ASA warns YouTubers about product promotion

The Advertising Standards Authority has warned YouTubers that they need to make it clear when they are paid to promote products.

A BBC report found that many of what it described as videos by some of UK’s best-known vloggers” broke the existing rules which require that viewers are explicitly made aware of any product placement prior to watching content.

This was specifically in reference to a campaign for Oreos in which a number of video personalities posted ‘lick challenges’ without confiding that they were paid to post the content.

Mondelez UK Ltd said that they had not intended to mislead consumers,” the ASA said. They stated that the vloggers had been engaged to create ads on behalf of Oreo, that each was paid and provided with the product for use in the video.

They provided a copy of the initial brief given to the vloggers, which stated that it should be made clear to the audience that they were working with Oreo for the creation of the videos. Mondelez said that the standard practice on YouTube was to put an acknowledgement in the description box, but that their own internal policy was that an in-video acknowledgement was necessary.

Mondelez noted that comments under the videos showed that viewers understood Oreo had sponsored the videos, with one in particular saying ‘our friends at Oreo means they got paid’, and that they had not received any consumer enquiries, which suggested to them that consumers understood that the videos were advertisements.”

YouTube stated that it is the responsibility of the uploader to ensure that guidelines are abided by. The ASA, meanwhile, has said that it will be increasing its focus on online videos going forwards.

We noted that the presentation of each ad was very much in keeping with the editorial content of the respective channels and that the fact that the videos were marketing communications would therefore not be immediately clear from the style alone,” the regulator added

We considered that the disclosure statements used, such as ‘Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible’, either in the video or in the text descriptions, were insufficient to make clear the marketing nature of the videos because, although they might indicate to some viewers that Oreo had been involved in the process, they did not clearly indicate that there was a commercial relationship between the advertiser and the vloggers.

Moreover, we noted that ads only contained specific disclosure statements at the end of the video or in a text description that had to be opened by the viewer. Therefore, even had the disclosure statements been of a type that made the nature of the video clear, the fact that they would only be heard at the end of the videos or seen after consumer interaction with the video description, meant that they would have been insufficient to render the ads obviously identifiable as marketing communications, as the consumer had already engaged with the video.”

Many video game YouTubers have been caught up in similar scandals this last year, with some coming clean and stating that they would fully disclose paid-for endorsements in the future. Others have been less upfront, however.

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