Overview Edit

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) was founded in 1974 by the National Advertising Review Council (NARC), an independent advertising industry self-regulating body established to provide guidance and set standards of truth and accuracy for national advertisers.[1] CARU and NAD (National Advertising Review Board) are the investigative bodies of the advertising industry’s self-regulation scheme. The National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appeals body, is a peer group from which ad-hoc panels are selected to adjudicate those cases that are not resolved at the NAD/CARU level. CARU is funded by the children’s advertising industry, while NAD/NARC/NARB’s funding is derived from CBBB membership fees.

CARU reviews and evaluates advertising and promotional material directed to children under 12 (under 13 for online data collection) in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency with its "Self-Regulatory Program for Children's Advertising" ("Guidelines") and relevant laws.[2] Advertising subjects addressed by the Guidelines include deception, product presentation, material disclosures, endorsements, "Blurring of Advertising and Editorial Content," premiums, kids' clubs, sweepstakes and contests, "Sales Pressure," and "Unsafe and Inappropriate Advertising to Children." CARU reviews advertisements in print, radio and online media, claiming to have reviewed over 10,000 television commercials and reported on over 1,100 child-directed advertisements. CARU also monitors online privacy practices as they affect children.

In 1996, CARU added a section to their guidelines highlighting issues unique to the Internet and online sites directed at children age 12 and under, with topics such as online sales, data collection, age-screening and hyperlinks to other sites.[3] CARU’s children’s privacy guidelines served as the basis for COPPA two years later, and CARU soon became the first FTC-approved safe harbor under COPPA. As a result, participants who adhere to CARU’s guidelines are deemed in compliance with COPPA and essentially insulated from FTC enforcement action as long as they comply with the program.


  1. NARC was created in 1971 by an alliance between the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB, the national organization for the Better Business Bureau system), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF).
  2. According to CARU, their Guidelines "are deliberately subjective, going beyond the issues of truthfulness and accuracy to take into account the uniquely impressionable and vulnerable child audience."
  3. Specific topics involving the Internet addressed in the Guidelines include: Character-selling, advertisements integrated into games/activities, online sweepstakes and contests, “click-here-to-order” purchase methods (“a child must have a parent’s permission to order” must be posted), provision of full refunds without any charges where “no reasonable means is provided to avoid unauthorized purchases by children,” links to web pages advertising products unsafe for children (drugs, alcohol, etc.) or containing content inappropriate for children (e.g., violence, sexuality), and a host of COPPA-style rules pertaining to data collection and age-screening.

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