Let me sell you lies…

On the first day of this course I had a conversation with my classmate, Mohammed, regarding YouTube and product promotion. We were both aware that YouTubers are often paid or sent free products as payment for featuring the product on their channel. But can we believe what they’re saying?

YouTube directs content creators to the FTC (US) and CAP (UK) for clarification on the rules regarding endorsements and product promotions. The general rule of thumb encouraged by both organisations is for YouTubers to make it known when they are being compensated. Some suggestions include verbally stating it within the video or including “ad” in the video title. Basically, don’t hide the fact that you’re being paid for a video or that you received a product for free. However, the majority of the language used on the FTC and CAP pages seems to fall within a grey area filled with “suggestions” and “considerations” rather than clear rules.

When it comes to actual false advertising, the FTC states that companies must make a “reasonable effort” to monitor the YouTubers that are promoting their products. But what if one falls through the cracks? According to the FTC…

“…it’s unlikely that the activity of a rogue blogger would be the basis of a law enforcement action if your company has a reasonable training and monitoring program in place.”

So overall, it seems that YouTubers are not held to the same standard of ethical CSR as the companies that sponsor them. But do they actually need to be?

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 12.01.07 a.m.In my opinion, no. YouTube is a largely opinion-based platform. Heavier regulations from outside the platform would likely infringe on YouTube’s most appeal aspect; the creative freedom.

We have already seen examples of YouTubers defending the credibility of their endorsements. To avoid more outside regulation, I believe these content creators should come together to form a regulatory body of their own. Who better to understand YouTubers than YouTubers? They have the insider knowledge needed to create fair regulations. They already know the inner workings of sponsored videos. They already know true endorsements from fake promotion.

Another motivator for compliance with ethical standards would be the need for respect. I’ve noticed an example of this between my coursemates and I within the dynamics of a group project. We are essentially self-regulating ourselves to contribute our best work in order to be seen as valuable and to be respected. Nobody wants to be seen as the weak link. Likewise, I imagine the YouTube system to work as a positive form of peer pressure. Content creators would follow the rules to maintain acceptance among their peers. It would discourage YouTubers to post dishonest content for fear of being exposed and losing credibility.

Do you think a system like this would work? Do you think there needs to be a system at all?


References

CAP (2015) Video blogs: Scenarios. Available from: https://www.cap.org.uk/Advice-Training-on-the-rules/Advice-Online-Database/Video-blogs-Scenarios.aspx#.Vh-xgLyxHzJ [Accessed 15 October 2015].

FTC (2015) The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking. Available from: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking#social. [Accessed 15 October 2015].

YouTube (2015) Paid product placements and endorsements. Available from: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/154235?hl=en-GB [Accessed 15 October 2015].

Photo source: http://www.shekulli.com.al/images/images30/1/eyeReflect.JPG

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Why study digital marketing?

Why do you want to study digital marketing? My coursemates and I were asked this question during our very first lecture. Although Dr Molesworth received mostly crickets in response (likely due to our shyness or lack of sleep), I know we each have our own explanation as to why we chose to pack up and move across the globe to become postgraduate students at the University of Southampton.

My story can be summed up in one word; YouTube. As such, I have the feeling that the majority of my posts here will be YouTube-centric (you’ve been warned). The obsession began in 2009 with a beauty video linked from the homepage. A seemingly innocent “Christmas Gift Guide” introduced me to an entirely new world. The beauty videos soon branched into comedy, news, lifestyle, and fitness. These days, I regularly favour watching YouTube videos over traditional television shows. I was excited to find that my coursemate, Pasinee, has a similar story, as I’m sure do many others.

YouTube has come a long way since its inception in 2005 and is now a billion-dollar business. The site has allowed some of its content creators to earn 7-figure salaries, create their own beauty brands, and star in their own television shows, not to mention create (and subsequently sell) their own production studios. As Dr Molesworth put it last week, these “girls showing you how to put on lipstick” have caught the eye of major brands and are turning hobbies into careers. This is exactly why digital marketing appeals to me. I aim to take my “hobby” and move from the consumer end of YouTube to the business end by joining the companies that work with the content creators.

Now to tie this all in with MANG6262. An interesting topic we’ve spoken about in lecture is globalisation and how it leads to cultural exchange. Per Dr Molesworth’s lecture, digital technologies collapse distance, and I could not agree more. I’ve experienced this first-hand through watching British content creators. Although I had previously visited the UK before moving here, it’s safe to say that I’ve learned more about British culture and products through watching day-in-the-life video blogs (or “vlogs”), than from my own past experience or research. For me, there’s something more appealing about hearing a person you’ve been subscribed to for years vouch for a product or rave about a meal, as opposed to hopping on Trip Advisor or MakeupAlley. Before moving, I had already drafted a list of products to buy and restaurants to try without once referencing the traditional review sites.

So my question for this first post will come as déjà vu for most of you; why do you want to study digital marketing? Hopefully it will be a bit easier to answer this time around since we can all respond safely from our keyboards.

Also, have you experienced your own form of globalisation, whether it be from YouTube or any other platform? If so, do you consider it to be positive or negative?

Lastly, if anyone has their own YouTube channel, feel free to leave a link below! No judgement for self-promotion here.