Online influencers, game makers and others who post online ads aimed at children should deploy formatting techniques that clearly separate the ads from surrounding content, the Federal Trade Commission advises in a new staff report.
“The best way to prevent harms stemming from blurred advertising is to not blur advertising,” the agency writes in the report, “Protecting Kids from Stealth Advertising in Digital Media.”
“Research has shown that the formatting of an ad can signal to kids as young as preschool-age that they are seeing an ad,” the agency continues. “For example, game makers, social media influencers, and other content creators should consider short bumpers or interstitials, such as a black or white screen, before and after the advertising message, similar to how ads are shown during the commercial breaks in television shows.”
The report comes several months after a workshop addressing online ads aimed at children, including ads embedded in editorial content.
The FTC is also recommending that ads contain “prominent just-in-time disclosures” both verbally and in writing.
“Although disclosures alone likely are not sufficient when the advertising is embedded in content for younger kids, robust disclosures can play a role in helping kids identify and evaluate ads,” the agency writes.
Another recommendation involves developing a new icon for ads -- but only one that's “easy-to-understand and easy-to-see.”
The agency writes that an icon “necessarily must be combined with disclosures and consumer education to ensure the intended audience knows what it means.”
Advocacy groups Fairplay and Center for Digital Democracy praised the report.
"Influencers -- and the brands that deploy them -- have been put on notice: do not disguise your ads for kids as entertainment or education," Josh Golin, Executive Director at Fairplay stated Thursday.