LONDON: The sensitive issue of how to signpost native advertising has claimed a high-profile victim as the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that a number of vloggers failed to clearly tell viewers their videos were in fact part of a campaign for Oreos.
Mondelez, the owner of the biscuit brand, had recruited and paid several stars of YouTube to take part in an 'Oreo Lick Race' to promote the product, and felt that the references made in their videos along with the material in description boxes under the videos made it "sufficiently clear to consumers that the videos were ads".
The ASA disagreed, however, noting 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".
And while disclosure statements "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".
The ASA told Mondelez the ads could not appear again in their current form and instructed it to ensure future ads in this medium "made their commercial intent clear prior to consumer engagement".
Lynsay Taffe from the ASA explained to the BBC that if a vlogger was paid to promote a product, they needed to use words like "ad" or "promo" in the title of their video, or include a symbol in the thumbnail telling viewers what they're about to click on is an advert.
Some prominent vloggers were unhappy about this, however, with one, Fleur de Force, arguing that it could distract from the content. "If you're producing a 30-second piece of sponsored content within a 10 or 15 minute video it's not necessarily the focus of the content," she said.
Another, Chyaz, reported that companies sponsoring her videos had told her: "Please don't make it very obvious".
Vloggers have a fine line to tread in these matters, as a recent blog for media agency Carat noted. They earn money from brands but need to retain their authenticity if they are to keep the viewers that attracted the brands in the first place.
Data sourced from ASA, BBC, Carat; additional content by Warc staff