The Advertising Standards Authority has issued new guidance comes in response to calls for greater clarity from vloggers about when material in vlogs is in fact advertising a product. It follows a ruling last year in which several vlogs were found to be misleading because they did not make clear to consumers that they had a commercial relationship with the advertiser whose product they were promoting.
The advertising rules now state that ads must be obviously identifiable as such, and if a vlogger is paid to promote a product or service and an advertiser controls the message then it becomes an ad. When that happens,vloggers must be upfront and clearly indicate to viewers that they’re advertising.
The scenarios covered in the guidance are (quoted directly):
- Online marketing by a brand – where a brand collaborates with a vlogger and makes a vlog about the brand and/or its products and shares it on its own social media channels
- “Advertorial” vlogs – a whole video is in the usual style of the vlogger but the content is controlled by the brand and the vlogger has been paid
- Commercial breaks within vlogs – where most of the vlog is editorial material but there’s also a specific section dedicated to the promotion of a product
- Product placement – independent editorial content that also features a commercial message
- Vlogger’s video about their own product – the sole content of a vlog is a promotion of the vlogger’s own merchandise
- Editorial video referring to a vlogger’s products – a vlogger promotes their own product within a broader editorial piece
- Sponsorship – a brand sponsors a vlogger to create a video but has no control of the content
- Free items – a brand sends a vlogger items for free without any control of the content of the vlog
Warning to Brans and Agencies
The ASA also stated that ‘in response to feedback from vloggers, they would also like to remind reminding brands and agencies (be they advertising, digital or PR) of the need for transparency. Any advertiser or agency that asks a vlogger not to be up-front (disclose) that they’re advertising are asking them to break the advertising rules and potentially the law.
Launching the new guidance, Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal said: “Wherever ads appear we should be confident we can trust what an advertiser says; it’s simply not fair if we’re being advertised to and are not made aware of that fact. Our guidance will give vloggers greater confidence that they’re sticking to the rules which in turn will help maintain the relationship and trust they’ve built with their followers.”