Honesty is the best policy

Lucy Antoniou is a Senior Research Executive at Channel 4

With the rise of influential vloggers comes a new opportunity for brand promotion – but how important is it for advertisers to show transparency?

Recently The Advertising Standards Authority banned a number of videos posted by some of the UK’s best known YouTubers. It transpired that these videos contained brand promotion, paid for by the advertiser without any acknowledgement of this for the viewer. We recently asked our 4oD online registered users what they thought about vloggers promoting brands through their video channels. The results highlight viewer acceptance of advertising within these formats.  Almost half (45%) agreed (vs. just 22% who disagreed) that they expect video bloggers to promote brands in their vlogs – as they need to make a profit. As well as expecting it, almost two thirds welcomed product promotion as long as the brand had a good fit with the vloggers content. These findings build upon a key theme from OMD UK’s Future of Britain research (2013). OMD UK found a strong appetite for advertiser transparency amongst audiences, especially younger, more media- and tech-savvy consumers. The Future of Britain found that, for brands hoping to engage their audiences with new media, a clear distinction of branded content can not only protect advertisers, but can contribute to a more valuable brand-audience relationship.

There are some great examples of brands collaborating with popular video blogs, but there are also many vloggers who fail to mention when they have been paid to promote a brand. Clearly some finesse is needed to ensure the community feel and integrity of these vlogs is not threatened when advertisers get involved. In fact 40% of our registered users believe that promoting brands through video blogs can feel unnatural and forced, whilst a third said that vloggers lose credibility when promoting brands within their content – stressing the importance of getting the balance right between authenticity and advertising.

When it comes to product promotion in video blogs there is definitely some appeal, 43% of our registered users said that it allowed them to discover brands that perhaps they wouldn’t have otherwise come across. Therefore it pays to be transparent when promoting brands through this new format, besides, the same advertising rules that the rest of the industry adhere to should still apply to newer formats. As long as it suits the vlogger’s style and it is made clear that it is advertising, viewers are much more likely to get on board. Currently just a quarter trust vloggers product promotions, so perhaps there is still some work to be done. One thing is apparent though, being upfront and honest to viewers will help ensure that this new era of branded content can flourish.

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Lucy Antoniou

Lucy is a Senior Research Executive within the Advertising Research & Development team at Channel 4 working across TV Spot, Partnerships and Digital. She does significant work around the media landscape, audiences and advertising effectiveness, as well as being the go-to person for all things social.

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