The Dove seal is gaining ground in retail outlets across the country, but many still have questions about the program. The seal is granted by the Dove Foundation, Grand Rapids, Mich., to videos that meet its guidelines for family-friendly fare. The program drew a lot of controversy when it was introduced two years ago from those in the video industry concerned that Dove's real goal was censorship. But if SN's second-annual video roundtable is any measure, attitudes toward the program are softening. "It's a reference point. It's a good reference point. For those that are interested in a reference point, then I think it's a nice service," said John Fincher, who handles national account sales at Baker & Taylor, Morton Grove, Ill. "Personally, I'm for Dove. But speaking for Ingram Entertainment, I don't think there's really a place for the video distributor in it," said David Ingram, vice president of major accounts/special markets at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "Dove was born out a lack of a good, thorough ratings system," noted Steve Berns, president and chief executive officer of SVI (Supermarket Video Inc.), Encino, Calif. "What we have found the consumer really wants is more clarification of what the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] ratings today really mean." Even with a program like the Dove seal, consumers still need to be educated about the system, said Kirk Mueldener, video distribution manager at Hy-Vee Food Stores, Chariton, Iowa. "At some point, you have to make sure the customer understands that ultimately the responsibility is theirs. Just by putting a seal on the product, the retailer is not taking responsibility for the product being safe to take home," he said. Following is the SN video roundtable's discussion of the Dove seal:
a lot of gray area there, but if I were a retailer, and it was important to me to make sure that I didn't have movies going out that were offensive to my customers, and I had a company that's helping me review them and giving me a package with some signage and stickers and things, I think I would be for it. Dove has asked Ingram to put its seal on the art going out in our mailers, but that's not something we need to be doing. If the studio thinks that's good, let them put the Dove seal on their artwork. I don't think there's a place for the distributor to be involved in something that is really the studios' domain. FINCHER: I agree completely. It's a reference point. It's a good reference point. For those that are interested in a reference point, then I think it's a nice service. But a studio should decide if it's going to be to its advantage or disadvantage in the way something is marketed. Obviously, they would want to use it if it was to their advantage. BERNS: Dove was born out a lack of a good, thorough ratings system. What we have found the consumer really wants is more clarification of what the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) ratings today really mean. Is it R because of excessive violence? A lot of nudity? Foul language? We have customers in the Midwest and in California, and some will allow their children to watch an R movie if it has curse words, but not if it has nudity. Others feel violence is OK. Everybody's different. What I think is needed is more of an elaboration on the ratings that exist today, so that R is not just R, but R is R for a specific reason. SEVERINSEN: Isn't that occurring though? Aren't some movies more specific. For example, on the back of one box I saw recently, it said it was rated R for profanity and for an airplane crash scene. Still, I don't know how closely parents are reading the box. I also tend to agree with you that everybody's value system is different on what's acceptable and not acceptable. BERNS: I don't mean that they should have to hunt around for this information on the back with the credits, all the way on the bottom, probably stickered over by a bar code or something. I'm talking about uniformity in packaging where it would be placed somewhere like the upper left or upper right, and say what it's rated and why. PIERCE: There is an industry standard now and it can be nonexclusive to whoever is setting up the rating system. Some companies have gone with this type of abbreviated description of the product, and that is a good move. Several years ago, there was a chart out with a fuller description of the ratings. We would like to see that because there is a certain amount of responsibility that falls to the retailer to try to educate the consumer. Perhaps it could be a counter card or something that could go into the box. We would support something like that because we are an MPAA company and we remain in full support of the MPAA and its rating system. SN: More supermarket chains have gone with Dove today than a year ago. Is that surprising? FINCHER: The supermarket wants to set itself up as a family-value position in the community, and they will continue to do whatever is positive to reinforce that. Dove just happens to be a group that is actually out there marketing themselves and this idea. I think Steve (Berns) hit it on the head. Dove only exists because there's not enough definition out there. I want to ask David (Pierce), do you think there should be more definition? Would it help you market your product? Or would it limit you in marketing your product by expanding the definitions? PIERCE: We've gone way beyond trying to play off the gray area about what the content of a product is. A lot of that has come from having key customers in supermarkets. You've got to be very up front in your approach. So I don't see any issue with expanding and elaborating on the ratings for specific titles. I see it as a positive tool. It could be advantageous to our selling process. SN: What are the other retailers doing in this area? STAGNER: We haven't done anything with Dove at all. MUELDENER: I've taken the MPAA rating system and condensed that down to one sheet that we provide to our customers. PIERCE: I don't think the concern (of the studios) is the delivery of the message to the consumer. You don't want the consumer to take a product home uneducated. It gets back to a special interest kind of situation. Now I have a young child and I am very particular about analyzing PG-13. When I see PG-13, my first reaction is caution, because there is a lot of PG-13 product that I feel is not appropriate for her. So as a parent, I understand that problem. But there is a concern about what is the driving force behind another special-interest type rating system. A lot of this came about because of a debate over editing product. That is not going to happen, because at that point you are talking about the creative community, and you are talking about censorship. FINCHER: It is interesting. There are some G-rated products that come out that are not going to be played in my home. We recently received an animated product and were absolutely perplexed to walk downstairs on Saturday morning and hear the characters call each other names that we don't use in my home. But it was rated G. PIERCE: I know the product. I think we passed on it. FINCHER: But then there's other products like "Mr. Nanny," which is a multiple-age family fun type movie. I don't know if it was a PG-13 or not, but it was welcome in my home. So I'm sure the consumer is making those decisions. I don't know how the supermarket today can turn that into a marketing advantage except if they are in a community that is very concerned about family values. Also, there are magazines out, like Parenting and Christian Parenting, that provide good reference points for the consumer.
MUELDENER: At some point, you have to make sure the customer understands that ultimately the responsibility is theirs. Just by putting a seal on the product, the retailer is not taking responsibility for the product being safe to take home.