Children’s Advertising Review Unit Issues Revised Guidelines for Responsible Advertising to Children, Effective January 1, 2022

For Immediate Release
Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs

703.247.9330 / press@bbbnp.org

In the new year, CARU will begin monitoring under its revised Guidelines, which for the first time address in-app advertising, influencers, and diversity and inclusion.

McLean, VA – July 29, 2021 – BBB National Programs’ Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) today announced the issuance of the revised CARU Advertising Guidelines, widely recognized industry standards to assure that advertising directed to children is not deceptive, unfair, or inappropriate for its intended audience.

BBB National Programs’ CARU monitors child-directed media to ensure compliance with these guidelines, seeking voluntary cooperation of companies and, where necessary, referral for enforcement action to an appropriate federal regulatory body, usually the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or state Attorneys General. 

These revised Guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2022. At that time, CARU will begin actively investigating cases of non-compliance. 

The growth in online platforms and new immersive forms of child-directed interactive media during the past decade is reflected in the revised Guidelines, which now more specifically address digital media, video, influencer marketing, apps, in-game advertising and purchase options in games, social media, and other interactive media in the children’s space. 

“Over the years, the CARU Advertising Guidelines have been revised periodically to address changes in media and marketing, and central to these new revisions are the changes taking into account today’s digital environment,” said Mamie Kresses, Vice President, Children’s Advertising Review Unit, BBB National Programs. “In addition, recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in ad creative, the revised CARU Advertising Guidelines hold advertisers accountable for negative social stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination.”

Kresses added: “The Guidelines call on advertisers to recognize the power of their advertising to promote positive change, encourage responsible product use, and support the healthy development of the child.”

The core principles of the CARU Advertising Guidelines have not changed. The Guidelines continue to address that advertising should be truthful and not misleading, clearly represent itself as advertising, and not depict or promote inappropriate or unsafe behavior. The Guidelines also continue to address the special responsibility of an advertiser when creating content for an audience of limited knowledge, experience, sophistication, and maturity.

The revised Guidelines:

  • Move beyond television-centric to address and reflect today’s digital advertising environment.
  • Contain a new section dedicated to in-app and in-game advertising and purchases.
  • Contain a new guideline requiring that advertising not portray or encourage negative social stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination.
  • Incorporate updated FTC guidance on endorsements and influencer marketing.
  • Apply to children under age 13 across all child-directed content no matter the platform. The previous Guidelines applied primarily to children under age 12.
  • More clearly spell out the factors that determine when an ad is primarily directed to children under age 13.
  • Remove the children’s privacy guidelines, included in the CARU Advertising Guidelines since 1996, to a separate document, the CARU Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children’s Online Privacy Protection.

 

Advertising approaches and technologies are constantly evolving. Interpretations of the CARU Advertising Guidelines will be updated on an ongoing basis through FAQs, as new challenges and questions about application of the Guidelines arise. As new FAQs about these Guidelines are released, they will be announced in the CARU section of the BBB National Programs website: bbbprograms.org/CARU 

For in-depth training on these revisions to the Guidelines, industry professionals may register for Kidvertising, scheduled for October 13, 2021. The CARU team will walk attendees through the changes, provide examples of real-world applications, and answer questions from attendees about what this might mean for campaigns in progress. 

BBB National Programs also offers advertising pre-screening services to help companies, agencies, and developers spot and correct problems before child-directed advertisements and promotional websites go live. 

Read the updated guidelines here. Learn more about CARU here.

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About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.

About the Children’s Advertising Review Unit: The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), a division of BBB National Programs and the nation’s first Safe Harbor Program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), helps companies comply with laws and guidelines that protect children from deceptive or inappropriate advertising and ensure that, in an online environment, children's data is collected and handled responsibly. When advertising or data collection practices are misleading, inappropriate, or inconsistent with laws and guidelines, CARU seeks change through the voluntary cooperation of companies and where relevant, enforcement action. 

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