On July 29, the BBB National Programs’ Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) issued revised guidelines for ads directed to children.

CARU 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, via referral for enforcement action to the appropriate regulatory body, most often the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or state attorneys general.

Last updated in 2006, the core principles of CARU’s Advertising Guidelines (Guidelines) remain unchanged. But the revised Guidelines now provide guidance specific to the many distinct platforms on which children are viewing ads.

Indeed, while the 2006 Guidelines were TV-centric, the revised Guidelines account for “[t]he growth in online platforms and new immersive forms of child-directed interactive media during the past decade,” including “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.”

Key updates to the revised Guidelines:

  • The new Guidelines apply to children under age 13, where the previous Guidelines applied primarily to children under age 12.
  • The new Guidelines address the digital advertising that children encounter today in addition to television ads.
  • The new Guidelines include a section dedicated to in-app and in-game advertising and purchases.
  • The new Guidelines incorporate updated FTC guidance on endorsements, native advertising, and influencers.
  • The new Guidelines require that advertising not portray or encourage negative social stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination. (This is consistent with previous encouragement from CARU that advertisers focus on diversity and inclusion.)
  • The new Guidelines provide new factors to help determine when an ad is primarily directed to children under age 13.

The revised Guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2022. At that time, CARU will begin actively investigating cases of noncompliance.

Our Take. As we discussed in our recent webinar on the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), regulators and legislators are taking steps to modernize the laws and regulations that protect children, with CARU being no exception. The continued focus on protecting children through safe advertising and data collection and use is bipartisan in nature and continues to be a priority for the state attorneys general and the FTC, particularly with Chair Lina Khan at the helm of the FTC.

Given this continued focus, we recommend that companies take proactive steps to bring their compliance programs in line with updates, such as CARU’s revised Guidelines.