When you see a commercial on television where a celebrity telling you to buy some new product, you know they were paid to do it. It’s pretty obvious. But when you see a famous Youtuber showing some product on their channel videos, i’s not clear whether or not they are using the product because they really like it, or they are being paid to show it off on their videos.
Let’s be clear about this…there are Youtubers who are getting paid to promote products in their videos, plain and simply. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, as these individuals have to make money some how, right? We can’t call everybody a sellout just because they’re trying to make a living.
On 26th of November, those online influences received a warning today when an advertising watchdog agency in the UK called them out for not fully disclosing that they were paid to make videos for Oreo cookies.
The makers of Oreo cookies began a campaign called the “Lick Race” challenge, and ultimately getting them millions of YouTube views last summer when Mondelez (Oreo’s parent company) paid a handful of YouTube celebs to talk up the cookie.
UK’s Advertising Standards Authority announced that Mondelez and the vloggers (video bloggers) had violated the code that requires advertisements to be clearly shown as a marketing commercial. The ASA said that the “ads must not appear again in their current form” and any ads created by these Youtubers need to be more clearly marked.
From the watchdog’s release about the ruling:
“Why is it important to make clear an ad is an ad? It’s important that we understand when we’re being marketed to so that we can make informed decisions about what we’re being told. Plus if it’s appearing in a format that we’d normally expect to be non-promotional, we should be told up front about whether it’s an ad so that we can decide whether we want to continue viewing. In simple terms, it’s not fair to falsely promote a product.
Our ruling against Mondelez UK Ltd sets out why the advertiser got it wrong. It involved five YouTube videos, presented by vloggers, who encouraged viewers to participate in a ‘Lick Race’ challenge in which people compete to lick cream off an Oreo cookie as quickly as possible. The problem was the videos didn’t clearly indicate that there was a commercial relationship between the advertiser and the vloggers.
In this case because the ads were on online video channels that were usually non-promotional, the commercial intent should have been made clear before viewers clicked on the content.
As outlined last year in our ‘Blurring advertising and blogs’ piece, it’s perfectly legitimate for vloggers (or bloggers, tweeters etc) to enter into a commercial relationship and be paid to promote a product, service or brand. We’re not here to regulate that relationship or to stop vloggers earning money. But when that commercial relationship is in place then the onus is on the advertiser, and by extension the vlogger, to be upfront about it and clearly disclose the fact that they’re advertising.”
Andrew Terry, a media expert with the London law firm Eversheds told the Financial Times, “That means that flagging the relationship at some point during the video is not sufficient, which may well make this kind of promotion much less attractive for brand owners.”
After all of this went down, those videos that were offending now include a “this is a paid for advertisement” line in the description. Will this satisfy the ASA? We’ll have to see.