MADISON, Conn., Jan. 24, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A coalition of advocacy groups led by advertising watchdog Truthinaadvertising.org (TINA.org) has launched the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), the BBB’s national program. Immediately audit the Walmart Universe of Play advergame. It is a recent addition to the self-regulatory group’s COPPA Safe Harbor program and carries one of the program’s seals of approval. Letters from TINA.org, Fairplay, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the National Association of Consumer Advocates said that copies were sent to her Walmart, Roblox, and the FTC, and that the retail giant sent children to her Roblox deceptive shop. We are exposed to marketing. An online gaming and creation platform used by millions of children every day.
Walmart first entered the Roblox metaverse last September, when it premiered two experiences, the Walmart Universe of Play and Walmart Land, which have collectively been visited more than 12 million times. Aimed at and accessible to young Roblox children, Universe of Play features virtual products and characters from LOL Surprise!, Jurassic World, Paw Patrol, and more to help kids find the “best toy of the year.” It is advertised so that it can be played with and crafted. A “wish list” of toys you can buy at Walmart.
As consumer groups have warned, Walmart has completely blurred the distinction between ad content and organic content while providing a clear or conspicuous disclosure that the Universe of Play (or content within virtual worlds) is advertising. I have not. Additionally, when the child’s avatar walks through the game, it is manipulated to open additional unpublished advertisements masquerading as surprise wrapped gifts.
To make matters worse, Walmart has used the CARU COPPA Safe Harbor Program seal to ensure that not only is its ad bar game for kids COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) compliant, but it also complies with CARU’s Advertising Guidelines and Truth in Advertising. It sends the false message that it complies with the law regarding , and a shield against coercive actions.
“Walmart’s blatant use of stealth marketing aimed at developmentally young children who are unaware of promotional content is not only appalling, it is deceptive and against advertising laws.It is manipulated every day by Walmart. We urge CARU to take immediate action to protect millions of children.” Laura Smith, TINA.org Legal Director
“Walmart’s vicious and rampant manipulation of children on Roblox, a platform visited by millions of children every day, requires immediate action. The category’s deceptive marketing techniques have been made possible, and CARU must act now to stop children from collateral damage to Walmart’s digital drives for profit.” Fairplay Executive Director Josh Gorin
“The practices of Walmart and Roblox show that self-regulation is woefully inadequate to protect children and teens online. Targeted by an array of powerful online marketing tactics that are harmful to both physical and operated in the world of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission must enact safeguards to protect the privacy and well-being of young people. ” Katharina Kopp, Policy Director, Center for Digital Democracy
For more information on Walmart’s deceptive marketing on Roblox, see https://truthinaadvertising.org/articles/tina-org-urges-action-against-walmarts-undisclosed-advergame-on-roblox.
About TINA.org (truthinaadvertising.org) TINA.org is a non-profit organization that uses investigative journalism, education and advocacy to help consumers protect themselves from false advertising and deceptive marketing.
About Fairplay (fairplayforkids.org) Fairplay is a leading nonprofit committed to helping children grow up in an increasingly commercialized, screen-obsessed culture, and the only one dedicated to ending marketing to kids. organization.
About the Center for Digital Democracy (democraticmedia.org) The Center for Digital Democracy is a nonprofit organization that educates, advocates, and researches commercial data practices to ensure that digital technologies contribute to and enhance democratic values, institutions, and processes.
About the National Consumer Advocacy Association (consumeradvocates.org) The National Association of Consumer Advocates is a non-profit organization of over 1,500 attorneys and consumer advocates committed to representing the interests of consumers.