How clearly must native advertising — including campaigns conducted via video (“vlogging”) — be marked?
Much more than they currently are, according to a recent case in the UK.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) there has ruled that a number of vloggers did not clearly inform viewers that certain Oreo videos were actually paid spots.
Mondelez, which owns the venerable sandwich cookie brand, rounded up a number of YouTube personalities and paid them for their participation in the so-called “Oreo Lick Race.”
While there’s nothing wrong with paying people to be in the video spots, there is a problem, it seems, with concealing the fact that these people were paid for their licking.
And now it’s Mondelez that is taking the licking.
“Why is it important to make clear an ad is an ad? It’s important that we understand when we’re being marketed to so that we can make informed decisions about what we’re being told,” the ASA subsequently explained on its website. “Plus if it’s appearing in a format that we’d normally expect to be non-promotional, we should be told up front about whether it’s an ad so that we can decide whether we want to continue viewing. In simple terms, it’s not fair to falsely promote a product.”
But the ASA didn’t just balk at the Oreo people. They took swift action.
Mondelez was informed that the ads could not appear again in their current form. The ASA also mandated that future ads make “commercial intent clear prior to consumer engagement.”
“Our ruling against Mondelez UK Ltd sets out why the advertiser got it wrong,” the ASA says. “In this case because the ads were on online video channels that were usually non-promotional, the commercial intent should have been made clear before viewers clicked on the content.”
The ASA determined that while “it’s perfectly legitimate for vloggers (or bloggers, tweeters etc) to enter into a commercial relationship and be paid to promote a product, service or brand,” it’s not acceptable to keep that fact a secret.
“We’re not here to regulate that relationship or to stop vloggers earning money,” the ASA says. “But when that commercial relationship is in place then the onus is on the advertiser, and by extension the vlogger, to be upfront about it and clearly disclose the fact that they’re advertising.”
As the lines between content and advertising are more clearly defined due to the growth of native advertising, vloggers need to be careful. The filling in Oreos may be what makes the cookie great, but authenticity is what sells the advertising form.