YouTube Kids must be clearer to avoid US controversy in Britain, warns legal expert

As advocacy groups in the US call for further regulation of advertising on the YouTube Kids app, marketers in the UK can learn some lessons in creating clear advertising to avoid similar controversy according to legal expert Dan Smith.

The YouTube Kids app, which is currently only available in the US, has caused some controversy today (7 April) as a coalition of consumer and children advocacy groups plan to urge the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate advertising on the app.

Groups such as the Center for Digital Democracy and the Consumers Union believe that the app blends video programming and ads in ways that deceives children and parents, according to a report by Reuters.

Dan Smith, director at law firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, told Marketing Week that marketers in the UK must ensure clarity when marketing to children.

“The main challenge, as in the US, would likely be around children’s ability to identify advertising content in the app, especially if it is presented in a similar way to other content.

“A fundamental principle of the UK Codes is that advertising should be obviously identifiable- where the target audience is children, advertisers may need to do even more to make that clear.”

Smith adds as an example, that if video content showing children taking toys out of boxes is paid for by an advertiser, then that content would need to be clearly labelled as advertising.

The Committee of Advertising Practise (CAP) has recently warned advertisers in the UK to review online marketing to children and check it is obviously identifiable as advertising.

This follows the recent push for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to limit advertisers that promote high fat, salt and sugar products on vlogger videos featuring popular stars such as Zoella and Alfie Deyes.

Smith says: “It’s an issue which is attracting a lot of media attention, so it would be wise for advertisers and agencies to adopt a cautious approach whenever they are targeting children in digital.”

If Google were to launch the YouTube Kids app in the UK, it would have to comply with the usual rules around advertising to children in the UK.

Digital media advertising in the UK is regulated in the same way as non-broadcast advertising in traditional media. The YouTube Kids app would be expected to comply with all the same rules under the CAP code, including those, which specifically cover marketing to children, according to Smith.

Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at advertiser trade body ISBA says: “The UK has clearer rules for advertising around children’s content, including non-TV audio visual providers. The CAP rules apply.

“Global advertisers will want to assure themselves that their content, that is designed to sell things is within the UK rules, or the rules in other countries if they are directing the messaging elsewhere,” he adds.