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Advertisers To Expand Kids Ad Reviews

Advertisers have agreed to pay more attention to how products are pitched to children.

The National Advertising Review Council (NARC) has told the Federal Trade Commission that it will take several steps to expand industry self-regulation of children's advertising, including looking into product placement and online advertising.

The move comes in response to recommendations by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to an FTC workshop on kids advertising and obesity.

Back in July, GMA proposed expanding the duties of the Children's Advertising Review Council (CARU), whose policies NARC sets, to include guidelines for product placements in children's shows and limits on the interactive games, known as “adver-games.”

The Surgeon General has warned that obesity is beoming the nation's biggest health crisis, and the media has been under pressure to crack down on marketing practices.

In a Sept. 15 letter to the FTC and GMA, NARC President James R. Guthrie, outlined the council's response, which included pledges to expand its review though no promises of set guidelines or prohibitions:

  • A new Web-based Better Business Bureau form ( designed to make it easier to file a complaint, with links from the major ad association Web sites
  • More advisors to review ads, and more transparency, with those opinions made available to affected advertisers
  • More outside pre-screening of ads by outside parties.
  • Expand guidelines to cover ads in Web sites, computer games, and video games.
  • Determine whether there is paid product placement in kids shows and, if so, what should be done about it.
  • Gather input on third-party licensed characters in advertising. It already prohibits host-selling (SpongeBob Spinach pitched in the SpongeBob series, for example), but not  third-party selling (SpongeBob Spinach pitched in Rugrats).

Guthrie also pledge a "closer relationship" with the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services, which will include an annual formal FTC briefing on "issues, cases and trends."