The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”), a BBB National Programs unit that monitors child targeted advertising, issued a compliance warning making clear it intends to enforce its advertising guidelines as equally in augmented and virtual reality (“AR/VR”) as it would in the real world. Specifically, on August 23, 2022, CARU warned advertisers that it would strictly enforce its guidelines in AR/VR, which generally apply to all advertising, in any medium, directed to children under the age of 13, and specifically require that no advertising be deceptive or unfair to children.

Specifically, CARU expressed that advertisers should be particularly careful and mindful of their AR/VR advertising as follows:

  • “Avoid blurring advertising and non-advertising content.” CARU stressed that, in today’s environment of interactive gaming, entertainment, and educational content, the risk of blurring the line between advertisements and non-advertisements is even greater. As a result, CARU stresses advertisements must be easily identifiable as such.
  • “Influencer and endorser advertising must be clearly disclosed.” CARU explained that influencer marketing, especially when such influencers can interact directly with children through avatars in AR/VR, has the potential to confuse others that an influencer is expressing his/her own opinion, rather than advertising. As a result, influencers and advertisers are responsible for claims made, and must clearly disclose the relationships between the two.
  • “Manipulative tactics in advertising are prohibited.” Particularly notable here is the risk CARU points out that children may unwittingly view ads or make purchases, and such viewing or purchasing can result from undue social or emotional pressure placed on children. CARU clearly identifies these as prohibited practices.
  • “Use clear and conspicuous disclosures.” Disclosures must be clear and conspicuous and must be tailored to its audience. When advertisements are targeted at children, disclosures must take into account a child’s possible limited vocabulary and language skills and must be presented in such a way so that the child is likely to see and/or hear the disclosure.

Although the general message of CARU’s compliance warning may seem obvious—advertising targeted at children should not be deceptive or misleading—it is a good reminder that advertising laws tend to apply across various mediums—even new mediums that may not have existed in the recent past.

To learn more about CARU’s compliance warning, read the full release here.