January 2000 – The Duncan Toy Company, the largest maker and distributor of yo-yos in the U.S., pulled an objectionable ad after AFA rallied supporters to contact the company and brought the ad to the attention of retailers.
In a pre-Christmas advertising blitz designed to introduce its new “Hard-core Series” of yo-yos, Duncan began airing a television commercial which employed the repeated use of a well-known vulgar hand gesture. After 17 such motions, the announcer tags the 30-second spot with “Give us the finger, we’ll give you the power.”
The commercial began airing in November on the Disney-owned E! Entertainment cable channel. Despite numerous complaints, Duncan Toys President Jason Sauey initially told the online news service WorldNetDaily that he saw nothing wrong with the ad, and said there were even worse things on television.
WorldNetDaily also said Duncan executive Charlie Winstrom defiantly answered an email message by saying, “We will NEVER cave to those self-righteous prudes.”
AFA Vice President Tim Wildmon, however, said AFA was not being prudish, and instead called the commercial “negligent” and “ irresponsible.” Wildmon said, “Duncan Toys should be ashamed of themselves for legitimizing the most antagonistic and obscene symbol of our society in exchange for a few dollars profit.”
After being contacted by AFA, a number of national retail store chains seemed to agree. The Toys “R” Us Company, for example, canceled instore appearances by Duncan’s “Pros on Tour” because of the ad, and also said it would no longer purchase Duncan products. After viewing the controversial Duncan yo-yo ad, Toys “R” Us Chief Marketing Officer Warren Kornblum said the 1,500- store chain would not “in any way, shape or form endorse that kind of approach to the young people of this country.”
The AFA campaign succeeded and Duncan has said that the company will no longer run the offensive advertisement.
“There is an important lesson in this yoyo fiasco,” said AFA Special Projects Director Randy Sharp, who headed up the AFA response to Duncan. “Companies should realize that when you offend parents in an ad – when you communicate a message contrary to the principles by which parents raise their children – then your ad will be counterproductive. An edgy ad might seem funny, but parents take their responsibilities seriously.”