Blurring advertising and blogs
November 26, 2014
Those of you in the UK may be aware of today’s news story regarding vloggers who have been paid for promotion. In the hours of the day when I’m not attempting to be an elite athlete, I have a job in technology-enhanced learning. I spend a lot of time discussing issues around what people do online. My colleagues are aware of my blogging activities, so they started asking how the ruling would affect me.
Here’s a BBC news article, explaining the furore: Vloggers paid for promotions ‘need clearer labelling’.
The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) is the UK’s independent regulator for advertising across all media. Here is their summary of the ruling against Mondelez Ltd.:
So… how does this affect me?
Well, it doesn’t. First of all, I’m a blogger, not a vlogger. I don’t like the sound of my own voice. Also, it is far easier for me to edit what I’ve typed than it would be for me to edit a video. I specialised in cinematography and editing at university. It would be very difficult for me to regularly post videos that meet my high standards. Secondly, a key part of the ruling is about advertisers paying for and having editorial control over content. I’ve never been paid for anything that has appeared on my blog. (If you do want to pay me, feel free to get in touch and maybe we can work out a deal!)
Last year the ASA ruled on Blurring advertising and blogs – why it pays to know the ad rules. The key information was similar:
- “bloggers who are paid to write positive reviews or comments about a product or service that they must be up-front with their followers by making clear that it’s advertising.”
- “the rules don’t prohibit PR companies sending free gifts or samples to bloggers in the hope of receiving a positive review.”
- “A blogger can, of course, give their view on any topic and, if it’s an opinion, then we have no remit or interest in regulating that space. If, however, they are paid to say something positive then it becomes an advertisement and they must disclose it.”
Although I have NEVER been paid to write a positive review, I have previously been sent free samples or been given a discount on certain brands. However, I believe that I have always been honest about this. I only accept samples of items that I would have considered buying. In terms of nutrition items, that means that the product must be vegetarian and something that I feel fits with my attempt at a healthy lifestyle. If I were offered something full of scary additives then I would turn it down. If an item passes through my initial criteria, then I will eat it and give an honest report on my thoughts.
Where I have been given an item, I hope that I have always made this clear by stating that I was sent the item by a specific company (e.g. Nuun or myprotein.com). I also want to reiterate what I said in yesterday’s post – my opinions are always genuine. I hope this comes across in my posts. If I like a product, I will endorse it. If I don’t like it, I will also say that. Of course, any review of a product will be subjective. Tropical nuun wasn’t the flavour for me. Some people may love it as their tastes will be different from mine. I LOVE Kona Cola Nuun; my husband thinks it’s too sweet. Likewise, I enjoyed the Myprotein maple protein pancakes. My husband refused to try them as he doesn’t even like pancakes!
Finally, I am a brand ambassador for several brands, most notably SOAS Racing. Being a brand ambassador means that I am unlikely to say anything negative about the brands that I am representing. However, it does not prevent me from trying other brands or writing about them.
I applied to be a brand ambassador for SOAS Racing as I genuinely love the clothing. Also, the company’s brand values align closely with my own views. We both want to encourage women of all ages, sizes and abilities to participate in sport. There is a code of conduct that I am expected to adhere to. However, I am allowed to voice my own opinion. Yes, I prefer some of the kits to others, but in terms of fit and comfort, I’ve never found another brand that I like better. If you’ve managed to find a picture of me on my bike with something other than Soas shorts on, it’s probably one that was taken before I bought anything from SOAS. The only other alternatives are that it was laundry day or it was a cold day as SOAS don’t currently make cycling tights or knee warmers!