Vloggers Now Get The Smack-Down For Sneaky Product Placement

In Digital PR, Hot off the Press by Marius Badenhorst

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is clamping down on vloggers who fail to clearly label any paid content (paid in cash or product) as advertorial content. This is not only limited to videos, but paid posts on social media platforms and blogs as well.

This development is the result of a recent Oreo campaign that the ASA has banned.  Parent company Mondelēz recently paid popular UK YouTubers to feature the brand in their videos in a fun manner that resembled the structure of their regular video content.

Dan and Phil eating Oreo's

The Oreo obsessed YouTubers did make a point of telling viewers that they worked in collaboration with Oreo to produce the video, and thanked the brand for “making the video possible”. This was done both in the video content and the video description below the video. But according to the ASA, only full disclosure will cut it (this is based on UK advertising code). The association insists that ads must be “obviously identifiable marketing communications” and that merely thanking a brand for the opportunity to work with them isn’t enough.

Advertising regulations in the UK state that:

  • The hashtag #ad must be included in a paid tweet.
  • Paid for content on Facebook must overtly state that it’s an advertorial.
  • YouTube content must clearly state that it is paid for by a brand, before consumer engagement – i.e. prior to viewing the video.

What does this mean for advertisers and YouTubers though? On the one hand, being upfront from the get-go may help hold the YouTuber in good esteem with their viewers, as opposed to irritating viewers by “tricking” them into watching advertising. With the UK’s most popular YouTubers being as influential as they are, viewers may well choose to appreciate the YouTubers honesty and still watch the video regardless. On the other hand, YouTubers may not still hold the same appeal to advertisers if discreet advertising is no longer an option. And as YouTubers will be forced to inform viewers of commercial content in the write up or title, they may not want to risk losing potential views for sponsored gain.

YouTubers in White Suits

Jodie Harris, Head of Digital PR and Social here at MediaVision, believes that this new legislation won’t affect the vlogger or the brand. “Yes, it exposes the direction a particular brand is taking by targeting influential vloggers. But vloggers have been fairly open about sponsored content in the past, indicating that content has been paid for by thanking brands.” She does however believe that these regulations will reduce the amount of ill placed products that a vlogger will talk about.

The ASA have also commented via their website that “It is perfectly legitimate for vloggers (or bloggers, tweeters) to enter into a commercial relationship and be paid to promote a product, service or brand.” They now just insist that these commercial relationships be brought to light, immediately and blatantly.  Or else.

What do you think about the matter? Should content producers have to place labels on sponsored content? Or is simply thanking the brand within the video itself enough? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

About the Author

Marius Badenhorst