Safety First: Protecting Children In A Rapidly Evolving Landscape – Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment


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Davis+Gilbert Advertising partner Allison Fitzpatrick
(AF)
sat down for a conversation with Dona Fraser
(DF)
, Senior Vice President, Privacy Initiatives at BBB
National Programs, and FTC veteran and current BBB National
Programs Children’s Advertising Review Unit Vice President
Mamie Kresses (MK) to explore the major
developments in this area, from child influencers to global privacy
initiatives, and provide insights and practical tips for ensuring
child-directed websites, apps, connected toys and influencer
marketing campaigns stay in compliance with the law.

AF: The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU)
updated its self-regulatory guidelines for advertising to children
(CARU Guidelines). What changes were made to the CARU
Guidelines?

MK: We looked to modernize the guidelines. It
has been a long time since they were updated and advertising to
children has changed dramatically, especially with online content
and long-form influencer advertising videos. We are also living in
an era where we have all been made more aware of the inequities in
our society, and we hope to use the guidelines to inspire content
that is welcoming to children of all backgrounds and abilities and
makes them feel good about themselves.

AF: Are there certain areas of children’s
advertising and privacy that CARU will be looking at more closely
during the upcoming months?

MK: Advertising and privacy are very linked
these days, given the amount of data collection and data knowledge.
So we will go where advertising goes and try to ensure we are
setting a model for best practices in modern times.

DF: Years ago, everything was very siloed
— you could deal with privacy separately from advertising.
But now there is this convergence; ad practices are getting
companies into trouble with their data collection practices. What
we are trying to do is to constantly keep our finger on the pulse
of what companies want to do versus what they can do within the
frameworks, remaining cognizant of their challenges, especially for
those global companies who may be working on global campaigns and
dealing with the different privacy regimes and models around the
world that are defining what a child is very differently than the
way we define a child in the United States.

AF: Child influencers are very popular with marketers
these days. What steps should marketers be taking when they engage
child influencers to ensure they are not running afoul of the CARU
Guidelines?

MK: Obviously advertising has to be truthful
and non-deceptive. In particular, we need to ensure that when
children are watching influencer content, they understand that it
is advertising. We are dealing with that in our guidelines as well.
It also needs to be clear that these influencers should not engage
in other practices that are a concern in advertising to children,
such as creating unrealistic expectations.

DF: Part of the conversation also needs to be
about the actual influencers understanding the landscape. There
needs to be some real uptick on the education to influencers
themselves and their responsibilities. We cannot put this all on
the marketers. They can explain what their guidelines are and what
they want their influencers to do or not do, but I also think that
there needs to be some real responsibilities on the influencers
themselves. That will make them better partners for the
marketers.

AF: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently
reviewing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
Rule to see whether additional changes are needed to address the
different ways that children under 13 years of age access the
Internet, including the increased use of mobile devices and social
networking. What changes do you expect the FTC to make to COPPA as
part of its review?

DF: We will likely see an expansion of the
definition of personally identifiable information to possibly
include biometric data. I would be surprised if there is not some
additional scrutiny of safe harbors. I think that the issue of data
security is going to be enhanced and the internal operations
exceptions may also be reviewed, possibly expanded, or at least
there will be a conversation about that because what was defined as
internal operations 10 or 20 years ago has evolved.

AF: Over the past two years, the FTC has brought high
profile actions against both TikTok and YouTube for violations of
COPPA. What are some of the lessons that operators can learn from
these FTC actions?

MK: I think there is a lot to be learned there.
First, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot be a channel
directed to children and then try to skip COPPA and not get
parental consent and then avail yourself of behavioral advertising
through a third party. Second, obviously it is a huge wake up call
to platforms and other third parties that provide a whole host of
services to individual child-directed marketers and advertisers and
content providers.

AF: What do you see as the most significant challenge
facing companies that want to direct their products and services to
children?

MK: I think the challenge is to be exciting and
innovative when you are competing with a whole host of exciting and
innovative content geared to the public as a whole. So you really
need to be focused on what is appropriate for children and how to
capture their interest at the same time. And, of course, if there
are issues of data security or data collection, then obviously you
are going to fall into the COPPA basket and you need to be very
cognizant of that.

DF: What we do not often talk about is the cost
of doing business in this space. Whether you are on the side of a
content creator or the side of data collection, there is a cost of
doing business in the space that I think is higher than other
spaces. And when I say cost of doing business, I mean everything
from hiring outside counsel, to having your engineers to downstream
everything from the outset. Being a good actor in this space is not
terribly difficult because there are so many good actors in the
space. But again, some of that does come at a cost.

AF: If you could provide one piece of advice to
companies that market their products and services to children, what
would it be?

MK: To look at what you are trying to
accomplish through the eyes of a child: keep it simple and pure.
Step back and ask yourself if you are marketing something that is
great for kids, or something more focused on bells and
whistles.

DF: Put yourself in the seat of a child but
also put yourself in the seat of the parent. The overarching advice
that I would give is: What do you want your brand to be known for?
How do you want to build brand trust and longevity? If you do that
from the outset, parents and kids recognize that this brand is fun.
It is engaging and parents do not feel like it is intrusive. I
think that’s probably the best advice.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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