True Influence -- Why Brands Must Learn To Weed Out The 'Flogger Vlogger'

Transparency in digital marketing is all the rage right now, so it's interesting to see the debate hone in on influencer marketing this week. Anyone in the industry will know this is an effective, yet very murky, channel, and so it's only right that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) should refine its guidelines.

As ever, with any organisation that tries to help an industry act more transparently its initial efforts at telling influencers they should be clear where money has changed hands led to a call for greater clarity. The regulated don't always like "stop being sneaky" advice. With respect, however, being told you have to let people know when you have been paid money to say a product or service is fabulous is not exactly open to a lot of interpretation, is it? Still, if you want to try to get around the spirit of the industry's guidance, then you now have clarification.

The most pertinent new aspect of the revised guidance is suggesting where "Ad" can appear. For a photo, it's pretty simple -- you just have to mark it as an "Ad," but for YouTubers there was always the question of whether the whole video needed labelling or just the selling part. The decision is that a YouTuber or vlogger need only mark the part of the video they are waving around a product they are promoting as being an ad.

Fortunately, my vicarious experience of vloggers shamelessly promoting goods (I'm going to call them "vlogger floggers" if that's OK?) has been that my kids are savvy enough to recognise when they are being sold something. They occasionally find it annoying, but they find it even worse when they strongly suspect they are being sold something without the person being upfront about it. 

It was interesting to hear L'Oreal speak recently in London about how it is increasingly relying on influencers to get its message out there, particularly around the launch of a new foundation that comes in many colours to suit varying skin shades. It recruited vloggers who match its various skin tones and set to work about promoting the range.

The crucial thing that I think would be the takeaway for anyone listening to the company was the professionalism of the best influencers. These are people that have built up huge audiences, which they don't want to be seen as taking for granted. They not only insist on contracts of engagement but voluntarily label any reference to a product they are endorsing as an ad. So if you want to know who the good guys are, find out which ones are upfront with brands that they will only work with them if the "Ad" label is giving a good airing. 

Policing influencers is a massive task for the CAP, but it's one which brands can do for themselves. Find the guys who are immediately up front about being legit and you will find the guys who have a loyal following they respect. If a vlogger seems too good to be true and willing to flog your goods and services to a massive audience in an underhanded way, you can rest assured that they hold very little influence among people who hate to be disrespected. 

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