Children’s Advertising Review Unit
Administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.
Policies and Procedures set by the National Advertising Review Council 70 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018
The Children’s Advertising Review Unit Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising
A. Overview of the Self-Regulatory Program
In 1974, the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) established the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) as a self-regulatory program to promote responsible children’s advertising. CARU is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and funded by members of the children’s advertising industry.
CARU’s self- regulatory program sets high standards for the industry to assure that advertising directed to children is not deceptive, unfair or inappropriate for its intended audience. The standards take into account the special vulnerabilities of children, e.g., their inexperience, immaturity, susceptibility to being misled or unduly influenced, and their lack of cognitive skills needed to evaluate the credibility of advertising.
CARU’s standards are embodied in principles and guidelines that were first adopted by CARU in 1975 and have been periodically revised to address changes in the marketing and media landscapes. For example, in 1996, CARU added a new section of the guidelines to address concerns about online data collection practices.
B. CARU’s Role
CARU monitors and reviews advertising directed to children, initiates and receives complaints about advertising practices, and determines whether such practices violate the program’s standards. When it finds violations, it seeks changes through the voluntary cooperation of advertisers and Website operators. CARU also offers a general advisory service for advertisers and agencies, provides informational material for children, parents and educators, and encourages advertisers to develop and promote the dissemination of educational messages to children consistent with the Children’s Television Act of 1990.
C. Boards and Advisory Bodies
Policy for CARU’s self-regulatory program is set by the Board of Directors of NARC, a strategic alliance of the advertising industry and the CBBB. The Board is composed of key executives from the CBBB, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, the Electronic Retailing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
CARU’s Academic/Expert Advisory Board includes leading experts in education, communication, child development, child mental health, marketing and nutrition. These advisors provide CARU with guidance on child psycholo gy and behavioral issues, market trends and research, and other issues as they relate to advertising and marketing to children. Members of the Advisory Board also consult with CARU on individual cases and participate in the review and revision of the principles and guidelines of the self-regulatory program.
The CARU Supporters’ Council, composed of representatives of the companies that support the children’s advertising industry’s self-regulatory system, provides CARU with advice on trends and developments in children’s advertising and media and participates in the review and revision of the principles and guidelines of the self- regulatory program.
D. Procedures and Review Process
The procedures governing the review and resolution of cases, including the opportunity for appellate review by the National Advertising Review Board, are set forth in The Advertising Industry’s Process of Voluntary Self-Regulation, which can be found at http://wwwcaru.org/05_Procedures.pdf. Under the procedures, at least ten times a year, the CBBB publishes Case Reports that include CARU’s final case decisions, an Activity Report summarizing actions other than formal case decisions, and guidance based on prior published decisions. CARU’s Case Reports can be found at http://www.caru.org.
II. THE SELF-REGULATORY PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN’S ADVERTISING
The principles and guidelines of the program apply to:
1. “National advertising” shall include any paid commercial message, in any medium (including labeling), if: (a) it has the purpose of inducing a sale or other commercial transaction or persuading the audience of the value or usefulness of a company, product or service; (b) it is disseminated nationally or to a substantial portion of the United States, or is test market advertising prepared for national campaigns; and (c) the content is controlled by the advertiser.
2. “Advertiser” shall mean any person or other legal entity that engages in “national advertising,” and includes, under Part II of the Guidelines, those who operate a commercial Website or an online service.
C. Core Principles
The following Core Principles apply to all practices covered by the self-regulatory program.
D. Guidelines 1. An Overview
The Core Principles are broad in scope and reflect the belief that responsible advertising comes in many forms and that diversity should be encouraged. They aim to cover the myriad advertising practices in today’s marketplace, as well as those that may emerge as technologies and advertising practices evolve. The Guidelines below are designed to provide additional guidance to assist advertisers in applying these broad principles to their child-directed advertising and to help them deal sensitively and honestly with children.
The Guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive. With respect to advertising practices that are not specifically addressed, CARU will apply the above Core Principles in evaluating the practices.
Part I of the Guidelines offers general guidance on deception and other marketing practices that are inappropriate when directed to children, and encourages certain practices. Part II addresses online data collection and other privacy-related practices that pose special concerns for children and require more specific guidance.
2. Part I: General Guidelines (a) Deception
To assure that advertising directed to children is not deceptive:
To avoid deceptive and/or inappropriate advertising to children involving product presentations and claims:
1 While there may be a number of acceptable ways to depict a nutritionally balanced meal for children, each depiction should contain at least three of the five major food groups, preferably including those food groups recommended for increased consumption by current USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and My Pyramid (i.e., fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products and whole grains). The food included in the meal should reflect reasonable portion sizes and types of foods appropriate for children in the meal setting depicted. For example, a reasonable depiction of carrots may contain an appropriate side-dish portion for a child, rather than one or two condiment-size sticks. If the meal includes a caloric beverage, the beverage should be one that is appropriate in a nutritionally balanced meal taking into account the beverage’s nutritional attributes and its calories within the context of the meal depicted.
b. Snack foods should be clearly depicted as such, and not as substitutes for meals.
(c) Material Disclosures and Disclaimers
1. Advertisers should recognize that the mere appearance of a celebrity or authority figure with a product can significantly alter a child’s perception of the product. Advertisers may use such personalities as product endorsers, presenters, or testifiers, but they must take great care to avoid creating any false impression that the use of the product enhanced the celebrity’s or authority figure’s performance.
2 This provision does not apply to the mere presence of a product or character in program/editorial content.
3 This provision does not apply to the mere presence of a character or personality in program/editorial content.
separated from the program and clearly designated as advertising.
(f) Premiums, Kids’ Clubs, Sweepstakes and Contests
a. Advertisers should recognize that children may have unrealistic expectations about the chances of winning a sweepstakes or contest or inflated expectations of the prize(s) to be won.
(g) Online Sales
1. Advertising should not urge children to ask parents or others to buy products. It should not suggest that a parent or adult who purchases a product or service for a child is better, more intelligent or more generous than one who does not.
4 Requiring the use of a credit card in connection with a transaction is a reasonable effort to provide the person responsible for payment with control over the transaction. This is consistent with COPPA regulations. See 16 CFR § 312.5.
b. Advertising should not portray or encourage behavior in appropriate for children (e.g., violence or sexuality) or include material that could unduly frighten or provoke anxiety in children; nor should advertisers targeting children display or knowingly link to pages of a Website that portray such behaviors or materials.
3. Part II: Guidelines for Online Privacy Protection
This Part addresses concerns about the collection of personal data from children and other privacy-related practices on the Internet. Its provisions are consistent with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) and the FTC’s implementing Rule, which protect children under the age of 13.
Online data collection from children poses special concerns. The medium offers unique opportunities to interact with children and to gather information for marketing purposes. Young children however, may not understand the nature of the information being sought or its intended uses, and the medium makes it easy to collect such data directly from children without the supervision or permission of their parents or guardians. The solicitation of personally identifiable information from children (e.g., full names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers) therefore triggers special privacy and security concerns.
The guidelines below address those concerns by providing guidance on specific issues involving online data collection and other privacy-related practices by Website operators that target children under 13 years of age or that know or should know that a visitor is a child under 13 years of age.
(a) Data Collection
6 The definition of “verifiable parental consent” in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule applies. See 16 CFR § 312.5.
Copyright 1975, 2003, 2006, 2009 Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. The name Children’s Advertising Review Unit is a registered service mark of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. Ninth Edition 2009.