Gen Z

Vloggers are the stars of the internet. Only they aren’t actors, which is precisely why they appeal to Generation Z, the subject of our feature on marketing to a new generation (those aged 11-18).

Vloggers video their lives, hopes, fears and dreams and put them online. And while teens used to watch TV drama, then soaps, then reality TV, now they just watch real people. Fiction has melted away as teens demand the real deal.

Last week, the Guardian reported Coronation Street has sunk to a record low of 4.9 million viewers. Meanwhile Zoella has 8.9 million subscribers on YouTube. She’s dwarfed by some. PewDiePie, a gamer, has 38.7 million.

As a result of this popularity, many vloggers have crossed over into commercial partnerships with their vlogs becoming celebrity commercials, where the star is famous because they are ordinary. The potency of their vlogs/ads is down to this inherent authenticity. They are real people telling the truth, not selling a product. It’s like a recommendation from a friend.

Good for them. If you created entertaining vlogs about make-up in your spare time for fun, and one day you sneezed into your foundation and the clip went viral, then Rimmel sent you a big bag of make-up with the simple proviso you vlogged about some of it, with no script, no direction or requirements on length, would you argue?

But as more vloggers have become subtle brand ambassadors, and more brands have started to pay those too famous to settle for freebies, concerns about unregulated advertising have increased. And given the age of Generation Z, it’s fitting that an investigation by Newsround into a series of vlogs about Oreo cookies brought things to a head.

The ASA received a complaint from a BBC journalist that a series of vlogs, where some of the UK’s most popular vloggers took part in an Oreo ‘lick race’, failed to make it clear that the clips were part of a collective campaign by Mondelez to shift cookies, for which the vloggers received payment.

Last November, the ASA banned the campaign. Yet at the same time it recognised that vlogging is a growing medium where the participants have little awareness about advertising legislation. “They are still finding their feet,” says a spokeswoman for the ASA today.

The ASA and the CAP have now launched new guidelines containing comprehensive guidance for vloggers wanting to go pro.

“Our guidance will give vloggers greater confidence they are sticking to the rules, which in turn will help maintain the relationship and trust they’ve built with their followers,” says CAP director Shahriar Coupal.

The guidance comprehensively details the various scenarios vloggers should be aware of when it comes to product placement, from commercial breaks within vlogs to old-fashioned freebies doled out by the fmcg industry.

So far, the ASA says vloggers have welcomed the advice. And if the use of vlogging by fmcg companies looking to attract Generation Z continues to soar, they will need every word.