The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) said that while vloggers and businesses "are free to establish commercial relationships" with one another, both are responsible for ensuring consumers "know when they’re watching an ad, and when they’re watching editorial content".
CAP, which together with the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) writes the rules governing UK advertising, issued the reminder as it published "four essential questions" that it says businesses should ask themselves about video blogs and compliance with UK advertising rules.
In its guidance, CAP said advertisers and vloggers should ask themselves which videos would constitute adverts.
"If the marketer pays the publisher, and has editorial control over the video they produce, it counts as an ad," CAP said, adding that businesses that give "final approval" to content before it is published would be considered to have control over that content. CAP also pointed to a recent ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as providing "some further examples of what can count as control".
The ASA ruling, which concerned celebrity endorsement on social media of a dairy product produced by Alpro, suggests that advertisers will be said to have editorial control over social media content if they put in place contractual prohibitions on the endorsement of rival products by social media users they partner with. It also suggests that advertisers will be said to have control if they claim sole ownership of copyright and intellectual property rights of materials accrued through promotions or if they restrict social media users' "general messaging", even if they give those users control over "specific wording".
CAP said that it may not be that some vlogs are obviously ads but that in other cases it will be necessary to label ads as such.
"In some contexts, it’s obvious that the video is an ad," CAP said. "For instance, if a vlog appears on a brand’s own social media channels, the context is likely to make it obvious, and it’s less likely to need a label. If it’s published on the vlogger’s own social media channels, and it’s done in the style of their other videos, it’s classed as an 'advertorial', and is less likely to be obviously identifiable in itself, and so will usually need to be labelled."
Businesses and vloggers were also given guidance on where to place labels for ads to comply with UK advertising rules.
CAP said: "Consumers should be informed that an ad is an ad before they engage with it, for example by clicking on a thumbnail in a list of different videos. Finding out something is an ad after having selected it, at the end of a video or half way through, is likely to be a problem. The text in the ‘description’ box is not immediately visible when viewing YouTube on a tablet, app or mobile browser, and doesn’t appear in video listings, so placing your identifying label here is unlikely to be sufficient. Thumbnails and video titles, though, are always visible, so including an appropriate label in either of these is likely to be acceptable."
CAP said that the use of the words 'advertisement feature' or '#ad' alongside vlogs that serve as adverts can satisfy UK advertising rule requirements. However, some ASA rulings have established that using the words 'sponsored', 'in association with', 'brand publisher', '#sp', or 'brought to you by' may not be sufficient to identify ads, it said.