If you’re fine-tuning your online strategy for 2017 with a young audience in your sights, working with vloggers may well be a something you’re considering adding to your marketing mix. Influencers who first found fame on YouTube and gained huge numbers of Twitter followers made repeated headlines last year, and have even joined the payroll at the BBC, so is it time for your brand to step into the vlogger collaboration arena?
According to the stats, YouTube reaches more 18-34 year olds and 18-49 year-olds than any US cable network and in the UK, Ofcom’s 2014 Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report revealed that more kids aged 12-15 prefer YouTube. We know kids are watching less TV, consuming content online instead, including ‘reality’ content produced by YouTube stars.
Leading the way are names such as Swedish videogame critic PewdiePie, who is YouTube’s biggest star, Irish beauty vlogger Melanie Murphy whose fame rocketed when this video about acne went viral and UK fashion and beauty vlogger Zoella (Zoe Suggs), who now has her own Superdrug range and has published two books. Incidentally, Zoe’s younger brother Joe won BBC Radio 1’s Teen Awards Vlogger of the Year.
Of course, it’s not just the millennials and screenagers who are YouTube content consumers. An increasing number of stars are moving beyond the traditional vlog topics of beauty and gaming to cover more grown-up topics such as cars and finance. Adults are also consuming more online content; the amount of time people spend watching on the platform increased 60 per cent last year.
So, if you’re thinking of sponsoring vlogger content or extending your outreach programme to make connections with YouTube influencers, what do you need to know? Let’s look at some of the rules and regulations you should be aware of before launching your first vlogger campaign.
If you’re already working with bloggers, you’ll find the rules for working with vloggers similar, though there have been some notable changes and clarifications to the regulations surrounding online influencers. It’s worth noting that the rules for working with video bloggers in Ireland and the UK are fairly well aligned, as you might expect. The Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland states that brands working with bloggers to promote products or services should ensure all marketing communications are clearly flagged. There is a clear responsibility to ensure that the viewer is aware of the relationship and the nature of the content before viewing. The Code states:
3.32 Marketing communications should not misrepresent their true purpose […]
3.33 Advertorials should be clearly identified, should be distinguished from editorial matter and should comply with the Code.
3.34 The identity of the advertiser, product or service should be apparent. This does not apply to marketing communications with the sole purpose of attracting attention to communication activities to follow (so-called ‘teaser advertisements’).
When working with YouTube influencers, this means identifying advertorial content using clear labelling in the description box and the video title, and not just as a mention in the video itself.
Now, back to the changes and what they mean for your vlogger campaigns. Clarifications have in part been prompted by concerns raised by third parties, and at the request of vloggers themselves. However, for many, the first notable tweak made by YouTube’s owner, Google, was a financially motivated one.
Google has made it clear that the use of sponsor logos and branding in videos was okay only if the brand in question already had a partnership agreement with Google. Video creators have long been prohibited from independently displaying videos on their content in case it clashes with YouTube’s own ads. With this in mind, the move shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise for businesses or bloggers. It was of course a nudge for brands towards Google’s own advertising products. Considering how Google has tweaked Google Analytics in recent years in favour of its own paid search platform AdWords, we can take it that this gentle persuasion on YouTube may take a more forceful direction in future.
While some video creators may grumble that the logo update means Google will be taking a larger slice of the revenue for their creative efforts, the move can also be viewed as providing a better experience for both brands and viewers. After all, who wants to watch a video that markets one product while simultaneously being advertised to by their competitor? Content producers are required to tick a box to indicate that a video contains a paid product placement, which helps prevent advertising conflicts. While at present it’s up to viewers to police content by flagging any instances of logo splashing in videos, it’s still risky to flout the rules. If brands really crave a quick flash of fame with a particular audience, they can always purchase a six-second product card ad from Google that shows at the beginning of a video.
The next crucial update occurred in August 2015. The UK Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued guidelines for vloggers, incorporating a ruling made by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ruling followed a complaint by BBC’s Newsround that several vloggers were paid by the brand Mondelez to promote Oreo biscuits, and that not all of the resulting videos were clearly marked as promotional. As confirmed in the CAP guidelines, all paid-for content must be clearly identified in the title and description box to indicate that it has been paid for before the viewer starts watching it. Here’s an example of a paid-for promotional vlogger video shared by Homebase on its Facebook page:
This video features parent vloggers Anna Saccone and Jonathan Saccone Joly, an Irish couple who have caused a stir in the UK. The pair have collaborated with a number of brands through their observational and often humorous content and boast over 1.74 million (and counting) subscribers to their channel.
And it’s not just in the online sphere that YouTube influencers hold sway. The mainstream media has been looking to YouTubers to help them attract a younger audience too. Stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester hosted their own show on BBC Radio 1 and others including Zoella, Tyler Oakley and Sprinkle of Glitter featured during scheduled takeovers.
Explaining the move, Head of Visual Radio at BBC Radio 1, Joe Harland, told the Drum: “The vlogging community helps us reach an audience that might not listen to the radio as much as we might want them to. Though I can’t say for certain that we can turn a viewer into a listener, I can say that if a Radio 1 subscriber thinks of radio they will think of Radio 1 primarily. That’s the best chance we’ve got.”
If you’re tempted to go under the radar with a vlogger outreach campaign and ask influencers not to disclose they they’ve been paid either in cash, goods or free services, don’t. As UK body the ASA has stated: “Any advertiser or agency that asks a vlogger not to be up-front (disclose) that they’re advertising are asking them to break the advertising rules and potentially the law.”
It’s also worth remembering that influencer’s openness is a strong draw for their audiences, and honesty is expected as part of the package. You should be confident enough in your collaboration to be able to draw on the creativity of the vlogger, making the most of the transparent relationship and investment from your budget. This means committing time to finding stars – established or emerging – that are a good fit with your brand.
Open, clear labelling online has another upside that’s often overlooked. You might choose YouTube as a means of introducing your brand to a new audience, but with clear and honest labelling of promotional collaborations, such content can visibly expand your digital footprint in a positive way. This means when people go online to search for you, they’ll find creative, curated content that acts as another useful tool in shaping their decision making. So, when you’re working on vlogger campaigns you may need to consider how content might affect different stages of the customer journey, which means seeing beyond reviews and endorsements.
The future for brands working with vloggers is moving in an interesting direction and one that’s bringing online marketing to a more personal level. For those seeking success, it’s crucial to maintain trust between all involved.