Hidden Advertising and the Beauty Industry

Hidden Advertising and the Beauty Industry

It takes a biscuit (small, round, dark with cream filling) for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to communicate loudly what a breach of the Advertising Code is.

There’s been chatter in the beauty industry for many seasons about sponsorships between vloggers, bloggers and beauty brands.

Vloggers and bloggers with sky high numbers of followers and views have become very attractive influencers. Complimentary reviews are irresistible for companies. Vlogs/blogs are a credible source of information for customers, and are often favoured over obtaining information directly from the company. The independence of someone you trust testing products in a home environment and recommending them, has a great deal more validity than viewing corporate controlled media. A blog by Bethany Worrall on her business dissertation The Extent To Which Beauty Blogs Influence The Consumer Buying Process researches this.

The traditional practice of brands inundating reviewers with product and crossing their fingers, has the disadvantage of not knowing the outcome. Many don’t like to leave the success of a launch to chance, and are experimenting with alternative forms of ‘product placement’. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

“It’s perfectly legitimate for vloggers to enter into a commercial relationship and be paid to promote a product, service or brand. We’re not here to regulate that relationship or to stop vloggers earning money. But when that commercial relationship is in place, then the onus is on the advertiser, and by extension the vlogger, to be upfront about it and clearly disclose the fact that they’re advertising.” ASA

The dilemma for the industry has been whether they should, or need to declare that they have paid for a review, because it changes perception. Clearly, some brands would prefer it wasn’t known.

How many vloggers/bloggers accept payment is unknown, but most find their own way of telling their fans that it’s a sponsored video/post. They say that payment doesn’t sway their opinions, but can that always be truthful when such large sums are being offered?

Ultimately, it’s the consumer that’s losing out. They’ve built relationships with those they believe are honest, unbiased and worth listening to…and will now question their own perceptions of who is being sponsored. Most of us think we can tell, but can we?

Kathy Wrennall

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