BBB National Programs Archive

Bullying Includes Water Balloon! CARU Says ZURU Ads Violate Children’s Advertising Rules; Company Says Future Advertising Will Comply

New York, NY – January 31, 2019 – Children throwing water balloons at unsuspecting adults may seem like child’s play, but the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has found that it violates the Core Principle 7 of CARU’s Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising.   CARU is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Television advertising for ZURU Toys Bunch of Balloons came to CARU’s attention through CARU’s routine monitoring practices.  Following its review, the key issue before CARU was whether the advertising featured behavior that appeared to be disrespectful to others.  Specifically, the depictions of a group of children throwing water balloons in three separate scenarios at three unsuspecting adults.

CARU’s Core Principles, which are the foundation and guiding spirit of CARU’s Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising,  call for companies marketing to children to create advertising that serves an educational role and influences positive personal qualities and behaviors in children, e.g., being honest and respectful of others.

“Given the ugly reality of bullying in this country today, this Core Principle is more relevant than ever before,” said Dona Fraser, CARU director.

CARU noted in its decision that the reaction of the adults in the commercial to being hit and soaked by an unexpected water balloon was not one of welcome fun but of annoyance.  When each of these adults was hit with a balloon their faces register shock and surprise.  Not one of the adults smiled, laughed, or in any way had a positive response.  The adults were clearly not part of a party or an organized balloon fight.  In fact, the commercial showed the group of children laughing at the adult’s discomfort.

CARU recommended that in the future the advertiser incorporate a more inclusive tone in its commercial, e.g. providing balloons to everyone, showing light interactions between players, and avoiding an us/them feel,

ZURU, in its advertiser’s statement, stated that the paid flight schedule for this commercial had ended and the company had no plans to re-air the ad.  ZURU agreed to take CARU’s recommendations into account in future advertising of products designed for children.