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Oreos, YouTube and transparency in social media marketing

Posted by Louise Palmer on 8th December 2014

The need for transparency when it comes to paid-for product promotion came to the fore recently, with the Advertising Standards Authority’s ruling that a video paid for by Oreos that featured YouTube stars broke advertising code.

The popular chocolate biscuit brand paid a host of YouTube stars to promote its product in videos.

Now there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with these vloggers receiving money for their brand endorsement efforts. The issue is that they must make it very clear to fans and viewers that they aren’t simply doing this out of their love for the product.

As The Guardian reports, Mondelēz, the parent company for the Oreo brand, said they weren’t intentionally trying to be misleading and each vlogger did state they were working with Oreo. But in the words of the ASA, the ads must be ‘obviously identifiable marketing communications’.  According to the ASA, they were not.

What does this landmark ruling mean for brands, marketers and their PR agencies?

In the first instance, there’s a clear message from the ASA. If you’re not playing by the rules (and the law) by making it very clear stars of videos are getting paid for promoting your product then your campaign will be banned.

But it also begs a question about how brands should be engaging with video bloggers and famous faces on social channels.

For me, communication needs to be transparent, and nowhere more so than on social channels. This is where an ad needs to look like an ad and where an authentic post or endorsement must trustworthy.

The likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are about democratic sharing. The brand ambassadors that I want to listen to are those who genuinely like that brand and don’t need to be paid to tell me.

photo credit: mihoda

Louise Palmer

Deftly switching between business and consumer accounts, the focus for Louise remains the same; how can Wildfire tell clients’ stories in a way that is faithful, relevant and engaging? Her wide technology PR experience makes Louise an agile Managing Director, combining the strategic management of PR programmes with a hands-on approach to get under the skin of clients and motivate her teams.