With the growth of online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, advertisers have found new and creative ways to reach consumers. One of the most popular techniques that has emerged and significantly increased is influencers.
Influencers – people paid to promote content on social media, have popularity on social media but do not always start out as celebrities. Many of them start off with a YouTube channel with only a few followers, but over time, their popularity grows. People still view them as your average person; their content can be as simple as showing viewers their day-to-day routine or teaching viewers a skill. However, as they gain followers, their popularity soars and they start to get paid for the content they put on social media. Soon they’re suggesting a certain brand of makeup or a new protein shake that keeps them fit.
Companies find people who already have a large network of followers to sponsor their products. Influencers are usually an expert in a certain field – such as health, beauty, cooking, etc., so they have more credibility when suggesting a product. Influencers are a great way for advertisers to market their product. While viewers are impatiently waiting to skip an ad before a video, they are choosing to watch or follow accounts with sponsored content. Why are influencers less intrusive than traditional advertising? Because the advertisement blends in more with the rest of the information that users are consuming in a regular day. They choose to watch sponsored content, so they are getting suggestions for products that are more relevant to their lives.
The influencer industry has also been increasingly popular among children who can watch other kids their own age try out, for example, new toys. Children may seek out the advice of these “kidfluencers” who have special skills to share, watch their videos and follow their accounts because they enjoy watching their content. Over time, children may put more trust into kidfluencers and their suggestions for new toys to play with. This is different from traditional advertisements where kids usually watch paid actors to promote products. Even when advertisers pay well known celebrities to present toys, kids may not give the products as much credibility as with kidfluencers.
Check out my review of Pokemon Battle Ready action figures by @CharacterToysUK on YouTube. https://t.co/liV9liPPsl#pokemon #pokemontoys #pokemonbattleready #charactertoys @WickedCoolToys #pikachu #litten #rowlet #metang #eevee #cosmog #pokeball pic.twitter.com/Q7o2L7tJ0T
— Tristan’s Adventures (@tristadventures) November 19, 2018
Above, an example of kidinfluencer advertising.
However, while many people who have grown up in the digital age may be able to distinguish between sponsored and non-sponsored content, people need to be weary of children who are still learning how to make these distinctions. Kidfluencers are also on platforms where content is not always labelled as being sponsored. While companies must pay to show their advertisement on TV, anyone can upload a video to YouTube. It is not always clear which content is sponsored, and which is not.
For example, a child may be able to distinguish between their favourite TV programme and the advertisements that play before it, but can they tell the difference between a YouTube video where a kid is paid to play with a product versus a video where a kid promotes a product without sponsorship?
While it is important to teach children how to spot sponsored content online, EU legislation and industries’ self-regulatory measures have also worked to create more transparency in advertising.
According to the recently amended Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), programmes, including content on streaming services, must clearly inform their viewers of sponsorship agreements and product placements. The AVMSD also allows member states to ban sponsorship on children’s programmes.
Recently, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) updated their “Advertising and Marketing Communications Code”. Used as a guide for many industries’ self-regulatory legislation, Article 18 states, “Marketing communications directed to children should be clearly distinguishable to them as such” meaning that influencers making videos for children are obligated to make children aware that they are paid to make these videos.
Kidfluencers have made a lot of headway in the advertising industry, and as the influencer industry continues to grow, more challenges will arise on how to self-regulate this type of sponsored content. Promoting media literacy has also become increasingly important; social media is not going away, so people need to learn more about what goes into their feeds.