ASA rules on working with vloggers

NB Team

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Today we’ve got a guest post from Lucy, senior account director with our brilliant digital team, Things Unlimited, about the new rules for working with vloggers.

I like to set my alarm to wake me up to Radio 4’s Today programme. Most days I don’t really take in the morning’s news but I feel like it does me good to be absorbing news while I come to life. Today, I came to much quicker than usual when I realised that John Humphries was talking about the UK Advertising Watchdog guidelines for Vloggers, a ruling which has been a long time coming and will hugely affect the way social agencies, PR agencies, marketing and advertising agencies all over the UK will work with influencers. The ruling states that any content which has been paid for must be clearly signposted as such.

To say that the guidelines on how to work with vloggers and influencers has been a grey area for some time would be to understate it. The golden rule of social marketing has always been to be as transparent and clear as possible, and this ruling will be a relief to marketers and vloggers alike. The Guardian coverage of the news states that the ‘ASA is keen to clarify the rules as the market takes off’; for those of us working in this space, to state that the market is just taking off seems a bit awry but the fact that this is now national news demonstrates the importance of this transparency being introduced both for consumers and marketers alike.

The guidelines come off the back of the ASA’s ruling against Mondelez in November banning the Oreo content created by Dan and Phil which caused confusion as, in spite of the ‘thanks to Oreo’ messages in the content, the commercial intent was not “made clear before the viewers engaged with the content”; and in response to feedback from vloggers as to the lack of clarity in commercial relationships with brands.

Put simply, the rules state that ads must be obviously identifiable as such. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) have now outlined clear guidance for vloggers (and brands!) which define eight different scenarios and how vloggers should deal with them – this outlines everything from free items (the backbone of PR ‘gifting’) to product placement and online marketing (both for vloggers’ and brand owned channels). Most interestingly, now vloggers will have to stipulate where their own content promotes their own merchandise or product.

The ASA intends to distribute the new guidelines with advertising trade bodies including the IPA, IAB and ISBA; in addition to this, the ASA will also reach out to PR trade bodies, a sector with which it has not previously worked very closely, and which demonstrates the absolute clarity of this ruling. (Read: any agencies/brands getting this wrong will be breaking the rules, and potentially the law too).

For vloggers, the clarity which now exists should enable them to re-establish their authenticity which is crucial to their success; and for brands, there is now the clearest of lines in the sand which should mark the end of shonky product placement and weird, unannounced brand partnerships. Vloggers and bloggers are still publishers and a decision to enter a commercial relationship with a brand is an independent decision made by that blogger: the ASA guidelines do not regulate editorial opinion so the need for authentic and credible partnerships will be greater than ever.