By now, you may have caught the grin-inducing trailer for the upcoming animated feature, “Happy Feet”. Here’s a small plot outline, “In the great nation of Emperor Penguins, deep in Antarctica, youâ€™re nobody unless you can sing–which is unfortunate for Mumble, who is the worst singer in the world. He is born dancing to his own tune–tap dancing.”
Cute, right? — and there’s lots of musical numbers to along with it. Now, according to early reviews, there is some kind of environmental message in the film; which is great. However, if you venture over the kid-friendly animated Happy Feet website, the real face of Hollywood PR becomes evident. Click on the “Partners” button and you’re met with such famous brands as Sears, General Mills, Blockbuster and…Roche Pharmaceutical? That’s right, a drug company has partnered up with a movie about Penguins to market flu products. It gets deeper…from a recent article on the issue,
“Characters from â€œHappy Feetâ€ appear in an extensive advertising campaign, including network and cable commercials, full-page magazine ads and online banner ads, for Roche, promoting its Web site www.flufacts.com. A Warner executive, who asked not to be named because the issue involved both Warner and Roche, pointed out that the ads never depicted the penguin characters taking or dispensing any medication. â€œThey are not trying to sell you something if you donâ€™t need it,â€ this executive said. (Coincidentally, the filmâ€™s director and co-executive producer, George Miller, who approved the various tie-ins, is a former doctor.)”
Go ahead and set off those conflict-of-interest alarms and then consider this: In no such way on the Happy Feet website are there any efforts to partner up with organizations or campaigns related to the environment or animals depicted in the movie. If you understand that children are going to be visiting your site, why not add ‘social responsibility’ to your list of PR objectives and offer some kind of education or opportunity to help? Why not team up with Greenpeace or how about partner up with the World Animal Foundation’s Adopt-A-Penguin program? I’m sure there are a lot of kids out there that will be interested in adopting once this movie comes out.
Instead you go with flu products? You’ve got to be kidding me. Warner Brothers needs to expand their offerings beyond the big dollars of useless partners. In a day and age of growing corporate responsibility, there’s absolutely no justification for this lack of effort.