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Rina Raphael, Los Angeles Times
MADISON, CONN. September 4, 2019– An investigation by truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) has found that popular “kidfluencer” YouTube channel, Ryan ToysReview, is deceiving millions of preschoolers, who, in their early stages of development, cannot tell the difference between advertising and organic content. As a result of these findings, TINA.org filed a deceptive advertising complaint against Ryan ToysReview with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urging the agency to review the marketing on the YouTube channel and take appropriate enforcement action.
Featuring toy reviews “for kids by a kid,” Ryan ToysReview is one of the most watched YouTube channels with more than 30 billion lifetime views, pulling in an estimated $22 million in earnings for the family in 2018. The star of the show is “kidfluencer” Ryan, whose parents launched the channel in 2015 when Ryan was three years old. In addition to its 20 million subscribers, companies such as Chuck E. Cheese, Nickelodeon, Walmart and Hardee’s have flocked to sponsor endorsements on Ryan ToysReview in videos that often have the look and feel of organic content.
To prove that the YouTube channel targets preschoolers, TINA.org analyzed every video published on Ryan ToysReview in the seven-month period beginning Jan. 1 and ending July 31 and found reference to at least one product recommended for children under the age of five in nearly 90 percent of videos reviewed. Some of these videos are sponsored, some are not, and some take the form of other supposed organic content on the channel but are nevertheless ads. And while adults may be able to spot the marketing content, the target audience — children under the age of five as TINA.org’s investigation shows — cannot. For this population, there is simply no advertising disclosure that is adequate.
“Kidfluencers like Ryan ToysReview have taken influencer marketing a step too far. Targeting a vulnerable population that cannot differentiate marketing from organic content is deceptive and the FTC needs to take a stand and put an end to it,” said Bonnie Patten, TINA.org’s executive director.
This is not the first time that Ryan ToysReview has been under scrutiny. Nearly two years ago, a self-regulatory agency that reviews advertising aimed at children recommended that the channel make changes to help its audience better distinguish between sponsored and unsponsored videos. More recently, several members of congress have called upon the FTC to update its guidance (last revised in 2014) regarding online marketing aimed at children, specifically citing to examples from the Ryan ToysReview YouTube channel.
Check out all of TINA.org’s influencer marketing actions here: www.truthinadvertising.org/tina-orgs-social-media-influencers-actions/
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Rina Raphael, Los Angeles Times
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