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FTC Applauds ESRB's Marketing Strategy

by Rainier on Dec. 4, 2009 @ 7:46 a.m. PST

The U.S. computer and video game industry "outpaces" other entertainment industries in restricting target-marketing of mature-rated products to children, clearly and prominently displaying rating information, and restricting children's access to mature-rated products at retail according to a new report to Congress released today by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC also applauded the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), stating, "The Commission commends the ESRB for its new online ratings summaries, which provide a more detailed explanation of the content that factored into a game's rating. This tool should enhance parental understanding of the ratings and the ratings process."

"The computer and video game industry leads all others in ensuring its products are marketed appropriately and is the gold standard for others to follow," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, the U.S. association representing computer and video game software publishers. "Today's FTC report is a strong acknowledgement and validation that industry-led self-regulation efforts are the best way to provide parents and retailers with the resources and support they need to keep our kids' entertainment experiences suitable."

The FTC found that 80 percent of Mature-rated game sales to minors are stopped. The agency applauded the U.S. computer and video game industry's efforts in restricting the marketing of mature-rated entertainment to children, citing the industry's "great strides" and stating the industry "continues to do an excellent job of clearly and prominently disclosing rating information."   

The computer and video game industry's self-regulatory programs are led by the ESRB, the non-profit, independent organization that rates computer and video games. Now in its 15th year, the ESRB assigns computer and video game content ratings; partners with retailers to support their policies on the sale or rental of games to minors; enforces industry-adopted advertising and marketing guidelines; and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry. 

Other key findings released in the FTC's report include:

  • "Of the three entertainment sectors, the electronic game industry continues to have the strongest self-regulatory code." In addition, "‚Ķcompliance with [that] code was high in all media."
  • "The electronic game industry also performed well with respect to prominent disclosure of rating information in ads and retailer websites."
  • "[R]etailers are strongly enforcing age restrictions on the sale of M-rated games, with an average denial rate of 80%." Also, "nearly all retailers use systems to prompt cashiers to request photo ID." 
  • "The Commission found no evidence of M-rated game ads on television programs with a substantial youth audience that aired prior to 10:00 p.m. and a decrease in the number of M-rated game ads on websites highly popular with teens or children."
  • Finally, "Overall, the Commission uncovered little evidence of inappropriate target marketing through the traditional media."

"We join the FTC in applauding the industry's progress," said David Walsh, PhD., president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family. "The advancement in technology including parental controls by console makers, identification checking by retailers, and an ongoing effort to improve ratings illustrates that the members of the video game industry have taken our concerns seriously and continue to make sure that kids enjoy games that are age appropriate." 

The report's December release is especially timely as computer and video games top holiday shopping and wish lists. A recent ESA poll found that 42 percent of American adults plan to give or hope to receive a computer or video game this holiday season. This high volume of game purchases makes it even more important for parents to make sure the games they buy are appropriate for their families and for retailers to enforce store policies.

The report on entertainment industries' marketing and advertising practices is the FTC's seventh since 2000.

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