A popular YouTube toy reviewer has been accused of misleading preschoolers by an advertising watchdog group for failing to label sponsoredcontent.
Last week, Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging that Ryan of Ryan ToysReview is “deceiving millions of preschoolers, who, in their early stages of development, cannot tell the difference between advertising and organic content”.
Ryan, 8, who boasts more than 21m subscribers on his channel, is known for his toy unboxing videos, which have made him one of the most-watched YouTube channels, with more than 31 billion views.
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As a result of his popularity, the channel, which is run by Ryan’s parents Shion and Loann Kaji and started when he was just three years old, has sponsorship deals with companies such as Chuck E Cheese, Colgate, Nickelodeon and Walmart.
According to the complaint filed by TINA, almost 90 per cent of the videos uploaded to Ryan ToysReview have at least one paid product recommendation for children under the age of five.
But, according to the group, the ads are not clearly labelled as such, and are often placed alongside non-sponsored content, making it difficult for children to discern what is sponsored.
FTC law states that ads “must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in a manner that will be easily understood by the intended audience”.
“Kidfluencers like Ryan ToysReview have taken influencer marketing a step too far,” said Bonnie Patten, TINA.org’s executive director. “Targeting a vulnerable population that cannot differentiate marketing from organic content is deceptive and the FTC needs to take a stand and put an end to it.”
In a statement to Today, Ryan’s father defended Ryan ToysReview and said that “creating content that is safe and appropriate” for viewers of all ages is the family’s top priority.
“We strictly follow all platforms’ terms of service and all existing laws and regulations, including advertising disclosure requirements,” he said. “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.”
In 2018, Ryan was named YouTube’s highest-earner after earning $22m (£17.3m) from his channel.
The Independent has contacted Ryan ToysReview for comment.