The advance of YouTubers into brand communications has been one of the standout trends of the past 18 months. In addition to making people want to launch make-up and DIY channels, it has drawn the attention of various regulatory bodies.
Now the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (Icpen) is to enforce guidelines on bloggers/YouTubers/influencers. For those who don’t know, Icpen is a global association of consumer protection bodies whose presidency passes between various countries. This year, it’s the turn of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority to take charge.
The rules are:
- Disclose clearly and prominently whether content has been paid for
- Be open about other commercial relationships that might be relevant to the content
- Give genuine views on markets, businesses, good or services.
Why this needs to happen
On the one side, you can see why this is necessary. Companies and brands have increased their use of influencers in this way. A marker of its growth was the creation of dedicated agencies to specialise in communications of this kind.
Aldi is one that springs to mind, which uses mums to review products. The key advantage is that it’s better for the brand. For a start, Maddie Bruce is going to be cheaper than Fearne Cotton. Second, there are unlikely to be any preconditions over what she can and cannot do. Third, you have a ready-made following to hook into.
But how can it be enforced?
To regulators this must look like the Wild West when compared with traditional marketing. Take as an example the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which polices the sector and ensures companies abide by a set of guidelines known as the CAP code.
Running foul of this won’t break any laws. That is something else. Instead it provides a framework for the kind of self-regulation that responsible companies, broadcasters and agencies know is required to make the sector tick over.
This legislation can be seen as part of a wider push by regulators to get a handle on content marketing or native advertising. The problem they face is enforcement. For most YouTubers, YouTube is the law… not a regulatory body no one has heard of.