YouTube Kids App Faces New Complaints Over Ads

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

YouTube Kids App Faces New Complaints Over Ads.

YouTube markets its YouTube Kids app as a safe space for kids online—a place where they won’t be exposed to all the different kinds of kid-inappropriate content the Internet serves up so efficiently.Consumer watchdog groups announced today they’ve filed additional complaints with the FTC over the advertising content in the YouTube Kids application. The complains this time focus on how the app allows food and drink advertisers to violate the self-regulatory pledges they made as members of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). In complaints filed to federal officials on Tuesday, two prominent consumer advocacy groups argued that those ads were deceptive, particularly for children.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy say that they’ve found hundreds of commercials and promotional videos of junk food products on the app from the likes of Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Hershey. The two complaints, made to the Federal Trade Commission, expand on the groups’ filings to the agency in April and could increase pressure on federal officials to intervene in the fast-growing online video market.

According to the new complaints, a number of big-name brand advertisers including Coca-Cola, Oreo, Kellogg, General Mills and more, have broken their pledges to not advertise their products – including Coke, Coke Zero, Pop-Tarts, pizza and Oreo cookies, for example – to young children. Google-owned YouTube says that all ads in the Kids app are pre-approved by YouTube’s policy team, ensuring that they adhere to the company’s standards, which prohibit ads that show food and beverages. YouTube Kids, YouTube’s first app aimed at the preschool set, was initially thought of as a relief for parents who wanted an easier way to keep small children from stumbling upon YouTube’s more adult fare.

They also identified 31 TV ads and 21 product placements for Oreos, which manufacturer Mondelez International had also promised not to market to children. Instead of enforcing that policy, she said, Google changed it so it wouldn’t apply to the TV commercials or longer promotional videos the groups are now complaining about. In the new complaint, the groups argue that more than a dozen food companies have fallen short of their own promises to abstain from marketing junk food to children on YouTube Kids.

While there are established guidelines on the kinds of ads that can be served up during children’s programming on television, the Internet is (after all these years) still new territory as far as regulators are concerned. The groups asked for an investigation into uploaded TV commercials from unknown YouTube Kids accounts to determine whether there were connections between the food companies and those channels. These new complaints, the groups explain, are calling on the FTC to broaden its investigation to also examine Google’s relationship with multichannel video programmers; food, beverage and toy companies; YouTube advertising and “unboxing” video partners; and companies that specialize in “influencer” and product placement marketing on YouTube. Any investigation of the previous complaint and the new filings would not be public, said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the F.T.C. “We welcome and we review carefully all such complaints submitted to us,” she added.

One involves YouTube star Evan (“EvanTubeHD”), whose content is distributed by Disney-owned Maker Studios, trying to guess 12 different Oreo flavors in an 11-minute video. For children’s television programming, there are clear rules that limit the length of commercials, as well as restrictions on product placement and on the promotion of products by TV hosts and characters.

Today, YouTube’s ad policy for YouTube Kids is that it will remove videos where the creator has disclosed a paid product placement or endorsement using YouTube’s tools. YouTube said on Tuesday that it had not seen the complaints, but a spokeswoman said, “We are always open to feedback and are committed to creating the best experience for families.” The lines between marketing and advertising are often blurred, the groups said in their complaint.

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