BBB National Programs Archive

CARU Recommends National Geographic Kids Clearly Label Advertising To Avoid Blurring Ad, Editorial Content

New York, NY – Sept.  21, 2010 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., has recommended that the National Geographic Society, publisher of National Geographic Kids, clearly label advertising in the children’s magazine to avoid blurring editorial and advertising content. NGS has greed to do so.  

Print advertising for “The Ranger’s Apprentice” book series, which appeared in the May 2010 issue of National Geographic Kids, came to the attention of CARU, the children’s advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, through CARU’s ongoing monitoring of advertising directed to children.

“The Ranger’s Apprentice” is a series of adventure novels and the advertising – placed on the upper half of a right-side page – featured three book covers and a picture of one of the series’ characters. The advertisement had a dark background with gold and white text and blue highlighting throughout. 

On the left-side page was an editorial feature entitled, “Bet You Didn’t Know: 10 Earthshaking Facts About Our World.”  The feature, which jumped to the right-side page, beneath the advertising at issue,  contained a number of random facts on various topics about the world including science, geography and history.  The editorial feature had a dark background with blue, white and gold lettering. 

CARU was concerned that children would have difficulty distinguishing between the editorial feature and the advertisement for the book series.

To determine whether blurring has occurred, CARU typically looks at the net impression of an advertisement as a whole.  In this case, CARU also had to look at the advertisement in relation to the adjoining editorial feature. After reviewing the advertisement in this context, CARU determined that one reasonable take away message was that some of the “facts” in the feature were related in some way to the content in the books and part of the same article.

Following its review, CARU recommended that the magazine implement a prominent disclosure to delineate advertising content from editorial content, which the publisher has agreed to do.

National Geographic Society, publisher of National Geographic Kids magazine, said in its advertiser’s statement that it has “instituted a policy of including the slug line ‘Advertising’ at the top of any fractional advertising that appears in the Magazine, regardless of the content or color.”