New native ad rules: Oreo banned after YouTubers paid to promote products

26/11/2014

In a warning to all native advertisers, Modelez has seen its latest marketing stunt fall foul of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The FMCG giant failed to notify viewers that a series of YouTube videos featuring an ‘Oreo Lick Race’ were paid for by the company.

The ads featured popular vloggers including Dan and Phil and Tom Ridgewell and showed the YouTube creators taking part in an 'Oreo lick race'. The pair who have 2.2 million subscribers on the AmazingPhil channel.

The ad has attracted 1.3 million views since being uploaded on June 16th 2014. In the video, Lester held up two packets of Oreos, with the product highlighted using an illuminating effect. The vloggers then took part in a "Lick Race", during which the product was named repeatedly.

After the video, users who clicked on the "Show More" button beneath the video, would view text, which read: "Check out the Oreo site for more licking action. Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible!"

The ads received a single complaint from a BBC journalist who challenged whether the video blogs were clearly labelled as ads.

Dan and Phil were amongst a number of high profile bloggers who were recruited by Mondelez to feature an Oreo Lick Race on their YouTube channel.

Other bloggers included Thomas Ridgewell, who has 3.2 million subscribers to his TomSkaYouTube channel and a weekly Radio 1 show. Essex YouTuber Emma Blackery, who has 829,000 subscribers, and PJ Ligouri, who has more than 600,000 subscribers to KickThePJ. All videos have now been banned by the ASA.

Mondelez UK argued that it was not its intention to mislead consumers. The firm stated that the vloggers had been paid to provide ads for Oreo and provided with the product for use in the video.

Mondelez added that each vlogger referenced the fact they had worked with Oreo, and that the vloggers made reference to others who had produced Lick Race videos for viewers to review.

In addition the company added it thought the inclusion of the acknowledgement at the end of the content did not render it unidentifiable as an ad.

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) disagreed and pointed out that the presentation of each ad was "very much in keeping" with the editorial content of each vlogger's YouTube channels and as a consquence it would not be immediately clear they were marketing communications from the style alone.

New ad formats need new transparency rules

While the watchdog acknowledged the incusion of disclosure statements, such as "Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible", they were still not significant enough.

The ASA concluded that the ads must not appear again in their current form. It told Mondelez to ensure in the future that the ads using this content medium made their commercial intent clear prior to engaging with consumers.

Commenting on the ruling, Ian Twinn, ISBA’s Director of Public Affairs, a UK trade body for adveertisers, said: “We welcome the ASA ruling that vloggers have to obey the rules. At the end of the day consumers deserve respect.

"There are of course a lot of Vloggers that adhere to the rules and are transparent about their content, but not everyone is equally savvy. In the UK the rules are clear: in a tweet include #ad, and for Facebook or YouTube just say it's an advert. It might even help Vloggers get more work! Brands want to respect their consumers and protect their brand value,” Twinn concluded.

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