CARU Recommends Discovery Girls Magazine Modify Sweepstakes Advertising; Company Agrees to Do So

New York, NY – Sept. 18, 2013, 2013 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit has recommended that Discovery Girls Magazine modify advertising for future sweepstakes to better protect the privacy of child entrants and better disclose the odds of winning.

CARU is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

CARU monitors websites for compliance with CARU’s Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising (the Guidelines) including guidelines on Online Privacy Protection, as well as with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA.)

An advertisement for a sweepstakes appeared in an issue of Discovery Girls Magazine, which is directed to children ages eight and older, and on the magazine’s website, DiscoveryGirls.com. The advertising came to the attention of CARU through CARU’s routine monitoring of advertising directed to children.

The print advertising at issue promoted an iPod giveaway and stated:

  •  “Tell Us About You! Go to DiscoveryGirls.com/survey”
  •  “Answer all the questions to be automatically entered for a chance to win an iPod.”
  •  “Start now to enter the giveaway!”
  •  “Official rules on DiscoveryGirls.com.”

The Internet advertising stated:

  •  “Tell us about you!”
  •  “New Discovery Girls Survey”
  •  “Answer all the questions to be automatically entered for a chance to win an iPod.”
  •  “We want to know all about you! Take our survey and fill out all the answers! Then get a chance to win a brand new iPod!”

To complete the survey, which included more than 50 questions, visitors to the website were required to enter their name, state and country. They were required to enter an email address to be entered for a chance to win an iPod Nano

Many of the survey questions were personal in nature and some questions allowed visitors to freely type in their own response.

Neither the magazine nor the Website included a disclosure regarding the odds of winning the iPod.

CARU questioned whether the Website collected personally identifiable information (PII) from children through the collection of a name and email address, as well as through the survey questions without first obtaining prior verifiable parental consent. CARU also questioned whether children would think that they must answer all of the survey questions before they would be entered in the sweepstakes and whether the odds of winning were clearly disclosed.

Following its review of the advertising at issue, CARU determined that the website did not comply with COPPA and its guidelines on data collection.

CARU’s guidelines and COPPA provide that when a website operator wishes to collect PII from a child under 13 years of age, that operator must first notify the parent and obtain the parent’s consent before any such collection.

CARU recommended that in similar promotions the advertiser should only request online contact information and should inform parents that it moderates all answers so that no PII is disclosed or maintained from answers to the survey questions.

CARU further determined that one reasonable takeaway message in the advertisement for the survey was that a visitor must answer all of the questions before he or she would be entered in the sweepstakes.

CARU also determined that the advertising did not comply with its guidelines on sweepstakes and contests because material information, such as the odds of winning, was not disclosed in a prominent manner.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said it “accepts CARU’s decision and will modify our advertising and all sweepstakes procedures accordingly to comply with COPPA and to safeguard the privacy of our readers.”