On August 23, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced it will continue to seek additional public comment on how children are increasingly being affected by digital advertising and marketing messages “that may blur the line between ads and entertainment.” Marketers increasingly reach children via digital media, including by embedding advertising in video sharing platforms, social media platforms through influencer and celebrity posts, games, virtual worlds, and other digital environments.
For years, marketers and publishers have used innovative methods to create and deliver digital advertising. One form is commonly referred to as “native advertising,” a term that denotes advertising content that bears a similarity to the news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment, and other material that immediately surrounds the advertisement in the digital space. The question then becomes: are consumers able to differentiate advertising from other content? And that question is even more acute when it comes to children.
The comment period is being extended in conjunction with the virtual event “Protecting Kids from Stealth Advertising in Digital Media” to be held October 19, 2022, where the FTC will examine and discuss amongst experts in the field the different techniques being used to advertise to children online. Numerous studies have confirmed that children and teens are using screens and social media at an increasing rate, with a recent survey finding that overall screen use among teens and tweens increased nearly 20 percent from pre-pandemic to present, a rate higher than the previous four years combined. As the forms and means by which digital advertising proliferates our everyday lives, the implications on the reach and effect of such advertising on children is rightfully receiving the attention it warrants.