Industry Outlook

Toy Industry Association Tracks Critical Issues in Marketing to Kids

The issue of marketing to children is gaining traction as advertisers across a broad array of industries step up their investments in new media and government authorities strengthen their efforts to ensure that children remain protected as technologies evolve.

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) and its Responsible Marketing to Children Committee have identified three key aspects under scrutiny: children’s privacy online and in the context of mobile marketing; children’s use of social media and its implications for marketing policies; and the growing importance of new media for food and beverage advertising and its implications for regulation and self-regulation.

“Several of the proposed legislative and regulatory updates will have a far-reaching impact across numerous industries,” says Stacy Leistner, vice-president of strategic communications at TIA. “It will go well beyond the product categories usually referenced when discussing advertising to children.”

Of specific interest to toy industry stakeholders are online privacy and overly broad definitions of advertising, promotion, and other marketing activities. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s proposed amendments to its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule would further enhance parental control over what personal information websites may collect from children under 13 through changes in five key areas: expanded definitions of “personal information” and “collection”; parental notice; parental consent mechanisms; confidentiality and security of children’s personal information; and the role of self-regulatory “safe harbor” programs. Written comments on the proposed rule are being accepted through November 28, 2011; TIA will likely submit a contribution on behalf of the toy industry.

In April, the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) issued a proposed set of voluntary principles aimed at improving the nutritional profile of foods marketed to children. However, the IWG’s recommendations also included proposed definitions of advertising, promotion, and other marketing activities targeting children ages 2–11 years and adolescents ages 12–17 years. In response to feedback received from groups such as TIA, the IWG is now “in the midst of making significant revisions” to its original proposal.

TIA continues to work in active partnership with the Children’s Advertising and Review Unit to develop and deliver information and education resources to the toy industry about CARU’s self-regulatory guidelines. And as boundaries between online and offline play blur and toy companies continue to move their brands online, TIA has been consistent in its call for CARU to ensure that its guidelines accurately reflect current technologies.

“Nothing is more important to our members than the safety of children and the trust of their parents,” says Leistner.

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