As Cord-Cutting Grows, How Can Advertisers Safely Reach Today’s Connected Child?

jaysondubinOn TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in programmatic TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Jayson Dubin, founder and CEO at Playwire.

The explosive growth of mobile and over-the-top (OTT) services has drastically altered the media landscape and, perhaps most significantly, the ways in which people consume video content.

At the helm of this shift are millennials, the only age group watching more shows on digital devices than on traditional TV screens. They’re also using digital streaming services more than any other demographic. The writing is on the wall: Millennials expect content to be offered on digital platforms as the norm.

This shift has specific implications as millennials become parents. Right now, millennial parents number more than 22 million in the US, with 9,000 babies born to them every day. These children will grow up as arguably the most connected generation to date.

What does this mean for advertisers?

Regulation around advertising to kids is nothing new. Television advertising for children has been strictly controlled for the better part of 50 years. However, online marketing and advertising to children does introduce some new challenges, largely because Internet advertising is always changing.

The issue entered the spotlight again about a year ago, when YouTube released an app specifically designed to help children more safely and easily find their shows online. While parents could worry less about their kids accidentally stumbling upon adult content, consumer watchdog groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), claiming the app engaged in “unfair and deceptive marketing” toward children.

Basically, the app got away with marketing practices that children’s television networks would never be able to, such as undisclosed paid product placement and ads that were not clearly defined as ads. As the Internet quickly becomes the top destination for children consuming entertainment content, regulation has to adapt at a breakneck pace.

This isn’t to say steps haven’t already been taken to protect children – and their privacy – online. In 2000, we saw the FTC’s introduction of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The rule specifically states what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent and the operator’s responsibilities to protect children’s privacy and safety online.

COPPA is the FTC’s way of ensuring that children under 13 years old don’t share their personal information on the Internet without express consent and approval of their parents. And it behooves website publishers to comply, as those who don’t face steep fines and even bigger dings to credibility.

However, beyond legislation and required compliance, there are steps publishers and developers can take to create safe online spaces for children. As laid out by kidSAFE, an independent safety certification service for children-friendly websites and technologies, these include parental access to and controls over a child’s account, data integrity and security procedures, safety measures for chat, community and social features, procedures for handling safety issues and complaints and age-appropriate content, advertising, and marketing

Really, at the heart of the matter is transparency. Publishers and developers must clearly state policies on personal data collection and how that data is used and shared. Similarly, they should make it easy for parents to see and control if and how an app or site connects to other third-party apps or sites, such as social media, chat or gaming platforms, as well as give the option to limit or block specific connections.

When it comes to advertising, both brands and exchanges must take on some of the onus in assuring that appropriate advertisements are delivered in a safe and compliant manner. Whether or not legislation is able to keep up with the ever-evolving online advertising landscape, those that fail to self-regulate will be left out of the growing market for online children’s entertainment and programming.

Follow Jayson Dubin (@JKDMEDIA), Playwire (@playwire) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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