What if I handed you a stuffed animal for Christmas and told you to kiss it in order to make your wishes come true? Did I just make an untrue factual claim, or was I merely engaged in harmless puffery? Would your answer change if you were only six years old? Just in time for the holidays, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”) has weighed in on this question.
CARU’s concerns focused on a sixty-second ad for the Jay at Play “Wish Me Puppy,” an adorable plush dog with a hair bow that lights up when you kiss its nose. The ad depicts various children kissing the Wish Me Puppy while making a wish. The wishes quickly become reality in the commercial. “I wish grandma was here already,” says one child as grandma walks through the door. Another tyke wishes for a party, and in the next scene Mom is ready with balloons and paper hats. The background jingle advises:
Wish me, wish me, wish upon a glow. When you make a wish, you will see me glow.
Wish me, wish me, wish upon a glow. Blow a little kiss, send a magic wish, only you will know!
CARU was concerned that young children viewing the commercial would believe that acquiring the product “would make their wishes come true as it did for the children in the commercial.” The advertiser argued the wishing aspect of the ad was mere hyperbolic puffery that would be understood as such by children, or at least that could be easily dispelled by the parent making the purchasing decision. But CARU, relying on its Children’s Advertising Guidelines, noted that those advertising to children were responsible for all reasonable interpretations of an ad by the children. Here, taking into account that children sometimes have trouble distinguishing between truth and hyperbole, one of those “reasonable interpretations” was the “unreasonable expectation” that kissing the puppy will make your dreams come true.
Therefore, CARU recommended that Jay at Play modify its ad accordingly. Jay at Play disagreed with the ruling but nevertheless agreed to follow CARU’s recommendations. This prompted CARU to “let Santa Claus know that Jay at Play is still on the ‘nice’ list.”
CARU is a program of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council of the Better Business Bureau, an advertising industry self-regulating body. CARU monitors advertising and online services directed at children.