For the first time, the famous theme song for public television's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is part of a commercial advertisement -- with the blessing of Fred Rogers' production company.
The ad, "Can't Wait to Meet You, Neighbour," premiered in Canada during the Academy Awards broadcast last month, and currently promotes retailer Target's arrival in the country.
“Normally they would not entertain this,” said Livia Zufferli, director of marketing for Target Canada, referring to the Fred Rogers Co. in Pittsburgh. In addition to paying a licensing fee, Target Canada appealed to the nonprofit by touting its own philanthropic work in communities, she told the Globe and Mail.
“When we were first approached by Target," William Isler, president of Fred Rogers Co., told the newspaper, "we immediately felt very comfortable with the respect they had for Fred and his legacy. That is paramount to us."
Since its premiere, a few complaints have emerged. "[W]hen you consider the lengths Fred Rogers went to in order to avoid commercialization," one Pittsburgh writer said on a local Post-Gazette blog, "allowing his music to be used to advertise a store is an uncomfortable fit with his sterling legacy as a promoter of noncommercial, educational television."
Mister Rogers has a Canadian connection, the Globe and Mail noted. His first show aired on CBC in 1963, and he took some of the Canadian-designed sets -- such as the trolley -- with him when he developed his show for PBS in 1968.
Target selected the tune to run in English-language versions of the ad; a French version in Quebec features a different song.