The United Way of Greater Milwaukee had a great message – teenage pregnancy is no fairy tale – but a flawed messenger in an edgy bus-shelter advertising campaign that the not-for-profit abandoned this week, after worries about running afoul of one of the most iconic brands in all the land: Disney.
Cartoon princesses were supposed to deliver an incongruous-seeming message that was to serve as a wake-up call to young girls, who more and more frequently are becoming impregnated by older men.
“One day the man of my dreams will sweep me off my feet and rape me,” the ads were to say, with hearts and flowers sprinkled about in a cartoonish backdrop. “An older man who sleeps with an underage girl isn’t a prince,” the ads were to conclude. “He’s a rapist.”
That's right: goodbye, Prince Charming; watch out for Prince Harming.
The problem with this imagery was that Clear Channel, which controls the advertising space in Milwaukee County bus shelters, wasn’t satisfied that United Way and the campaign creators had received sufficient legal clearance to run ads whose cartoon figures might too closely resemble stock Disney characters.
Famously hawkish about protecting its trademarks and images, the legal department at Disney would not have been amused, as Clear Channel feared.
So Serve Marketing, the agency, and the United Way branch quite literally will go back to the drawing board. “At the end of the day, Disney doesn’t own fairy tales and princesses,” Gary Mueller, founder of Serve, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“All princesses wear dresses, have crowns and flowing hair and wear jewelry and white gloves. We just have to go a little further to separate the look of our art from theirs.”