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  • YouTube Channel Ryan ToysReview Accused of Misleading Kids With Paid Content

    Ryan ToysReview is required by U.S. law to disclose brand partnerships.
    by Rachel Perez .
YouTube Channel Ryan ToysReview Accused of Misleading Kids With Paid Content
PHOTO BY screenshot from Ryan ToysReview/YouTube
  • One of the most popular YouTube channels for kids, Ryan ToysReview, has been accused of not being transparent with their viewers about the videos it has been paid for by advertisers.

    Truth in Advertising (TINA), an independent non-profit watchdog organization in the United States, filed a complaint against Ryan ToysReview, which bills itself as “toys review for kids by a kid!” with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It alleges the channel “deceptively promotes a multitude of products to millions of preschool-aged children in violation of FTC law.”

    The complaint alleges Ryan ToysReview “weaves in sponsored content seamlessly with the rest of his antics. The watchdog gave examples of two videos on the channel that feature Ryan pretending to serve and make toy food in a play kitchen. While one, the watchdog says, seems to not be sponsored, the other is an ad,” Buzzfeed News reports.

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    TINA found that 92% of videos posted on Ryan ToysReview had product recommendations for kids under age 5. The federal law in U.S. requires a disclaimer that should clearly say which is sponsored content, especially when the target audience are preschoolers. “It is often difficult to discern the innocent (or sometimes not so innocent) antics in Ryan ToysReview videos from the sponsored content. And for preschoolers  it is impossible to discern the difference,” read the complaint.

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    It continues: “When a YouTube video directed to children under the age of five mixes advertising with program content, as Ryan ToysReview videos frequently do, the preschool audience is unable to understand or even identify the difference between marketing material and organic content, even when there is a verbal indicator that attempts to identify the marketing content.”

    Ryan ToysReview has a huge following, mostly kids, on YouTube. His channel has currently racked up more than 30 billion views. As a kidfluencer, the FTC requires him (or in this case, his parents who run the channel), as well as other influencers, to clearly disclose partnerships, if any, with brands featured on their posts.

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    Because of the filing, Ryans family name was revealed including the names of his parents, Shion Kaji and Kieu-Loan Guan. The familycompany bears the same name as the multimillion-dollar-earning YouTube channel.

    Responding to allegations, Ryan’s dad, Shion, released a statement published in The New York Times. “The well-being of our viewers is always the top priority for us,” the statement read. “We strictly follow all platforms’ terms of service and all existing laws and regulations, including advertising disclosure requirements,” Shion said.

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    The dad of three continued: “As the streaming space continues to quickly grow and evolve, we support efforts by lawmakers, industry representatives and regulators such as the FTC to continuously evaluate and update existing guidelines and lay new ground rules to protect both viewers and creators.”

    Ryan ToysReview soared to YouTube success by posting unboxing toy videos when Ryan was just a toddler. In 2018, it posted earnings of US$22 million, making Ryan the highest-paid YouTuber that year. It now has a show Ryan’s Mystery Playdate in Nickelodeon and a toy line, Ryan’s World, which is carried by Walmart.

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    This isn’t the first transparency and disclosure compliant against Ryan ToysReview. In 2017, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, an industry regulatory group, found that Ryan ToysReview featured sponsored content that was not adequately disclosed and ordered the channels’ ads be discontinued.

    In August 2019, several senators also asked the FTC to investigate the channel which they claimed to have posted two commercials for the fast-food chain Carl’s Jr. without disclosing that they were ads.

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