ASA cautions video bloggers over paid content

The ASA’s ruling does not introduce any new regulations for online video in the UK; in fact, the Committee of Advertising Practice has issued guidance to bloggers before, covering paid-for endorsements and paid-for content, as well as guidance to brands over their use of social media, to promote products.

The adjudication, though, should serve as a warning to producers and brand owners of the need for transparency in any paid-for content. The ASA points out that reviews or videos covering products from an editorial angle are allowed, including where a brand provides a product to a blogger or YouTuber for free.

However, the ASA considered that in this case, Oreo’s involvement, both financially and in terms of control over the content, meant the video posts could not be considered as editorial. The ASA has told Mondelez UK Ltd that the adverts must not appear again in their current form, and that “future ads in this medium [must make] their commercial intent clear prior to consumer engagement”.

As well as the adjudication, the ASA has issued guidance to advertisers on the regulations, as they apply to online video.

The regulator, and the Committee of Advertising Practice, point out that advertising either needs to appear in places where consumers would expect it, in ad breaks, or as a pre-roll clip before a video, and be distinct in style from editorial material – or if not, be clearly marked as commercial content.

Online videos that involve product placement, sponsorship or paid-for content can also breach the terms of use of services such as YouTube or Vimeo, which have strict rules around content that contains adverts or sponsor messages; these rules can also vary depending on the type of account the uploader uses.

One issue for video producers is that YouTube, in particular, puts limits on product endorsement and promotion on its service; if a video blogger tries to get round the rules by hiding the commercial nature of their posts, they can also fall foul of advertising and consumer protection rules, not just in the UK, but in the rest of the EU, and the US.