Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
The CAP Code applies to marketing communications on video blogs (“vlogs”) in the same way as it would to marketing communications which appear on blogs or other online sites. When it comes to Social Media, numerous marketers have fallen foul of the ASA by blurring the line, intentionally or not, between independent editorial content written about a product and advertising copy.
In 2014, the ASA investigated Five YouTube videos from vloggers, all of which featured Oreo biscuits (Mondelez UK Ltd, 26 November 2014). The ads featured vloggers undertaking the “Oreo Lick Race Challenge” and all of them contained references to other “Lick Race” videos which were available. This key ruling gives useful pointers on identifying marcoms in vlogs.
Ads must be obviously identifiable
Most of the time, it’s clear from where the ads appear and/or the overall nature of the material what they are. For example, viewers are likely to recognise that pre-roll ads on a Youtube channel are separate to the video or that an ad break during a video on demand service is not part of the editorial programming.
In the Mondelez case, the ASA 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 ads were found to breach the Code and the advertiser was told to ensure that future vlogs made their commercial intent clear prior to consumer engagement.
This means marketers need to ensure the presentation of their ad makes it clear that it is an ad. This is likely to include discussing the issue with the vlogger. If the style doesn’t make the nature of the content clear, then it will need to be separated by some sort of design or labelling.
Labelling must be timely
Viewers need to know they are selecting an ad to view before they watch it. This means making a distinction between ads and editorial based content so viewers can make an informed choice.
Finding out something is an ad after having selected it, at the end of a video or half way through is not sufficient.
Labelling must be clear
In some circumstances, marketers will sponsor an event or an editorial section of a publication and have no control over what happens at the event or content of the publication. Marketers should be wary of labelling advertorial or other ads in a way that will confuse viewers as to the nature of the content.
In the Oreos case the phrase "Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible" might indicate to some viewers that Oreo had been involved in the process; however, they did not clearly indicate that there was a commercial relationship between the advertiser and the vloggers (i.e. that the advertiser had paid for and had editorial control over the videos).
Labels or disclosures don’t necessarily have to be formal, they can match the vlogger’s style, they just need to be clear.
See “Celebrities”, “Remit: Affiliate Marketing” and "Contextually targeted branded content"