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FTC Asked to Target Interactive Ads

The Center for Digital Democracy has called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate interactive advertising targeted toward children, including subpoenaing advertisers to obtain marketing strategies and other documents.

Center Executive Director Jeff Chester wrote FTC Chairman Tim Muris saying that the technologically-driven blurring of media messages demands a fresh look. "As the borders between the once-distinct media of television, Internet, and video games disappear," he wrote, "we must find new ways to ensure that children, "tweens," and teenagers do not fall prey to invasive and deceptive marketing.

"Thus the Commission should launch a study into the interactive advertising technologies and techniques being directed at children and youth today, exposing technologies that are little understood and offering policy options for curbing harmful practices."

Chester wants the FTC to pay particular attention to food ad marketing as it relates to children's health. The childhood obesity issue and the role of the media that growing health crisis has been of increasing concern to Washington.

The call came on the eve of Wednesday's seminar on interactive advertising in the context of the conversion to interactive digital TV. The seminar was co-sponsored by Children Now and supported by Chester, who attended and included a copy of his letter in the handout to attendees.

“We intend to ratchet up the pressure on the FTC,” says Chester. He says the group also plans to organize something with the FCC, a seminar perhaps, on interactive TV. He has some interested eyes and ears there. Commissioners Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein and Kathleen Abernathy were panelists at the Children Now seminar Wednesday, as was Chester.