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November 01, 2003

Maybe they ought to first fire their agency 

Clueless agencies sometimes back their clients into brand-damaging corners through mindless exercises in marketing. In this case, the public raised the clarion call. Oddly, there's no mention of the brilliant ad people who concepted and sold the campaign.

Toys 'R' Us Ad Riles Anti - Drug Groups

Published: October 31, 2003

Filed at 6:38 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Toys ``R'' Us television commercial that featured the company's mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, inhaling helium from a balloon has drawn the ire of anti-drug advocates who say the ad sends a dangerous message to children.

``Any portrayal of inhalant use is bad, especially when we're reaching out to younger children who are at most risk of abusing inhalants,'' Charles Curie, administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said Friday.

According to a 2002 Monitoring the Future Study, 15.2 percent of eighth-graders have used inhalants in their lifetime.

The ad campaign has finished its rotation and will not be introduced, Toys ``R'' Us spokesperson Susan McLaughlin said in a statement.

``Toys ``R'' Us takes the safety of our guests very seriously,'' McLaughlin said. ``We would never encourage any behavior that would be dangerous in any way.''

Inhaling helium has the effect of distorting the human voice. It also can displace oxygen in the blood and lead to unconsciousness and, in rare occasions, death.

Advocates are also concerned about the portrayal of ``huffing'' helium in other commercials, television shows and movies.

``The ingestion of helium is dangerous,'' and has resulted in deaths, said Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a federally funded organization.

Weiss said he was inundated with complaints about the Toys ``R'' Us ad from parents, teachers, school nurses and substance abuse treatment workers, who also complained to the toy company.

``Maybe they heard what we had to say,'' Weiss said.
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