a way that can be duplicated by the child for whom the product is intended.”

Upon receipt of CARU’s inquiry, MEGA Brands informed CARU that the commercial was no longer running and that there were no plans to air it again. The advertiser argued, however, that the commercial was intended to promote its Website, rather than its toys. CARU disagreed with that position. Further, CARU determined that the commercial could potentially mislead children as to the toys’ capabilities and did not adequately disclose that the toys required assembly. CARU recommended that the advertiser CARU clearly depict how the toys actually operate, as well as the fact that they require assembly.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said it “appreciates the opportunity to participate in the CARU process and will take CARU’s decision in this case into consideration in future advertisements.”