(By Balachander) Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK) has been criticised by advocacy groups for using animated characters from the movie "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" to market its children allergy treatment Claritin.
Termings Merck's use of Madagascar characters as "unfair and deceptive", the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) along with 10 other organizations have requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe into the company's marketing campaign for OTC grape-flavored children's Claritin allergy chewable tablets and syrup.
This campaign is in violation of longstanding FTC precedent to protect children from child-directed marketing of OTC supplements and, by extension, OTC drugs, the group said.
The marketing creates a very real danger of product confusion and may induce children to over-consume the allergy medication, wrote Cara Wilking, a PHAI senior staff attorney. "Apparently OTC drug-makers like Merck need to be reminded that targeting kids is unfair, deceptive, and unacceptable."
The use of Dreamworks' Madagascar characters simultaneously on fruit-flavored children's candy and gummy snacks and Grape-Flavored Children's Claritin chewable tablets and syrup creates the impression that the OTC drug is candy, said Wilking.
Dreamworks (DWA) licensed its Madagascar characters for use on a number of children's food products including grape-flavored children's Claritin, General Mills' (GIS) fruit-flavored gummy snacks, McDonald's (MCD) Happy Meals and fruit-flavored Airheads candy.
Merck's current campaign was designed to coincide with the June 2012 release of Dreamworks' Madagascar 3 children's movie.