I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it much harder to tell an advert from an article these days. The lines are blurring so much that sometimes I’m not even sure IF I’m being marketed to, let alone WHAT they are promoting.
This is obviously an effect of convergence. As there is no longer a need to stay in our silo’s and work solely in the traditional way, we are finding that a lot of the content output is similar, and we can no longer tell it apart. Or even know its purpose.
Take the most recent John Lewis Christmas advertisement for example:
This advert may do a great job of tugging on your heartstrings and spreading some Christmas cheer, but there is not a single product in it that they are promoting. How can it be considered an advert? You might argue that it promotes the John Lewis brand, but isn’t that partly the job of public relations? No wonder there is a lot of confusion in consumers.
On the other hand, there is content out there that at first glance seems like one type of marketing, but is in fact masking itself as another. Vlogger sites I’m looking at you.
Promotional content on vlogger sites used to seem like a personal recommendation. Luckily a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last year meant that posts like these need to be clearly labelled as adverts. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued new guidelines in August to help vloggers to navigate this new minefield. Essentially the guidelines state that if any payment crosses hands and the advertiser controls the message then it is an advert, and must be clearly labelled as such. This has caused some rather obvious changes to the vlogging medium. Where before we might have thought a vlogger really liked the product, it is now more obvious that they were paid to like it, or at least paid to review it. However, it has to be said that using vloggers as influencers was nothing short of genius.
In a world where working outside of the box is essential, and creativity is a sort after commodity, why not capitalise on the popularity of vloggers? All marketing industries are constantly on the lookout for new influencers that have an untapped audience well to reach. Instead of fighting to have your message heard by the masses, why not take the path less travelled and explore these new opportunities for the industry?
Unfortunately this exploration was cut short for advertising, and it can only be good for the consumer. Put yourself in the consumer shoes –
Jenny recommends a new brand of moisturiser to you, telling you that it is the best one she has ever used. You purchase said moisturiser based on her personal recommendation. Later, you find out that the company who makes the moisturiser had paid Jenny to promote it. How would you feel?
Well I would feel pretty silly. It’s false advertising. It brings into question the truth of the message.
This small change to vlogging is the first step in being able to differentiate between an advert and actual recommendation. I could not even begin to tell you whether this will extend to other mediums, but I think that we will see a lot more blurring of the lines before further changes are made.
That is, if any further changes are necessary.
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Anon. (2015) Committee of Advertising Practice. Available from: https://www.cap.org.uk/Advice-Training-on-the-rules/Advice-Online-Database/Video-blogs-Scenarios.aspx#.Vmg-pNKLSt8 [Accessed 9 December 2015]