Children's advertising guidelines to be reviewed

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Advertising

The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has announced it is
to review its guidelines on how companies should advertise their
products to children.

The move, which is partly a response to growing concern that irresponsible advertising is contributing to the current obesity crisis, will include an examination of paid product placement in children's television and the use of online games and popular characters to promote products.

The current voluntary guidelines by CARU are over 30 years old, and have increasingly been questioned by consumer watchdogs, regulators and industry groups.

Indeed, food advertising specifically targeted at children has come under fire of late. A recent survey in the US found that three quarters of such advertising promotes products with nutritionally-deficient and high calorie ingredients.

According to research by Kristen Harrison, a speech communication professor at the University of Illinois, nutrient-poor high-sugar products such as candy, sweets and soft drinks now dominate television advertising aimed at children between the ages of six to 11.

And with 16 percent of the nation's children currently classed as obese, another worrying fact is that Type II Diabetes, which used to be known as adult onset diabetes, is now increasingly being diagnosed in kids, adding to the cardiovascular risk profile of children.

"CARU intends to be a leader in the ongoing public debate regarding the relationship between childhood obesity and marketing practices. We believe the health issues confronting our children require responses from parents, schools, communities - and marketers,"​ said Steven Cole, president and CEO of the Arlington, Virginia-based Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), a partner in the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) and CARU's administrative parent.

This is not the first time attempts have been made to improve the guidelines. In July, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents a significant number of major food makers, presented a number of recommendations that CARU could take to strengthen the self-regulation of advertising to children. These concerns were "swiftly addressed,"​ said the GMA.

"We know that many food companies are working individually to develop best practices and internal guidelines regarding food marketing to children. This review, which will also draw on the expertise of CARU's academic advisors, will allow all children's advertisers to come together to share best practices and have a voice in how those practices are incorporated into the self-regulatory program,"​ said CARU director Elizabeth Lascoutx.

"We are seeing an increasing number of children's advertisers incorporate the principles that underlie the Guidelines into the creative process and into their own in-house advertising review systems. We're also seeing more companies bring their ads to CARU for pre-screening. Those are remarkably positive developments,"​ said James Guthrie, NARC president and CEO.

"This project offers companies that advertise to children the opportunity to accelerate the changes they are already making and establish common standards by which advertising to children will be evaluated,"​ Guthrie added.

Following approval by the NARC Board, the recommendations derived from the review will be posted for public comment. Following the comment period, the NARC Board is due to consider and act on the recommendations.

NARC is an alliance of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). Since its inception in 1971, NARC has established the policies and procedures for the National Advertising Division (NAD), the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), and the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) was founded in 1974 to promote responsible children's advertising as part of a strategic alliance with the major advertising trade associations through the National Advertising Review Council. CARU is the children's arm of the advertising industry's self-regulation program and evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency with its Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising and relevant laws.

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