The rules about working with vloggers…in under 3 minutes

We have all heard enough over the last 12 months, about the need for guidelines when working with vloggers. What is needed to ensure adequate transparency and remove some of the grey area about what’s is and isn’t allowed.

Well today, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The final word has been added to the discussion with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issuing guidelines which considered the vague new world of YouTube stars.

When you have time, I recommend absorbing the full official document, until then, below is a sixty second summary to bring you up to speed.

The good news, everyone agrees that there is nothing wrong with vloggers and marketers entering and into a commercial relationships. The new rules don’t restrict opportunities to reach your audience or the creative execution — they simply provide details of how to avoid audiences being misled.

In a nutshell

If a brand or marketer has control over the contents of a vlog in exchange for payment, whether that’s financial or through freebies, then the vlog is an advertisement feature and must be labelled as such.

The general assumption with vlogs is that any mention of a brand is the independent decision of the vlogger/personality. If a commercial relationship or incentive is in place, it needs to be made clear.

I have paid someone to make a favourable video about my brand which will appear on their vlog, what do I need to do now?

As elements of the content are being controlled by a brand, even if it is in the vloggers usual style, the video becomes an advertorial and needs to be clearly labelled up front so that audience knows the situation prior to watching.

Responsibility for making it clear falls to both vlogger and marketer. Only the brand is responsible for claims made about the product.

What label do I need to include?

‘Advertisement feature’, ‘ad’, ‘ad feature’ or ‘advertorial’ are all acceptable.

The word sponsored isn’t appropriate, for this particular scenario (more on that in a moment), as it could lead to confusion among audience members who understand it to refer to material where a brand has paid for exposure, but not control of the content. Think ‘Coronation Street, brought to you by Cadburys’.

For the same reason, avoid ‘Supported by,’ ‘Funded by’ and ‘Thanks to X for making this possible’ are not suitable.

Where should this label go?

The label needs to appear early in the vlogs title or on the video thumbnail.

Don’t rely on the description box below the vlog as they are not immediately visible when viewing on some devices or when selecting the video from a playlist.

What if I create a video with a vlogger, but it’s hosted on my brand channel not theirs?

There is no need for additional labelling or declaration that it is an ‘ad’. Because it is being shared by you (the brand), and sits within the context of the brand’s channel; it will be clear to audiences that what they are watching is marketing content.

However, if the vlogger then publishes and shares the same content on their own channel, it becomes an advertorial (see above).

What if most of the vlog is independent, but only a section of the vlog is promotional and controlled?

In this scenario, you don’t need to label in the title. However, it needs to be clear to the audience watching, when the brand controlled section starts and ends.

This can be done with the label appearing as onscreen (“ad” or “ad feature”), by incorporating the brand’s logo or simply by the vlogger explaining that they’ve been paid to talk about the product (or holding up a sign).

As an additional measure the vlogger can add information about the advertising content in the description box.

What if I pay for my product to appear in the video, but it isn’t the subject of the vlog?

Examples by CAP include a make-up tutorial where the vlogger is paid to use a specific set of brushes or a computer game review where the vlogger is paid to use a specific laptop. In both scenarios, the brand is a prop used with the purpose of promoting it via endorsement.

A clarification note in the video title is not required, but the commercial partnership should be clear with either onscreen text stating “ad” or “product placement” or the vlogger explaining that they’ve been paid to talk about and use the product.

In this tutorial I’m using brushes from <insert brand name>, who paid for me to feature them and want you to know about…

What if we pay to sponsor a vlog, but have no control over the content?

As there is no control by the brand, the vlog isn’t required to be labelled as an advertorial. As the videos will include a sponsorship message — viewers will know who the sponsor is and their relationship to the content.

I want to send a vlogger our products for review, do they need to label it as ‘ad’?

If a vlogger accepts an item sent by a brand on the condition that it is reviewed — but the brand doesn’t exercise any control over the final content — no labelling is required.

However, the vloggers are expected to disclose if an item was given on the condition that it is talked about. This is their responsibility.

Disclaimer — the above does not constitute legal advice in any shape or form. It’s a truncated version of the official guidelines.

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