CARU's 3rd Annual Children's Advertising & Online Privacy Conference

CARU’s West Coast Conference 2013 is scheduled for April 10 at the Beverly Hills Hilton, and once again promises to be a not-to-be-missed event.  Confirmed speakers include Mamie Kresses, Federal Trade Commission; Katie Ratte, The Walt Disney Company; Jeannette Neumann, Mattel; Cynthia Nishimoto, Bandai; Stevan Levy, Kabillion; and Ryan Shadrick Wilson, The Partnership for a Healthier America.  CARU believes if there is one conference to attend this year, this is the one, particularly in view of the impending COPPA modifications.  CARU will devote a panel to the COPPA changes and will have detailed, lively discussions about the impact to the industry at-large.  Indeed, rather than just a panel discussion, CARU hopes it will be more of a training session to prepare advertisers and website operators for the changes.  Additionally, panelists will examine domestic and global challenges to self-regulation in the areas of social media, mobile marketing, sweepstakes, and food and beverage advertising.

For more information, please visit the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council's website.

FTC Signals Retrenching on IWG Proposals

After a swift left to the chin in early September from the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair, Rep. Fred Upton, David Vladeck, the FTC Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, testified before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, and the Subcommittee on Health, October 12, 2011, discussing the International Working Group (IWG) and changes that are underway.

  • The tone of Vladeck’s statement bore a marked respect for, though not deference toward, advertising self-regulation. This is in contrast to his speech before the self-regulatory National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus October 3, 2011, in which he only mentioned in passing the positive role of self-regulation. In his statement before the Subcommittees, he made a much more significant effort to acknowledge the success that has been achieved to date by self regulation both in the form of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).
  • Because there is no scientific link between marketing of food and obesity, Vladeck made it clear that the Commission is asking industry to take on a share of the responsibility for solving the obesity problem “regardless of whether or to what extent food marketing may have contributed to the problem of childhood obesity” in the first place. In other words, according to Vladeck, it is a proper role of government to pressure industry to help solve multi-factored social problems by not marketing (and therefore not selling) products that may have no relationship to the social problems that the government is seeking to address. Vladeck referred the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report from 2008 to highlight the fact that marketing influences food and beverage preferences, purchase requests and short-term diets of children under 12 to support the Commission’s position that industry should use its marketing power to eat certain foods rather than other foods. One can interpret this initiative as simply government telling industry what to advertise and what to sell based on a stated political goal. “Children’s health is the ultimate goal, and marketing of more nutritious foods is one effective tool to help achieve that goal.” 
  • Vladeck, who famously dismissed the notion that the IWG proposals could raise First Amendment concerns last summer in a blog post, apparently has been convinced that there may be some validity to the First Amendment arguments made by academics and lawyers in the advertising field. He states, “Our commitment to finding the best balance between what is best for children’s health and what is workable for industry has guided this entire process. . . . .The Working Group’s proposal is strictly voluntary. The Commission recognizes that some forms of regulatory action could raise First Amendment concerns.”
  • After 29,000 comments and after new CFBAI guidelines, which go a long way toward achieving the government’s goal of restricting marketing behavior related to certain foods and beverages, the FTC is signaling significant changes to its proposals. Those changes include:
    • Limiting the scope of marketing to children to those aged 2-11, rather than the originally proposed 2-17. Vladeck: “It is often difficult to distinguish marketing designed to appeal to this age group from marketing directed to a general or adult audience.”
    • Limiting the scope of the marketing activities included within the proposals. Vladeck: “The FTC staff believes that philanthropic activities, charitable events, community programs, entertainment and sporting events, and theme parks are, for the most part, directed to families or the general community and do not warrant inclusion with more specifically child-directed marketing. Moreover, it would be counter productive to discourage food company sponsorship of these activities to the extent that many benefit children’s health by promoting physical activity.”
    • Eliminating recommendations regarding trade dress and brands. Vladeck: “The Commission staff does not contemplate recommending that food companies change the trade dress elements of their packaging or remove brand equity characters from food products that don’t meet nutrition recommendations.”
    • Eliminating recommendations regarding in-store displays and packaging of seasonal or holiday confections.
    • Adjusting the proposed audience share criterion for “traditional media marketing,” including television, radio, and print, from 30 percent children ages 2 to 11 years, to 35 percent – which is the same age criterion used by CFBAI.

The IWG proposal is not dead, however. Expect to see the revised version focused more specifically on traditional media and on online, digital, and social marketing. Also, the IWG proposal will still seek to press its recommendations in the area of advertising or product placement in movies and video games. Additionally, it will cover sweepstakes and premium offers. And, in the one remaining proposal that will cover children and adolescents, Vladeck signaled that the proposal will cover marketing activities in schools for both children and adolescents.

Thus, the IWG proposal will be scaled back significantly. One important lesson: Self-regulation is critical, but industry must be careful of using self-regulation so aggressively that it creates a blueprint for “voluntary” regulation by governmental bodies. Cooperation between government and industry that results in co-regulation is not self-regulation. With the FTC standing right beside self-regulatory efforts, tweaking self-regulation as it deems necessary to advance espoused governmental goals of protecting children, the augmented CFBAI standards may be likely to be the presumptive norm for governmental expectations (and enforcement?). Let’s hope that the blueprint we’re now working off of will build a structure we can all live in.

CARU Annual Law Conference - Explore the role of self-regulation in the U.S. in the area of Marketing to Kids and Get a Discount

From the proposed changes to COPPA to the latest developments in the area of self-regulation of food marketing to children, the CARU conference to be held Wednesday, October 5, 2011 in New York City will be one of the best places not only to learn the details but also to interact with leaders in the industry to are on the front lines of self-regulation. Furthermore, FTC Commissioner, Julie Brill, will give a keynote address. Commissioner Brill tends to represent the more activist tendencies of the Commission, and those in attendance should be able to ask pointed questions and express concerns. The agenda and full conference information is located on the CARU website.

Because Reed Smith is a sponsor of the CARU conference, if you register by contacting Rey Persaud at 212-705-0113 or via email at and mention this blog post, you will receive a $100 discount on the conference fee. Offer expires October 3, 2011.

CARU Gets a Emmy Nomination

The role of self-regulation is partially educational. Wayne Keeley's CARU has demonstrated once again why the self-regulatory body he heads up is relevant and focused on ensuring that the educational mission is not lost in the day-to-day cases they hear. CARU has produced a Public Service Campaign entitled “Do You Know Where Your Children Are…On The Internet?” And, with Mr. Keeley's background as a film director, CARU ended up producing something good enough to be nominated for an Emmy Award in the Public Service Campaign category. We understand that the CARU PSA campaign has aired on WABC (Live with Regis, GMA and Rachel Ray among others); CBS; and Discovery Kids. It is presently airing on Cartoon Network. The PSA Campaign can also be seen on CARU’s Facebook page and You Tube and Vimeo:

CARU Children's Advertising Review Unit Asks Do You Know Where Your Children Are...On the Internet? from CARU Staff on Vimeo.


Keep Your Children Safe on the Internet with the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) from CARU Staff on Vimeo.


Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) asks Do You Know Where Your Children Are...On the Internet? from CARU Staff on Vimeo.


We often hear about educational solutions targeted at consumer protection problems. CARU is definitely contributing to that end. 


Dear Friends and Supporters:

As most of you know, CARU is in the process of launching a PSA campaign on children's safety on the Internet.  As Director of CARU and a parent of three young children, I ask that you please help us to get the word about this extremely important issue and our PSA campaign by following and "liking" the links below and passing along to friends and colleagues.




Wayne J. Keeley
Director, CARU
Vice President, CBBB 

Radio Controversy on the Big Yellow Bus

No, school bus drivers were not playing Pink Floyd's classic Another Brick in the Wall (We Don't Need No Education) just in time for the first day of school. Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report to Congress evaluating the commercial proposals for distributing radio and television programs aboard school buses. The FCC found that local authorities should decide whether carrying broadcasts on school buses is appropriate, despite the concerns that parents, teachers, transportation authorities and others voiced on the docket (MB Docket No. 09-68). The Report, mandated by the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, focuses on BusRadio, a service that’s long been controversial among some members of Congress. The service reaches 1 million children and carries music, ads and promotional programming, the Report said.

Opponents to BusRadio's programming alleged that the service presents a variety of health/safety concerns. Namely, the increased background noise could cause children to miss the bus driver's safety instructions, and BusRadio's contest programming encourages bus drivers to place telephone calls while driving in order to win prizes. The concerns did not stop there. Opponents also alleged that BusRadio violates children's programming restrictions adopted by the FCC and the Council of Better Business Bureau's Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU). These groups argued that BusRadio engaged in host selling and failed to properly disclose promotional advertisements, among other items. 

Ultimately, while the Report suggested several voluntary ways the company could improve, it found that the FCC had no jurisdiction to regulate the content of BusRadio. “BusRadio holds no broadcast licenses and thus is not subject to our broadcast regulations,” the Report said. Thus, the FCC shifted responsibility to police on-bus broadcasting to school districts that carry the service. Opponents are concerned that school districts are "interested parties" that will be less willing to regulate content on-board school buses because of the freebee safety services that the companies provide.  For example, all of BusRadio's receiver units contain GPS devices and cellular modems that can help parents track the location of their child. Given the concerns already voiced by parents' groups in the trade press, we are likely to hear more on this issue before other venues. Stay tuned.

NARC and the CBBB Present: CARU Annual Conference 2009 - Advertising to Kids 2.0

The CARU Annual Conference is scheduled for October 7, 2009 at New York City's W New York Hotel; 541 Lexington Ave. Expert panelists will consider challenging issues presently facing the Children’s Advertising Industry, focusing on how the digital age has changed the way companies market their products to children. Panelists will examine and demonstrate the practical application of governing standards and industry guidelines to these new emerging media platforms.

The conference will provide attendees with the opportunity to be on the forefront of the latest regulatory developments including an update on U.S. self-regulatory food initiatives, and the EU Privacy Directives.

Keynote speaker, Pete Blackshaw, Executive VP, Strategic Services, The Nielsen Company

Scheduled sessions: "The Rules of the Digital Playground,” "Delivered Straight from the Source: Examining the Latest Regulatory and Legal Framework for Addressing Emerging Media Forms,” "Recognition vs. Persuasiveness: What do kids know and when do they know it?” and “Working with CARU – The Anatomy of a CARU Case.”

Up to 5 Credits for Continuing Legal Education
This course has been submitted for approval in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for approximately 3-5 professional practice credits.

Accreditation will be sought for registrants in those jurisdictions with continuing education requirements.

Conference Location
The W New York Hotel
541 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY

For general questions regarding this conference please contact:
Reshma Persaud
Marketing Coordinator

For more information and to register, go to

Skechers Seeing Red Over CARU Decision

The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) determined recently that Skechers, the maker of Red Phrans-Phavorite Sneakers, and Marc Ecko Enterprises, which markets the product, should modify or discontinue advertising that suggests the shoes shine red when used. CARU picked up the ad during its monitoring practices, as it aired during after-school hours on Nickelodeon. Vanessa Hudgens is shown dancing in the commercial, and as she does so, her shoelaces light up in bright red. Her back-up dancers also wear shoes that appear to light up. There is even a close-up of the laces illumiunated in red. Oh, and did I mention the shoes are called "Reds"?

Red-faced with frustration, Skechers and Marc Ecko Enterprises have decided that CARU is wrong to assume that kids think the laces really light up. So they are going to appeal to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB). Appeals from CARU cases are rare, so this should be interesting. It should be noted that CARU has no power to pull an advertisement, and it cannot refer the matter to the FTC while an appeal is pending under its procedures. Thus, Skechers and Marc Ecko might be planning to run the spot through Easter and then pull it before the NARB hearing. If so, that's an interesting strategic move.

Why This Matters

You can't misrepresent how a product works, but the threshold is very low when it comes to kids. Shoes that appear to light up or that make you jump really high are two ways in which CARU has limited marketers' ability to exaggerate in the area of kids' advertising. Also, when it comes to the self-regulatory process, it's good to know the rules.

So, How Do You, Like, Communicate With, Like, Kids?

The Federal Trade Commission staff will host a forum March 12, 2009 to gather input for its upcoming education program on advertising literacy for “tweens,” or kids who are 8 to 12 years old. At the forum, experts on advertising and marketing to kids will discuss a range of issues, including:

  • What kids experience in the commercial world
  • What kids understand about their experience
  • Which consumer education efforts will help kids to navigate better in the commercial world

The goal of the campaign is to educate kids on how to be better-informed consumers of information.

Why this matters: We’re not sure yet who is speaking at the event, but our hope is that we’ll hear from those who can actually shed some light on this important marketing segment. CARU has long lumped kids under 12 into one basket, with some very strange results. For instance, not so long ago, CARU was bringing actions against movie studios for advertising “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” during shows that were attractive to “tweens” on the grounds that they were meant for children 13 and over. Luckily, Wayne Keeley’s CARU has taken a turn toward reality and has involved the MPAA in making better determinations as to which movies are appropriate for kids advertising. 

Thus, our hope is that this workshop will help demonstrate that older kids (in the 8-12 range) are very savvy both in terms of their emotional development and their maturity for purposes of distinguishing between advertising and editorial content. It would be a shame if the Commission puts up a series of paternalistic, anti-ad activists who think most kids should not be exposed to any commercial messages. We also hope that the workshop will focus on the key issue of “blurring” that impacts video game manufacturers, and anyone who uses advergames as a form of marketing to kids.

CARU Provides Toy Industry Guidance

The self-regulatory group that monitors advertising aimed at children has issued new guidelines designed to ensure that advertisers do not mislead children into believing stationary toys can move on their own.

"Toys that do not move on their own, or cannot perform certain movements on their own, should not be portrayed in advertising in a manner that will lead children to take away the net impression that the toys move on their own," stated a new guidance released by the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU).

CARU's new guidance on "Advertising Depicting Movement of Stationary Toys" further states that "[w]hen a doll or toy that cannot move on its own is depicted as moving, there should be a clear and conspicuous appearance of a hand [or hands] (or a person) manipulating the doll or toy...

"Methods that contribute to a misleading impression about a toy's abilities include the use of stop-action, quick cuts interspersed with animation, disguised or inconspicuous hand manipulation and other techniques," the guidance noted.

An example of an ad that would not comply with the guidance, according to CARU, would be a commercial for a stationary doll depicting several dolls dancing to music, which includes brief shots of fingers moving the dolls, but the fingers blend with the flesh colors of the dolls and are not noticeable during ordinary viewing. The commercial would not be brought into compliance by including a disclaimer at the end of the commercial stating that the dolls do not move on their own, CARU said.

Read CARU's press release on the guidance and view CARU's guidance at  

CARU Refers Advertisers to FTC

The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has referred two cases to the Federal Trade Commission because the advertisers failed to substantively respond to its inquiries.

CARU examined advertising for the "Spray Racer," a toy vehicle powered by water and air that is compressed when a child manually pumps a holding tank. CARU questioned whether a TV commercial showing a child pumping once to launch the car at a speed of 272 scale miles per hour was an accurate reflection of the product's performance.

The self-regulatory group asked the advertiser, Summit Products, whether substantial pumping was in fact required to maintain the speed depicted. When the advertiser did not respond, CARU referred the matter to the FTC.

CARU also referred to the FTC a case involving the website after the company that operates the site allegedly did not respond to CARU's inquiry regarding apparent failures to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA).

Upon reviewing the site, CARU noted that it had an option whereby personal information could be collected from children without first obtaining parental permission, and that the site failed to include offline contact information, as required by COPPA. In addition, the posted privacy policy did not conform to actual practices on the site, CARU claimed.

View a summary of the "Spray Racer" case and of the Virtual Family Kingdom case at

CARU Makes More Movie Ad Referrals to MPAA

The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has referred ads for yet another PG-13 movie to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for being advertised during children's programming. The move is the latest in what appears to be an increasingly tense stand-off between CARU, the advertising industry's self-regulatory arm, and the motion picture industry.

CARU said it referred TV advertising for the Warner Bros. film, "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" to the MPAA for being shown on Nick 1 during children's programming. The movie was rated PG-13 by the MPAA for "Mature material and sensuality," noted CARU. Similarly, CARU has referred ads to the MPAA for PG-13 rated movies such as "The Incredible Hulk," "Indiana Jones," "Get Smart," "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" and "The Rocker" for being shown during kids' shows.

CARU's Self-Regulatory Program for Children's Advertising states that advertisers "should take care to assure that only age appropriate videos, films and interactive software are advertised to children, and if an industry rating system applies to the product, the rating label is prominently displayed."

The referrals fall under an agreement struck by CARU and the MPAA, which cover ads for films rated PG-13, R or NC-17 that run in any medium primarily directed to children under 12. CARU agreed to first attempt to determine whether an ad placement was intentional, and if it was found to have been unintentional, to ask the advertiser to pull its ad and ensure the placement did not reoccur.

If an ad placement in children's media was deemed to have been intentional, CARU agreed to refer the matter to the MPAA Advertising Administration, which pledged to determine whether the film at issue "is appropriate to be advertised to children."

Read previous KidAdLaw coverage of the issue:  "CARU Rulings: Movie Referrals", "CARU Rulings: Movie Referrals" and "CARU Strikes Agreement With MPAA".