Our sister body, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) have produced clear new guidance for vloggers to help them better understand how and when the advertising rules apply to their vlogs so that they are upfront and deal fairly with their followers.
The new guidance comes in response to calls for greater clarity from vloggers about when material in vlogs becomes advertising and how they can make that clear. It follows a ruling last year in which several vlogs (where there was a commercial relationship between the advertiser and the vloggers) were found to be misleading because they did not make clear before consumers engaged with the material that they were ads.
The advertising rules, which apply across media including online and to social media channels, state that ads must be obviously identifiable as such. 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, like all advertisers, vloggers must be upfront and clearly signpost that they’re advertising.
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.
Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice
Our work on this issue forms part of a five-year strategy and commitment to proactively identify advertising trends in an evolving media landscape and providing support to advertisers to help them create responsible ads. The new guidance provides a non-exhaustive list of vlogging scenarios with practical advice on how and when the rules kick in.
The scenarios covered in the guidance are:
- 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
The advertising rules do not cover or prohibit vloggers entering into commercial relationships and the ASA does not regulate editorial opinion. In response to feedback from vloggers, however, we're also reminding brands and agencies (be they advertising, digital or PR) looking to partner with vloggers of the need to be transparent. 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.”