Advocacy groups urge crackdown on ‘influencer’ marketing aimed at children

The Washington Post
Sarah Halzack

In the fast-changing digital world, companies are looking for new marketing tactics to reach their audiences. Many of them have turned to a practice known as “influencer” marketing, in which YouTube and Instagram personalities are paid for using or talking up a product on their social-media channels.

Now, a coalition of advocacy groups is urging the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on a specific subset of these marketing messages: the ones aimed at children.

The advocates said they planned to file a complaint Friday with the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to take enforcement action against Google, Disney’s Maker Studios and three other companies for what they alleged was the “unfair and deceptive practice” of aiming influencer ads at children. The advocacy groups — which include Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Public Citizen — also urged the federal agency to issue policy guidance on the matter.

Influencer advertising is a multibillion-dollar industry, and it is used to peddle all sorts of products, including fashion, beauty and cooking items. But advocates say these tactics are problematic when they are used to market toys, snacks and other goods to children.

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