HomeInsightsOREO Lick Race – ASA confirms position on transparency for V/Bloggers


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The facts are simple – Oreo paid YouTube talent Phil and Dan to promote Oreos and the Lick Race campaign.  The disclosures, to the extent there were any, on the videos and surrounding text were not clear enough. 

The rules are quite simple – make a clear disclosure by labelling the content prominently.

And the adjudications are clear, whether it be Outbrain, the Flora one, or the Twitter ones – labelling is required to make the message clearly identifiable as a marketing communication. 

But of course it is not that simple.  Constant and rapid creative and technical developments enable new and uncharted mechanics for brand messages and native integrations.  Simple old rules were not built for the never ending possibilities.

And more challenging is the fact that, whilst of course no brand wants to mislead the viewer or reader about the fact that an influential brand advocate has been paid, or that lovely bit of native content/advertising is brand funded, they do not necessarily want to shout it from the roof tops. 

Because crucially, blunt messaging can devalue the content and suggest to the viewer it is a crass commercial advertising message and not worth watching.  Quite the contrary – some of the best content is coming from branded and brand funded content.

The ASA suggestions, and the developing industry practice, of simply slapping a ‘Sponsored’, ‘Sponsor’, ‘Promoted’ or ‘Featured’ label on content  are not sophisticated enough to create a nuanced labelling message for the viewer.  There are many types of relationship and many levels of editorial control by brands.  The internal teams may know the difference between “Sponsor Content” (suggesting editorial control by the brand?) as opposed to “Sponsored Content” (just paid with no editorial control?),  but this subtlety will be lost on the viewer, and in any event the blunt disclaimer may mean that any engagement may be lost before it has even begun.

The key challenge and marketing skill going forward therefore will be to develop sophisticated messaging that properly explains the commercial relationship, without putting the viewer off from engaging with the content.  Quality content is quality content, however it arose and was funded, and it deserves to be viewed – the following of blunt solutions to comply with old rules should not create a hurdle for that engagement.

For further information please contact David Deakin.