ADVERTISING, MARKETING & PROMOTIONS
>> ALERT CHILDREN’S ADVERTISING UPDATE: CARU YEAR IN REVIEW While children’s advertisers spent most of 2013 complying with the FTC’s changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) (See a previous alert here), the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU) continued to open cases involving advertisements that were directed to children and failed to comply with CARU’s Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children’s Advertising (the CARU Guidelines). Given the industry’s current focus on COPPA, children’s advertisers should be reminded about their obligations under the CARU Guidelines as well. By way of background, CARU represents the children’s arm of the advertising industry’s self-regulation program and evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency with the CARU Guidelines and relevant laws. In 2013, CARU monitored more than 3,973 commercials, pre-screened more than 144 advertisements, and closed 31 cases. Children’s advertisers should pay particular attention to the sections outlined below when engaging in any marketing directed to children, as these areas have been the subject of recent CARU scrutiny:
UNSAFE OR INAPPROPRIATE ADVERTISING TO CHILDREN “Safety first” was CARU’s mantra in 2013, with CARU bringing a number of cases involving advertisements for products that were allegedly “unsafe and inappropriate” for children.
THE BOTTOM LINE This past year, CARU’s inquiries were particularly focused on advertisements involving safety issues, inadequate disclosures, sweepstakes and contests, and online privacy protection. CARU’s focus in these areas may suggest heightened scrutiny throughout 2014 as well (particularly with respect to online privacy protection, in light of the COPPA changes). As such, children’s advertisers should pay particular attention to the outlined sections above when engaging in any marketing directed to children.
Throughout the year, CARU continued its vigilance against products that posed safety risks to children, such as face cleansers, medicated poison ivy cleansing foam and other products that were labeled “Keep Out of Reach of Children.” CARU also held that fish oil supplements should not be advertised to children – not because the supplements were dangerous to children when used as directed – but because children (particularly those that could not yet read) may mistake the supplements for candy and accidentally ingest a harmful amount.
CARU continued to open inquiries against advertisements which failed to depict adult supervision in instances where children engaged in activities that presented safety risks. For example, CARU brought a case against an advertisement for an electric scooter which included a “Parental Supervision recommended” disclosure in the audio and video, but failed to show any parental supervision in the commercial itself. CARU also brought a case against a television commercial for an electric powered skateboard, which disclosed the need for parental
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ADVERTISING, MARKETING & PROMOTIONS >> ALERT supervision and even included adults in the spot. According to CARU, however, the adult supervision in the spot was not meaningful because the adults wore shaded helmets (so the audience could not see where they looked), and the adults did not appear to be concerned about the children’s actions. The advertiser also argued that the warnings on the product packaging and the product label emphasized the need for parental supervision so that additional disclosures were not required in the spot itself. CARU was not persuaded by the advertiser’s arguments, citing well-established precedent that advertisements that are inadequate on their face cannot be cured by supplemental information provided elsewhere. According to CARU, because a television advertisement is the child’s first poin