New York, NY – March 28, 2017 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has recommended that Tech 4 Kids, maker of the 3D Magic ImagiPen, modify broadcast advertising to more clearly disclose both the drying time necessary for the three-dimensional creations produced with the pen and that adult supervision is required.
CARU, an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation, monitors advertising directed to children in all media and across all platforms. CARU is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
The product in this case is described on the company website as a 3D pen that turns a liquid gel into solid plastic through the use of an LED light.
The basic ImagiPen set includes an ImagiPen, two containers of gel in blue and green, a plastic drawing mat and a plastic stand for the pen.
The challenged commercial featured the following announcement: “It’s the ImagiPen. The amazing new pen that lets you go from gel to solid plastic, instantly.” It also feature a visual that stated: “Solid plastic instantly!”
The statement “dries instantly!” is featured on the front of product packages. The product instructions, however, recommend that “as part of your final curing process, the creations are left in direct sunlight for a couple of hours.”
The product package and instructions also warn that use of the 3D ImagiPen should be supervised by an adult.
Following its review of the advertising at issue and the packaging, CARU identified two concerns – whether the commercial created the impression that the product performs in a manner that it cannot and whether it adequately disclosed that adult supervision is required.
CARU determined that one reasonable takeaway message was that the gel dried instantly and completely as it came out of the ImagiPen and that the resulting creations could be handled immediately.
The advertiser argued that the concept, meaning and impression of “gel dries instantly” and “solid plastic instantly” are determined in relation to the specific context and environment in which they occur or are actually used.
Tech 4 Kids’ maintained that “instant” and “instantly” are not defined, understood, measured, or subject to any exact standard or measurement of time (i.e. seconds, minutes or hours) because they take on different meanings depending on the context and situation and that the same hold true for the word “solidly.”
CARU considered but was not persuaded by the argument that the word “instant” in advertising conveys to consumers a passage of some amount of time that is indeterminate.
CARU noted in its decision that its guidelines were specifically designed to recognize that children have limited cognitive skills and experience in making critical distinctions when compared to an adult audience. While an adult may understand that the meaning of instant may vary, children are more likely to be influenced by what they see and hear. In this case, the visual and audio representations in the commercial directly contradicted the advertiser’s claim that the gel may take some time to dry.
CARU recommended that in future advertising the advertiser include an audio disclosure along with a visual representation to convey the message that the product takes time to create and dry.
CARU also recommended that in future advertising the advertiser include an audio disclosure in combination with a visual depiction of an adult supervising to inform children that adult supervision is required.
In its advertiser’s statement, Tech 4 Kids said that it disagreed with CARU’s decision, but would comply with CARU’s recommendations should it ever choose to resume television advertising of the commercial.