Children are more accessible to marketers than ever, thanks to their increased participation in technology, entertainment and popular culture in general … not to mention their growing influence on their parents’ purchase decisions. Although kids today are more media savvy than previous generations, there are still concerns about their inexperience and inability to critically reflect on the information they receive.
The result has been a slew of government statutes as well as self-regulating guidelines among marketers themselves.
FTC: online privacy. The Federal Trade Commission oversees advertising practices in general, and has also addressed children’s issues on a couple of fronts. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits websites from collecting personal information about site visitors under the age of 13. If your website is aimed at these kids, or if it’s aimed at a general audience but you know kids are seeing it, this regulation applies to you. In that case, you must provide parents with direct notice of your information practices and obtain their consent before collecting information from children.
FTC: food marketing. In response to the epidemic of childhood obesity, the FTC is intensively working with consumer advocates, academics, and the food industry to formulate marketing guidelines to children and adolescents. So far its role has been to support self-regulation, but we expect more governmental control in the future.
ICC: legal, decent and honest. The International Chamber of Commerce is a global watchdog for responsible marketing. It considers children a group that requires special care and diligence to avoid exploiting their vulnerability and credulity. Its guidelines include:
• Only products suitable for children should be marketed in media intended for them
• Advertising and marketing communications geared to children should be clearly identifiable as marketing
• Communications should not undermine positive behavior, social mores or parental judgment
DMA: suitability for children. The Direct Marketing Association’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice include a section on marketing to children. Most of it involves the collection of personal information online (see the COPPA info above), since that’s often where direct marketers get their mailing lists. It also makes these points, which should apply to every marketing medium including direct mail:
• Offers and the manner in which they are presented that are suitable for adults only should not be made to children
• Marketers should not entice a child to divulge personal information by the prospect of a prize or other offer
• Marketers should not make a child’s access to a website or mobile content contingent on the collection of personal information
• Upon request from a parent, marketers should promptly provide the source and general nature of information maintained about a child and allow for removal or correction
We hope this brief overview and links to the sources will help you market to your young consumers responsibly and effectively. After all, getting their parents on your side will lead to a bigger payoff, both in the short and long term.