ASA Warns YouTubers To Disclose Promotions

I use YouTube exclusively for watching the Shake It Off video, which is clearly a paid promotion for its own sick beats.

The Advertising Standards Authority has warned that YouTubers need to make clear when the videos they create are paid-for promotions. The comments were made by the ASA, Britian’s agency for regulating advertising standards authoritatively, after a BBC journalist brought YouTube videos to their attention where the relationship between presenter and product was unclear. Given recent hullabaloos over disclosure in videogame YouTuber land, this is worth knowing about.

Talking to the BBC – in a story that is adorable for its use of “video bloggers” and “vloggers” – Lynsay Taffe from the ASA noted that, “Brands and vloggers now have to make it very clear, before you click on a video, that it’s a promotional video.”

This is just a re-statement of rules already in place, but it’s interesting because until now most regulatory bodies haven’t scrutinized videos posted to YouTube. This has led to conditions where many videogame YouTubers don’t flag promotional content at all, and those that do frequently put the note in the text description where it’s easy to miss. The need to have it displayed before users click on the video would suggest any such notice would need to appear in the video’s title or thumbnail image.

Eurogamer note that the videos the complaint was filed against were advertisements for Oreo cookies, and that the particular offenders have since been modified to make clearer their purpose as advertisement rather than editorial content. The ASA also say however that they’ll be monitoring YouTube videos more closely in future, which could obviously have consequences for a number of UK YouTubers working within videogames.

Here is a YouTube video wot I like:

33 Comments

  1. LionsPhil says:

    “Before you click” rather than, say, at the start of the video, is a strange one. Wonder if it’s tied into their understanding of YouTube monetization or something, but I thought that was per-minute-watched rather than per-click or anything these days.

    (Which has been the bane of animatiors, who make short clips of original content at tremendous effort, and also anyone who appreciates tight, concise editing.)

    • frymaster says:

      The problem is, as totalbiscuit pointed out, warnings in the description (or on someone’s webpage) don’t help when the youtube video is embedded in someone else’s page, which is why he was moving to disclosure at the start of the video (not sure if that’s instead or as well as). Seems like however you do it, there’s an argument that a significant amount of people won’t see it

      • Gap Gen says:

        Even then, you could potentially skip to a portion of the video. You should probably put a message in the description *and* warn at the start, or even watermark each frame with a small logo or something. I guess it depends what ASA considers acceptable, of course.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        Seems most prudent to do both then, or perhaps put it in the video’s title (which is usually visible).

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Now that’s why I don’t like TotalBiscuit. He didn’t point that out, the members of Gamersutra pointed that out to him and he argued against doing that saying that a bit of text on the YouTube page was all that was legally required and he didn’t need to put in a disclaimer in the video. Now he’s changed his tune and tried to claim the moral high ground.

        • pepperfez says:

          Total Biscuit deserves every bit of the moral authority granted to Walmart or News Corp. If it’s sufficiently good for business, you can bet he’ll do the right thing.

        • TotalBiscuit says:

          Oh what a lovely narrative people like to concoct.

          The only thing Gamasutra did was manage to get an FTC regulator to clarify the regulations. We’ve been talking about disclosure frequently, our video on it and XB1M13 came out well before Gamasutra said anything on the subject. link to youtube.com

          Indeed I helped Simon Parkin write an article on the subject on Eurogamer – link to eurogamer.net

          This hilarious notion that I somehow got caught redhanded when really I’ve been talking about this stuff far longer than any games website has, is born from ignorance of my position and nothing more than that.

          “He argued against doing that saying that a bit of text on the YouTube page was all that was legally required and he didn’t need to put in a disclaimer in the video. Now he’s changed his tune and tried to claim the moral high ground.”

          This is a pack of lies. If you actually read the comments on that Gamasutra post (which is before Gamasutra actually got the FTC to comment on the issue, two very different articles, the one in question was written almost a full month before the FTC article – link to gamasutra.com), you’ll clearly see I was not arguing that I didn’t have to put disclosure in the video at all. We have always disclosed our brand deals and followed the legal guidelines set out by our network to do so, as well as the FTC guidelines on the subject. When the FTC came and clarified them, we updated our disclosure. It’s as simple as that. We’ve never made any effort to hide brand deals, disclosure was given in various forms in the description, on twitter, during the podcast and during vlogs on my channel. Since then we’ve updated it to make it completely unavoidable. Have you actually read the FTC regulations on the subject? Go and do it, you’ll see exactly why our networks lawyers believed our disclosure to be in compliance.

          So do me a favour, when you talk about the moral highground it seems to be you who is trying to take it, yet you don’t have all the facts to hand. We made good faith efforts to make sure people knew which videos were sponsored. When the FTC decided to clarify its guidelines, we made further improvements immediately. Your attitude and attempts to crucify the people doing this right serve only to make it more attractive to do it wrong and never mention sponsorship, since doing so will bring you under fire from internet know-it-alls. That would explain why some people don’t even mention it, they don’t want the hassle.

          What’s important is I know I’m doing right by my audience. Trad games press can keep writing about the scary world of Youtube all they please, they’ll probably be sourcing me when they do it.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            Pack of lies? So on Gamasutra’s piece about Icarus Online, when a commenter specifically stated to you that
            “There’s nothing at the beginning or the end disclosing that it’s sponsored. The only mention is in the “about” text, which YouTube hides by default and which won’t be shown if the video is embedded elsewhere.”

            You are saying your reply was not?

            “Because there doesn’t need to be disclosure during the video itself. FTC regulations dictate that it must be disclaimed in written form, which can be found in the description “This video is part of a Guns of Icarus promotional campaign. Some of the content contained in this video and/or compensation for our participation has been provided by Muse Games.””

            So what exactly was I lying about?

    • Lanfranc says:

      Probably because you’re usually shown an ad before the video begins.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      If it’s per-minute I wouldn’t worry – I’m probably keeping those animators in giant mansions single-handedly, I swear.

    • Vandelay says:

      Either way, as a consumer, I would still want it at the start of the video. I don’t really care if I count as a viewer and they get paid if I watch 2 seconds of their video; I care whether I can trust the opinions they might give during the video. Having a message at the start of the video is the best way to ensure that the viewer knows that it is a promotional video (or better yet, a comment popup every 5 minutes.)

  2. padger says:

    I guess they thought that using the term “tubers” would have everyone confused with The Talking Potato People.

    • unitled says:

      Comments like this are why I love RPS so.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      I suppose the correct technical terminology is ‘interblagger-v’?

  3. Surlywombat says:

    A lot of these guys are asking to get hit by the full force of the current legislation by not doing anything. The fact is this is all already covered by the rules for TV, and those rules are really quite strict in the UK.

    Putting it in the description or just saying “Thanks to x for making this possible” isn’t going to be enough when the ASA come knocking, and is inviting the tough line to be taken. Especially for the channels with large child audiences. Some of these kids will buy anything they see these channels playing.

    • fish99 says:

      You say it’s strict, but what typically happens when an ad breaks the rules? After the ad has been running potentially for months the ASA tell them not to show the ad again in it’s current form. IMO fines should be mandatory, and where appropriate, compensation should be available, people have already been mislead and potentially ripped off.

  4. DXN says:

    It’s so gross. Half (all?) of the mainstream channels nowadays have the feel, either sometimes and subtly, or all the times and ridiculously, of QVC, or a mall-corridor shill. Too much money sloshing about behind the scenes breeds bullshit and artistic corruption — and while disclosure is a good principle, it never completely washes off the bitter taste of advertising that’s trying to look like not-advertising.

  5. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    “Watch Newsround’s report.”

    For goodness sake, youtube is not only watched by newsround’s target audience. Get it together, BBC.

    • Bull0 says:

      I think the Let’s Play / streaming audience likely has a LOT of crossover with the Newsround audience. More so, for example, than the Newsnight audience.

      • Lacero says:

        Newsnight still has an audience ? :D

        • BooleanBob says:

          Ninety percent of it is people who fell asleep in front of the telly and therefore are unable to switch over.

    • kael13 says:

      But a vlogger told me once that only kids watch them tube videos uploaded by you! It’s all just minecraft and cats!

      There was a bit of a kerfuffle the other day over a certain Yogscast Assassin’s Creed Unity paid promotional video. I wonder if this making it all clear is in response to that?

  6. Gap Gen says:

    Shilling for Big Tongue, there.

    • Horg says:

      You have it wrong, this is clearly a promotional piece for Flannel Hat. ”Pet not being weirdly adorable enough to make it youtube famous? Put a Flannel on it! Flannel Hat inc. guarantee quirky behavior within 30 minutes of first application!”.

      • Gap Gen says:

        That’s clearly a promotional tongue-shaped-and-coloured minitowel.

    • Oakreef says:

      I love MrBTongue’s vids, rare as they are.

    • protowizard says:

      whoa, that’s jamie oliver’s dog?!

  7. Baines says:

    I wonder if YouTube is twitchy enough about potential legal threats that they’d bow to takedown noticed issued by the ASA? Or would they’d just use region/country blocking, or just ignore it?

  8. somnolentsurfer says:

    Sometimes I use YouTube to watch the Blank Space video.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      You have the volume turned off, right? We wouldn’t want you to suffer any damage due to ole Billy Goat’s vocals.

  9. MrFinnishDude says:

    That dog would make a great car commercial

  10. Jediben says:

    Seriously how will this ever be enforced? How will the ASAP ever be able to tell what video is made in the UK for them to have “jurisdiction” over it? I can put a British person in outer Mongolia and film a nice shill vid, upload it and then what? What are they gonna do?