In a recent press release, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus announced that the Kellogg Company has agreed to modify its “Froot Loops” cereal Website. After a careful review of the Fruit Loops site, CARU determined that the games and activities featured there constitute advertising, and thus required better disclosure of that fact to participants.
CARU is an independent self-regulatory agency for the promotion of responsible advertising to children under the age of 12 in all media. As such, it reviews and evaluates children’s advertising found in TV, radio, magazines, comic books, and the Internet to ensure truth, accuracy, appropriateness, and sensitivity to children’s still developing cognitive abilities in accordance with its Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising and relevant laws. When ads are found to be misleading, inaccurate or inconsistent with its Guidelines, CARU seeks changes through voluntary cooperation. The results of CARU inquiries are publicly recorded in the NAD/CARU Case Reports. CARU also handles advertiser challenges and consumer complaints.
With respect to the Fruit Loops site, CARU was concerned that “children would not understand that the games promote the sale of Froot Loops and, to comply with CARU’s guidelines, should be clearly labeled as advertising.” As a result of CARU’s ruling, the Fruit Loops site now features small signs that state “this is advertising from Kellogg’s.”
As any parent of a child under the age of 12 knows, such disclosures are absolutely useless. Regardless of any disclosure, a all children recognize Toucan Sam, Tony the Tiger, and Count Chocula as cartoon characters, no different than Phineas and Ferb. They’ll never see them for corporate shills; a fact that children’s advertising professionals know quite well.
Advertisers should thus pay careful attention to CARU’s self-regulatory program. In 2001, it became the first Federal Trade Commission-approved Safe Harbor under Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Participants who adhere to CARU’s Guidelines are deemed in compliance with COPPA ,and essentially insulated from FTC enforcement action as long as they comply with program requirements.