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?
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?
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].