FTC PLANS TO ZOOM IN ON KIDS ONLINE ISSUES:RESPONSE TO CRITICAL REPORT ON TACTICS USED BY MARKETERS

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Federal Trade Commission staffers said they will closely study the issues raised last week in a sweeping attack by children's advocacy groups opposed to online marketing to children.

"Clearly the issue that jumped out at you was the individual data being collected without intervention by their parents," said Lee Peeler, FTC associate director for advertising practices. "We have not looked at these particular issues ourselves."

WIDENING ONLINE CONCERN

FTC involvement in the issue of online marketing to kids would extend existing FTC concern with online marketing practices to a new area, and would be a coup for the Center for Media Education, the public interest group at the center of this emerging issue.

The center last week issued a report entitled "Web of Deception," in cooperation with the National PTA and several other groups.

It targeted specific marketers by name and called for strict FTC rules that would virtually eliminate the sites for children presently offered by marketers and some media companies.

Among the restrictions sought: prohibit marketers from obtaining any personal information, including the age and e-mail address of children; force the clear labeling of advertising and promotion and its clear separation from other content; ban product mascots as spokespersons for Web sites; bar hypertext links jumping from content areas to advertising; and ban any microtargeting of children and direct-response marketing based on Web site-gathered data.

WHAT MARKETERS SEEK

The report cited examples of marketers seeking household information from kids; sending direct mail; offering prizes; using advertising characters to reach children; and of mixing advertising and non-advertising content in a variety of Web sites.

Among sites cited were some from Kellogg Co., PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Microsoft Corp., Nabisco Foods Group, Sargento's Mootown Snackers, Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon.

A spokeswoman for Kellogg said the company followed the Better Business Bureau's guidelines for children's TV advertising in the development of its Internet site.

A Frito-Lay spokesman said its Web site material "is not soft sell, it's no-sell. It's humor-based and grounded in fun."

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