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CARU Considers Disclosures in Children’s Advertising

In two recent decisions, CARU considered children’s “bead” art playsets and reinforced that advertisers must clearly disclose information about what products are included in the initial purchase, and avoid creating the impression that a product can perform in a manner that it cannot.

In Children’s Advertising Review Unit v. Moose Toys, Case No. 5933 (February 22, 2016), Moose Toys aired a television commercial advertising its Beados Gem Designer Studio which included a shot that included the “Sunshine Activity Pack.”  The product instructions also state that users should “allow 30 minutes to dry before removing from tray.” CARU expressed concern that the advertisement did not comply with its Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising. Specifically, CARU questioned whether the commercial (a) misled children regarding what is included in the initial purchase, (b) created the impression that the product can perform in a manner that it cannot, and (c) implied that the Beados gems dry instantly. CARU noted that commercials directed toward children should demonstrate the performance and use of the product in a way that can be duplicated by a child for whom the product is intended, and further that an advertisement should clearly disclose information about products purchased separately from the initial purchase.

In reviewing the Beados ad and its overall net impression, CARU determined that one reasonable take away message was that the Beados Gem Designer Studio playset included enough gem pieces to create all the Beados creations that appeared in the advertisement, which is not the case. As such, CARU determined that the advertiser did not adequately convey what was included in the initial purchase of the sets. CARU also maintained that, while the advertiser did include a video super that stated, “multiple sets shown,” video supers in small print and flashed at the bottom of the screen are not understandable to children and are therefore inadequate. Further, CARU determined that a reasonable take away message from the commercial was that Beados designs would dry and could be handled immediately after they were sprayed with water, when they in fact could not. Accordingly, CARU recommended that the advertiser disclose or depict that the designs must have time to dry before they are handled.

Just two months later, in Children’s Advertising Review Unit v. International Playthings, Case No. 5945 (April 15, 2016), CARU again considered a bead creation kit/playset. The advertiser, International Playthings, advertised its Aquabeads Ultimate Design Studio, a decoration bead creation kit. The packaging for the product showed pictures of the complete set, including the Deluxe Bead Pen, three templates, and the design stations. It included large font stating, “Mark . . . Spray . . . and they Stay!” The instructions, on the other hand, state that the user must spray the beads, then count to five slowly, tilt the Layout Tray, and leave to dry for an hour.  They further emphasized that the user should not touch beads before they dry. In addition, the commercial features a shot of 20 different complete bead creations.  Like in Moose Toys, CARU raised concerns that the advertiser did not adequately disclose the drying time of its crafting product in its television commercial. CARU also questioned whether the product came with enough beads to make all 20 bead creations displayed in the commercial.

CARU emphasized that its Guidelines require that the “net impression” of the entire advertisement, considering the express and implied claims, any material omissions, and the overall format, must not be misleading to the children to whom it is directed, based on how a reasonable child in the intended audience would interpret the message. Further, advertisers should demonstrate a product’s performance in a manner that can be replicated by an intended child, and the advertisement should not mislead children about what is included in the initial purchase. Finally, material disclosures should be understandable to the children in the intended audience.

On this basis, CARU determined that the Aquabeads advertisement did adequately disclose what comes with the initial purchase, where the Design Studio came with 1200 beads, which was a sufficient number to make all 20 bead creations displayed in the advertisement. However, and similar to Moose Toys, CARU determined that the advertisement’s implication regarding drying time did not comply with the Guidelines and recommended that the advertiser disclose or depict that the designs must have time to dry before being handled.

Take-away: Through their factual differences, these cases illustrate the core importance that advertisers of children’s products be vigilant in including accurate visuals as to a product’s contents and performance, as written disclaimers, otherwise sufficient in advertising to adults, may not be enough.

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