Last summer Oreo paid a number of popular YouTube stars to talk about their “Lick Race” promotion. This helped the Oreo campaign get millions of extra views, but now they are also getting a warning from UK ad watchdog agencies. The problem, according to UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, is that these paid promotions were not clearly marked as advertisements, which is required by law.
While the warning is coming from a UK agency, all marketers will want to take note since the US and most other countries have similar laws on the books.
Oreo responded to the warning by explaining that when they made the agreements with the YouTube stars, they instructed them to make it clear that they were working with Oreo on the video. In addition, the description on the videos did say that they were making the videos for Oreo. Apparently, that is not enough.
The YouTube stars have now updated their videos to make it more clear, including adding a small banner across the top that says, “This is a paid for advertisement.” One complaint many have is that the laws in this area are not entirely clear on what marketers and promoters must do to remain in compliance. Of course, the more obvious it is that the video is an advertisement, the less effective it will be. If companies like Oreo will be required to put up banners saying these things are ads, they will likely stop using them as a marketing technique.
Whatever the case, it is a good reminder to all marketers that if you are running a non-traditional ad (such as a YouTube promotion) it is essential that you make it very clear that it is a marketing spot. This warning from the Advertising Standards Authority could be a signal that they are going to be cracking down harder on this type of thing in the future.
You can read the release from the watchdog agency here.