Merck & Co.’s (MRK) use of cartoon characters from the movie “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” to market children’s allergy drug Claritin is dangerous and deceptive, advocacy groups say.
Use of the animated animals may cause kids to confuse the medicine with candy, according to a complaint filed by 11 groups today with the Federal Trade Commission. The same characters are used to sell children’s snacks and McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) Happy Meals, the groups said.
Merck’s marketing campaign for grape-flavored chewable children’s Claritin includes free Madagascar stickers, a mail-in movie ticket voucher and Madagascar-themed games. The promotions violate a precedent for marketing to children set by the FTC in 1977, the groups say. In that case, the agency ruled that Spider-Man couldn’t be used in television and print ads to market vitamins to children. The organizations said the ruling should be used to stop the movie-themed marketing of Claritin.