Vloggers on YouTube have been warned by the Advertising Standards Authority that they need to be open about advertising products in videos.
Vlogging (“video blogging”, if your Wi-Fi has been down for past decade) has become a hugely popular arena for young YouTubers, with channels dedicated to things such as make-up tutorials. Many have emerged to form a new wave of online celebrities. Beauty advice blogger Zoella, for example, has almost 6.6 million subscribers and has just released a book, which is expected by its publisher (Penguin Random House) to be an immediate number one bestseller.
As YouTube channels draw bigger and bigger crowds, the more the site becomes an established counterpart to more traditional forms of “TV”. As with all broadcasting, though, there are rules to be followed.
Indeed, the nature of these vlogs also makes them susceptible to marketing from brands and companies securing a spotlight for their products. In the viral market age, even the silliest YouTube videos are potentially advertising something.
Five videos featuring Oreo biscuits, for example, have been banned by the ASA for being “obviously identifiable” as adverts, reports The Grocer. The videos featured people racing to see how fast they could lick the cream of an Oreo.
“Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible”, was written on four of the five videos, but the CAP Code requires adverts to be easily recognisable as marketing communications and ASA ruled that they were not clearly marked. That distinction is even more vital given YouTube’s typically young demographic, who are more easily influenced by advertising.
“We considered this should apply to the general audience of the ad and considered that, given that these ads were on online video channels that were usually editorial based, the commercial intent would have needed to be made clear before viewers engaged with the content,” ruled the ASA.
Now, vloggers paid to promote products are required to put something in either the title of the video to make this clear, or display a symbol indicating that it is an advert.
“There are strict rules that govern television and other advertising and it seems to me that there’s a bit of a loophole when it comes to online, videos and YouTube,” MP Ben Bradshaw told Newsround on the BBC.
YouTube has said that users themselves are responsible for the content they upload.