CARU Updates Guidelines for Advertising to Children – Media, Telecommunications, Computers, Entertainment


United States: CARU updates guidelines on advertising to children

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Key points to remember:

  • The Children’s Advertising Review Unit has released new guidelines for advertising to children, going beyond traditional television advertising, to address a wider range of digital advertising issues.
  • The updated guidelines come into effect on January 1, 2022 and apply to advertising that is primarily directed to children under the age of 13 in any medium or content.

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) is administered by the National Programs of the Better Business Bureau and monitors advertising and media directed at children to ensure they meet self-regulatory guidelines. CARU often takes enforcement action when it identifies non-compliance with its advertising truth standards and guidelines. CARU announced a new Self-regulatory guidelines for advertising to children (the Guidelines) on July 29, 2021.

The updated guidelines are based on the underlying principle that children have limited knowledge, experience, sophistication and maturity, and are therefore more likely to be confused or misled by advertising, unless that advertisers do take extra care to ensure that advertising is truthful and not misleading. According to the Guidelines, advertising should also encourage responsible use of products and positive behaviors in children, including by neither describing nor encouraging negative social stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination.

As in previous versions, the Guidelines require (i) that the general impression of the advertisement is not misleading to children; (ii) that the advertisements be evaluated from the perspective of an ordinary child; and (iii) that advertisers have adequate justification for all objective claims conveyed by the advertisement. In addition, the updated guidelines:

  • Incorporate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides Regarding the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, 16 CFR § 255 (b), and requiring disclosure of material connections that ordinary children do not expect;
  • Require contextual disclosures or cues to help children distinguish between advertising and non-advertising content;
  • Establish requirements for advertising bonuses, loyalty programs and contests and sweepstakes aimed at children;
  • Require that online shopping buttons include clear and visible instructions that the child must have parental or adult permission to order;
  • Prohibit unfair, deceptive or manipulative tactics in online apps and games, including deceptive door openers or social pressure to encourage ad viewing or in-app / game purchases;
  • Require the use of material disclosures that take into account children’s limited vocabularies and language skills, including specific scenarios (for example, when unassembled products need to be assembled); and
  • Complement existing CARU bans against unsafe and inappropriate advertising to children.

Children’s privacy guidelines, which were included in previous versions of the guidelines, can now be found in the BBB’s national programs. Self-regulatory guidelines for protecting children’s online privacy.

The updated guidelines will take effect on January 1, 2022 and will apply to advertising that is primarily directed to children under the age of 13 in any medium or content. Whether the advertisement is primarily aimed at children will be determined by various factors including the subject matter, the use of animated characters aimed at children, the presence of famous children, and the evidence regarding the intended audience.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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