When marketing products or services to children, companies should be aware of applicable statutes and guidance and should be particularly cautious with their advertising claims.
Lanham Act & FTC Act
The prohibitions against false, misleading, and deceptive advertising under the Lanham Act and Section 5 of the FTC Act of course apply to advertising claims directed at children. It’s important to remember that the advertisements may be viewed by a court or by the FTC as ordinary children would view them (not as the actual buyers, i.e. parents or other adults, would view them). Therefore, companies should ensure that any advertising claims directed at children do not have the tendency to mislead or deceive those children.
The FTC advises companies to comply with truth-in-advertising standards when advertising directly to children or when marketing kid-related products to parents. For example, the FTC is concerned with child privacy, marketing violent entertainment to children, and, given the rise in childhood obesity rates, food advertising to children.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal statute meant to protect children’s privacy and safety online by prohibiting unfair or deceptive practices relating to the collection of personal information from internet users under the age of 13. COPPA requires providing certain information in privacy policies, giving parents direct notice, and obtaining parental consent before collecting personal information from children. The FTC’s step-by-step COPPA compliance guide can help a company determine if it is covered by COPPA and, if so, how to comply with the rule.
The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) is an investigative unit of the advertising industry administrated by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. CARU monitors advertisements (tv, print, radio, and online media) with the goal of advancing truthfulness, accuracy, and consistency and eliminating deceptive or inappropriate advertising directed toward children. CARU publishes self-regulatory guidelines for advertisers and relies upon voluntary cooperation and change by advertisers themselves.