BBB National Programs Archive

CARU Recommends Sony Modify “Eyepet” Ads To Better Disclose Products Included With Initial Purchase; Company Agrees To Do So

New York – Jan. 18, 2011 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Sony Computer Entertainment America modify broadcast advertising for the Sony Playstation’s EyePet video game to assure that children understand that they must purchase a controller, camera and Playstation 3 console to play the game.

Two broadcast ads for EyePet came to the attention of CARU, the children’s advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, through CARU’s routine monitoring of advertising directed to children.

The first commercial featured a small white disclosure against a beige background, which read, “Game and system sold separately.”  The commercial featured a shot of the video-game box, along with what appeared to be the controller. The final shot showed the controller, an item that appeared to be a camera, and a flat-screen television.

The second commercial featured a small, white super on a beige background at the bottom of the screen, which read, “Game is sold separately from the console and the peripherals, followed by a shot that shows the video-game box. The final shot depicted the controller, camera, and a flat-screen television.

In this case, CARU considered whether the written disclosures in the commercials were adequate to inform children that the products shown in the commercial – the game itself, the controller, the camera, and the game system – were each sold separately.

When reviewing advertising directed to children, CARU takes into account the special vulnerabilities of children, including their limited knowledge, sophistication, and their lack of cognitive skills needed to evaluate the credibility of advertising.   CARU’s guidelines state that disclosures that are material to a child must be understandable and conspicuous to children in the intended audience and the guidelines specify that disclosures are necessary to convey information about products purchased separately, such as accessories or individual items in a collection.  The guidelines note that such disclosure should be audible, unless disclosure in another format “is likely to be seen and understood by the intended audience.”  

After reviewing all the evidence in the record, CARU determined that the written supers were not adequate to inform children what items came with the initial purchase and what equipment was necessary to play the game and recommended the advertiser modify the commercials at issue to make that information clear.

In reaching its determination, CARU considered that the game was intended for children as young as six, many of whom cannot read; that the supers in both commercials – white type against a beige background – were difficult to see and that the language in the second commercial referencing “peripherals” may be difficult to younger children to understand.

Finally, CARU found that the final shots in both commercials, unaccompanied by written or audio disclosures, could confuse child viewers about the items included with initial purchase.

Sony, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company is “is committed to responsible advertising to all audiences, including young audiences. We have reviewed carefully CARU’s conclusions regarding the advertisements in question. These advertisements are no longer running in any media, but should SCEA use these advertisements in the future, we intend to follow CARU’s guidance.”