My thoughts on sponsored ads.
I don’t believe I have made my own statement concerning paid for advertorials. I have read the odd negative post here and there, and have definitely come across a number of negative comments on the subject, but my feelings I have definitely not made clear. And I figured that whilst the majority are happy to continue going along with the motions and hoping for the best, I just wanted to tell you where I was on the whole matter.
I see myself as bringing attention to products that may otherwise go unseen and that I believe people may potentially love.
What are sponsored posts?
Well, I call them ads, because that’s what they are. According to those setting the rules and regs in the UK, #ad is the preferred term, as it’s clear as crystal. Who knew what #spon was until someone decided to explain it? It means sponsored for those who are scratching their head. These hashtagged terms became the norm for social media influencers over the last 18 months or so, after the Advertising Standards Agency decided the industry needed clearer terminology when mentioning products in blog posts, Youtube videos, Instagrams and everywhere else that the viewer can watch. And I totally get it. Up until that point, no one knew whether an image had been paid for, whether we were holding products up to the camera because of our undying love for them only or whether we actually did love those shoes or not. And for that reason, being clear and honest in the caption of posts became something that the majority of social media users took part in. I only say majority because there are still some who do not, so it would be unfair of me to say this is the absolute law and standard for all. A primary point of this post is that transparency is something I take really seriously.
How does it work?
Brands reach out to the Managers of bloggers or youtubers, or to the youtuber themselves if they are unrepresented, and begin a conversation regarding their campaign. This could be a new clothing collection campaign, a new beauty launch, a hotel in the Alps, or even a new chocolate bar to hit the supermarkets. Every brand has a new product at some point and wants to find a way to promote it more effectively. Perfect. The blogger or youtuber is an amazing person to work with due to a number of reasons.
- They are the average Joe, living at home with their parents, buying their first flat, buying their first home maybe. They have ordinary life issues, hopes, dreams, aspirations and a lifestyle generally like the majority. And that is what makes them so loved. They can be your big brother, younger sister, confidant, friend or someone to aspire to be. They just want to chat to anyone who will watch, about anything they like and maybe put a smile on someone’s face.
- For this reason, they shouldn’t have any reason to lie to those that watch them. They are who they are and can do whatever they like in their own space online. They can speak about what interests them, what they love, what they hate and how they feel.
However, this is also the point. The blogger or youtuber has their own interests and personal favourites. The majority will not talk about products they do not like or would not use.
I’m going to start talking in first person just so I can start to share my own thoughts more efficiently; and because I really cannot speak for the majority when there are thousands of people in this industry, and they don’t all share my principles.
I am approached numerous times per week, often per day, to work on a new campaign or project. This in itself is incredible and I am so flattered each and every time a brand offers me an opportunity to work with them. But I don’t just want to work with just anyone. I want to work with the brands who I adore, who resonate with me and those that I have an understanding and affiliation with of some sort. Whether that’s by already using their products, enjoying their products or resonating with their brand image and ethos. I don’t want you to head onto inthefrow.com one day and find a blog post about a product that is so far removed from my usual content that you are literally baffled. That’s no good for me, and definitely no good for you. I choose to work with brands because I love their idea and I feel that my readers will love it too. It could be a perfume launch, a hair product, a mascara, a pair of shoes. Anything that I am personally excited by, and therefore my readers may also find exciting. If I don’t think my readers will get something from the info, I don’t write it.
Hence why I am extremely proud to say I have worked with some of the most incredible brands in the fashion and beauty market over the last few years. L’Oreal Paris, Giorgio Armani, Coach, Dior, Burberry, Guerlain, YSL, Ted Baker and Reiss are just some of the brands I have worked with this year. Can you see one name in that list that doesn’t fit the theme of this blog, or my personal style? Absolutely not.
But even if a brand is slightly alternate to my usual theme, their project might just be super interesting and exciting. For instance, I worked with Vauxhall on a wonderful campaign last year for the launch of their Adam Yourself campaign. They came to me with a fantastic idea, from a brand I held personal loyalties to due to my previous driving experiences, with an idea to speak with an audience very similar to my own and the project was based around design. Design is my main educational background so this was right up my street and I loved their whole concept from the word go.
I had an amazing time working with the brand on the project, and my readers really engaged with the content. Without that sponsored content, my readers may have been otherwise unaware of the campaign and may not have entered the competition to win a car. A car! They may also have never heard of the Vauxhall Adam, which is actually such an amazing car for women of my age, I was over the moon to be able to shout about it!
What do I personally think?
Working with brands is a dream come true. I enjoy working with brands, creating sponsored content and dreaming up new ideas and concepts. For me, due to my own principles when it comes to accepting one project from another, the brands I speak of are so easy to mention, because my narrative is natural. It isn’t forced and I would never say something about a product that I personally didn’t believe to be true, and therefore the words are easy. They come from the heart, as cheesy as that sounds. I can be as open, honest and informative as I like, because my feelings on the subject are true.
The products I speak of, whether that is a new oil-cleanser, a new shampoo or a new Starbucks peach lemonade iced tea, are products that I like, use and would happily recommend to my Mum. Hence why I would recommend them to you. It is me, sharing my real opinions on a product, for a bonus incentive. If you loved your friday night margherita pizza from Pizza Hut and they asked you to tell an audience of people that you loved it for an incentive, would you not? Honestly? If you loved it that much and felt that others needed to learn about it, I’m certain your answer would be yes every time.
So, what is the problem?
I think the issue is transparency across the board. And I honestly feel the guidelines and practices are becoming clearer and more adhered to. More and more bloggers are correctly labelling their sponsored work and readers are much more aware of what is and isn’t sponsored content. But I totally get why readers and watchers are confused. Some people disclaim, others do not, and it becomes a hazy mist of doubt. I have received a number of comments on my social media channels on posts that are not sponsored, where someone is doubting its authenticity. All I say is that, if they followed me fully, and knew my principles and practices on the matter, they shouldn’t need to doubt me. They would already know that any photograph with a #ad was incentivised, and anything without, was not. But that overall, all content is there because I’m passionate about the content; not because I was incentivised. Yet of course, if someone else has led them to feel distrust, I completely understand why they may tar me with the same brush. And this in itself is unfair of the other social media users in this industry.
I’m not here to confuse my readers or share information about something they may not like. I see myself as bringing attention to products that may otherwise go unseen and that I believe my readers and watchers may potentially love. And that is my advertising principle in a nutshell.
The Negative Perception
I think the thing that inspired this post was that I had begun to notice a continuous distaste for ads from a number of people who watch youtube videos, or like Instagram photos. I feel that some people have made up their minds about ads and will not watch or acknowledge they exist. And I think it is a huge shame! I feel that instead of dismissing ads across the board, someone should at least try to watch the ads of those that they have more trust in. In all cases, I put so much work and effort into my sponsored work because I feel it owe it to the brand to do so, I am a perfectionist and I have an opportunity to make something unique; so why wouldn’t I do so? I have chosen to work with that brand for the right reasons; the incentive is the bonus. So it is such a shame when I notice that some people purposefully do not watch ad videos – when in fact they may find that they adore the higher quality content, the thorough ideas and the unique concepts. I can’t speak for everyone’s work here, but for mine, this is what I believe. I often put twice as much effort, time and energy into my sponsored projects to make them better than my last and because I have been inspired to get out there and create something for a brand I love.
Let’s turn it into a positive!
And I want this post to be an insight into my own personal thoughts and work ethic. I work with brands that I love and I know you will love – so I truly don’t believe anyone should feel any different about watching my ad videos to my other content. It is all coming from the same, honest place, just often with a more thorough ideas process. I would love to change so many people’s perception of the ad from something negative to something actually quite positive. Brands are giving writers, bloggers and youtubers the opportunity to create something unique and new, with opportunities that would never normally arise. So why not embrace that and see it as a great thing for the content producer; your favourite blogger or youtuber? They are working hard. The brand recognises that and would like to work with them. I honestly think that should only be congratulated! If the blogger is disclaiming correctly, working with brands that make sense for their blog or channel and are putting effort into their video creations, then why meet that with anger and hate? They are being open, truthful and providing the viewer with free, exciting content. If jealousy towards the incentives is not involved here, then why should there be any negativity towards ad content? Why should the user feel negatively about a video or post that the creator has taken time to produce, with a brand they will probably love themselves. Brands have promoted to consumers for hundreds of years, working with celebrities, famous faces and models that represent the type of person the brand feels they resonate with, or that their consumers may aspire to be. As a consumer I have never felt distaste or anger towards a brand, or more significantly the celebrity, for promoting the companies goods or services to me. I have also never looked at the advertisements or sponsored articles in Vogue and felt annoyed at the brands they have chosen to offer promotion to. So why now should a truthful blogger or youtuber face negativity for working with brands in an advertorial format? For the truthful, honest creator, it is only a positive thing in my opinion.
Give it a chance.
Just to clarify, not every Blogger or Youtuber shares my principles or opinions on ads. So this is entirely based on my personal views. I also cannot vouch for the integrity of others and their own methods of disclaiming. But I also do not wish to be tarred with the brush of others. Hence why I wanted to explain where I stood and what you can expect from me and my principles.
I love working with brands and that certainly is not going to change. I will continue to disclaim correctly and transparently across all media. And I will continue to keep creating my normal content, whether sponsored or not, and with as much effort and energy as I feel necessary for each video or post. My website and channels are honest and open and that will not change.
So in a way I guess I am asking, please do give my sponsored content a chance. See branded content neutrally or positively, rather than with anxiety. I’m sharing information on products I think you will love. If you don’t like the content or products within them, fair enough, but the information I offer and my opinions on those products are my own.
I have so much support and congratulations to offer to anyone who is working hard enough to gain the attention of huge global brands. Let’s congratulate success, hard work and breaking boundaries!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and whether my opinion and words has changed your mind somewhat? Let’s discuss!