Do you like being deceived?

Of course you don’t. And deception can have a serious and massive knock-on effect in online marketing, as I wrote about a while back in regard to paid links.

But while paid links offer a more technical deception in the world of search, there’s another form of paid advertising that’s more visual and immediate. Paid-for YouTube mentions via vloggers (AKA Video Bloggers).

The Advertising Standards Authority wasn’t happy last week when it pointed out that a number of successful creatives on YouTube have been endorsing products without properly disclosing the relationships they had with brands.

Oreo owner Mondelez UK was highlighted as one of the biggest offenders after the company paid some YouTube stars to take part in a campaign called Lick Race which helped generate a lot of exposure for the cookie makers.

And it’s something which needs to be clamped down on as soon as possible.



Do you regularly work with advertisers on a paid basis? What techniques do you use to let visitors know the relationship in a clear, ethical manner? Let me know in the comments section below.

What’s the big deal?

A lot of people may wonder what the problem is when a company pays someone on YouTube to endorse a product.

Well, let’s put it another way. Would you be happy watching a programme like I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and be happy with Ant and Dec subtly trying to advertise Morrisons products throughout the show?

There still appears to be a stigma around YouTube that it’s for fun and less professional than other mediums. That, as long as you have a camera, any idiot can lay a claim on Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame.

The reality is much different, though. So many people are making a living from YouTube and growing a profile that it’s impossible to ignore, and is an incredible tool for marketers to use.

Oreo’s parent company Mondelez UK have realised this and had selected channels with an outstanding reach. The AmazingPhil channel, which took part in the Lick Race, has 2.1 million subscribers thanks to the work of Phil Lester and Dan Howell.

However thanks to ASA the pair now more closely resemble Wayne and Garth…


Down the tubes

Being pulled up by ASA is pretty serious business, and both camps are at fault. As a global brand there’s no excuse for Mondelez UK to overlook the rules when it comes to declaring interests when advertising.

AmazingPhil could possibly argue that they have more of an excuse. They’re young lads, after all, and may not know the impact such a relationship with an advertiser can carry.

ASA though summed the entire problem up in its 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.’

Have vloggers been treated too harshly or is not enough being done to highlight paid relationships between content creators and advertisers? Let me know below!

Why it’s dangerous

It’s precisely because anyone can become a star on YouTube that makes ASA’s ruling and comments so important.

I wrote last week about creatives earning revenue and how tricky it can be. But there’s no problem with pairing with advertisers if it’s done in the right way as ASA itself points out:

‘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.

There’s no problem with pairing with advertisers if it’s done in the right way as ASA itself points out

While paid links and black-hat techniques can indeed hurt a lot of people, the instant connection that YouTube influencers offer and the enormous reach they have means transparency is critical when they strike a deal.

Vloggers are making their way into mainstream media but an incident like this looks bad for all concerned. YouTubers that are reprimanded can leave a bad taste in the mouths of the fans and call their integrity into question.

But companies such as Mondelez UK have a far greater responsibility to be transparent in these situations. The relationships have clearly been constructed in an attempt to help the Oreo Lick Race go viral in a manner similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

But without the declaration it’s unethical advertising used to influence millions of YouTube visitors that trust in their favourite channels.

Pairing with a YouTube influencer is a great idea, but the need for transparency is essential to build a proper following and for it to be mutually beneficial.

That’s a rule that needs to be adhered to with everything you do in search if you’re buying exposure from a vlogger, an advertorial, or other.

If you’d like to know more about how to build a solid, ethical reputation online as part of your marketing efforts contact the Webpresence team today!