Four essential questions to ask about vlogs

Oct 27th '16

Four essential questions to ask about video blogs

With video blogs (or “vlogs”) that count as ads, the vlogger is the “publisher” and the advertiser is the “marketer”, and both are considered responsible for accurately labelling ads. Vloggers are free to establish commercial relationships with advertisers, or to refer to products in a personal capacity. But it’s important for consumers to know when they’re watching an ad, and when they’re watching editorial content, and a section of the CAP Code specifically applies to the recognition of marketing communications.

  • Which videos count as ads?

If the marketer pays the publisher, and has editorial control over the video they produce, it counts as an ad. Final approval of the content before it’s published would count as control, and the recent ruling on Alpro (UK) Ltd gives some further examples of what can count as control.

There are a range of commercial relationships that can exist between a marketer and publisher, and the CAP guidance on Video blogs: Scenarios explains how the labelling rules apply to a few examples, including product placement and “ad breaks” in the middle of material that’s otherwise considered editorial. In both cases, the video as a whole wouldn’t count as an ad, and so doesn’t need to be labelled, but the advertising content within the video should be identifiable as such.

  • Which ads need to be labelled?

In some contexts, it’s obvious that the video is an ad. For instance, if a vlog appears on a brand’s own social media channels, the context is likely to make it obvious, and it’s less likely to need a label.

If it’s published on the vlogger’s own social media channels, and it’s done in the style of their other videos, it’s classed as an “advertorial”, and is less likely to be obviously identifiable in itself, and so will usually need to be labelled.

  • Where should the label be placed?

Consumers should be informed that an ad is an ad before they engage with it, for example by clicking on a thumbnail in a list of different videos. Finding out something is an ad after having selected it, at the end of a video or half way through, is likely to be a problem. The text in the ‘description’ box is not immediately visible when viewing YouTube on a tablet, app or mobile browser, and doesn’t appear in video listings, so placing your identifying label here is unlikely to be sufficient. Thumbnails and video titles, though, are always visible, so including an appropriate label in either of these is likely to be acceptable.

  • What’s an acceptable label?

As Code rule 2.4 states, “advertisement feature” is an ideal label for advertorial material.  However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) understand this label can be unwieldy when it comes to video titles, and recent rulings have also established that “#ad” is an acceptable identifier.

Here are some labels that formal ASA rulings have established are not sufficient to identify an ad:

About the author:

Justin Davis is a member of the CAP Copy Advice team and specialises in giving advice on the advertising rules relating to the environment, betting and gaming and motoring. He joined the ASA as a Complaints Executive in 2012, before moving to the Copy Advice team in 2015. Justin studied Social and Cultural Theory at the University of Bristol before working in the public and private sector.

Source: CAP website

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