CARU TO UNVEIL GUIDELINES FOR KID-FOCUSED WEB SITES: IDENTIFICATION OF ADS, LIMITS ON GATHERING INFO ARE URGED

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The Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, in long-awaited guidelines for child-oriented Web sites, will call for clear identification of any advertising and limits on information gathering without parental permission.

The guidelines, to be unveiled today, stop short of Center for Media Education demands that advertising be totally separate from other information and that ad mascots be banned as either Web site spokesmen or participants in Web site games.

AD MASCOTS ON WEB

"Under our guidelines, [Kellogg Co.'s] Tony the Tiger can tell you the history of Tony or help you play in a maze. But as soon as he says, `Frosted Flakes are great' or `Buy this,' that needs to be identified somehow," said Elizabeth Lascoutx, VP-director for CARU.

The Center for Media Education's March 1996 study of child-oriented Web sites showed that marketers were sometimes gathering extensive family data from children without telling parents, and regularly mixing advertising and content on sites.

The group's charge that children are unable to distinguish between ads and entertainment set off congressional calls for Web content restrictions. That culminated in last summer's Federal Trade Commission hearings on privacy and online marketing issues.

Ms. Lascoutx acknowledged that while CARU began its own review of Web issues in 1995, the possibility of FTC regulation spurred the process. She said the guidelines are being issued now so they can be in place when the FTC holds a second set of hearings in June.

CARU expects to host workshops to get marketers to use the guidelines and also will surf Web sites for possible problems.

Ms. Lascoutx said that just as CARU rules allow a child who gets a Barbie magazine to see ads for the doll in the magazine, the Web rules allow children viewing a Barbie Web site to see Barbie ads there.

IDENTIFYING AD CONTENT

While CARU's broadcast ad guidelines would bar Barbie ads either on or immediately adjacent to a Barbie TV show, the Web and print ad guidelines instead concentrate on clearly identifying advertising content.

"As long as they don't hide the ads as editorial, it's reasonable to allow the ads," she said.

Among the other new CARU rules:

Web sites should clearly identify the site sponsor.

Ads on Web sites should clearly be identified as such.

nMarketers should try to get parents involved in any purchases and offer children or parents the right to cancel purchases made online.

Advertisers should push children to get parents' permission before providing names, addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses, and should offer parents the right to alter or delete information furnished by a child.

Parents should have the right to drop e-mails from a company's site at any time.

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