Marketers Using Teen-Celebs is, Like, Totally All the Rage, But Tween Advertising Can Lead To Legal Issues.

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Increasingly, teenage celebrities are being used by marketing companies to gain a competitive edge in the increasingly growing teen market share. USA Today Online reported today that several large retailers and merchandisers have signed teenage singers and actors to hawk their wares, including Fergie, who was recently retained to give the MAC Cosmetics “Viva Glam” line a boost, the 15 year old Sprouse twins from The Suite Life with Zach and Cody, and basketball’s Stephon Marbury.

Clearly, using these Hollywood “role models” is a strategy that works. The Zandi Group, a marketing research firm, indicates that teenage spokespersons are perfect for clothing and product lines directed at teens because teens already try to emulate celebrity style. Legally, however, using underage spokespersons to target minors can be tricky. While going after teenage dollars is relatively fair game, many young stars attract even younger consumers, including ‘tweens (those under 13), which can lead to problems with the major television networks, with self-regulatory agencies, such as CARU, and in some cases, with the FTC with parents. Many major networks have guidelines consistent with those at CARU that do not allow certain celebrity advertising during times when children under 13 are likely to be looking at television. The practice of Host Selling (airing commercials featuring a teen celebrity at the same time as the teen’s program is scheduled) is not allowed by most networks, and CARU’s self-regulatory guidelines also proscribe the message that buying a certain product will make a kid more popular among his friends or smarter in class.

Practice Pointer: Attorneys should remind their clients that while many teens have their own money, in many cases, that money comes from their parents, who frown upon hard-sell tactics. In particular, parents do not like to be nagged about the purchase of a product they feel is too expensive, compromises their child’s integrity, or is sexually provocative. Generally speaking, clients should use common sense about the type of promotion they engage teenagers to endorse.

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