Earlier this week, Comcast — the largest cable operator in the U.S. — stated in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission that it would commit to limit interactive advertising in children’s programming as a condition of obtaining approval of its acquisition of NBC Universal. Specifically, as long as they have control over the program’s advertising, Comcast and NBCU will not insert interactive advertising into broadcast and cable programming that targets an audience of children 12 years old and younger. Comcast defined “interactive advertising” to mean:
advertising for commercial products that is primarily targeted to children 12 and under and includes: interactive, overlap pop-up advertising; telescoping; long-form advertising (but does not include enabling the consumer to ‘telescope’ to additional linear or on demand programs); voting or polling requests that promote a product or service or gain information about consumer commercial preferences; T-Commerce that enables a consumer to purchase advertised products using a remote; and branded, interactive gaming which promotes a product.
In 2004, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on interactive advertising, but the Commission hasn’t taken any further action to adopt any new rules in this area. In its Notice, the FCC tentatively concluded that it should prohibit interactivity during children’s programming that connects viewers to commercial matter unless parents opt in to such services. As noted by FCC staff during a recent ABA program on marketing to minors, however, industry and even some consumer groups have urged that requiring opt-in consent for interactive advertising in children’s programming might not be the right approach. As technology improves and interactive advertising becomes more widely used, marketers should pay attention to this ongoing proceeding.