Process Posts

Can You Tell What’s the Truth Anymore?

Process Post #9

Toward the latter half of the lecture this week, Susan brought up many relevant and important points about advertisements and being transparent as a writer, content, creator, or what have you. At one point she raised the question “Are you linking because you endorse it and truly like it or because you want to make money?”. This immediately sparked interest in me, and I was quickly reminded of influencers that I stay up to date with that fall into both ends of this spectrum. 

Although I have been only watching YouTube for maybe 10 years (or less), I feel as though I have seen many transitions between aesthetics of videos, content, and the way people promote products, companies, etc. For example, as a preteen or in my early teens, I don’t really remember any “sponsored videos” or sponsored links in the description sections of videos. The same can be said for Instagram at the time. There wasn’t ‘sponsored content” or “sponsored posts”, and of course, there weren’t any story advertisements. With that said, today, it seems like every other video you watch is sponsored, and aside from company advertisements every three pictures on your Instagram feed, there are also the people you follow integrating sponsored posts. 

With the influx of celebrities and influencers being paid to use and promote products, via sponsored videos, feed posts, and stories, it is hard to tell what is real and honest anymore. Does Kim Kardashian really enjoy and see results from the hair gummies by Sugar Bear Hair? Does that fitness model genuinely think those protein bars don’t have a grainy taste? Or does the one of 50 beauty gurus you follow, really believe that the Fenty foundation is the “best they’ve ever tried”? How can you tell? 

Recently, in the past 5 or so years, I have started noticing more and more conversations and controversy about influencers not being open, and not explicitly stating what content is sponsored. I relate to the voices of concern as I found myself getting extremely annoyed when I could tell something was sponsored, and not genuine love and interest, without stating that it was sponsored. Although as users, we cannot be certain if someone is lying, it is usually quite obvious when you follow a person’s page or vlogs for a while, knowing what they typically use in their day-to-day life. In other words, “it is often controversial for a site [or person] to make money off of affiliate ads without notifying users they are making money” (Bleymaier, 2013, p. 1). This can be said when the person is promoting products or services in their pictures, as well as through affiliate codes or affiliate link programs. 

This brings me to my point about being “open, out-front, honest, and transparent” with your viewers (Norman, 2021). There are many people that I watch that have done a great job at this, making it extremely obvious when they are promoting sponsored things, however, I have honestly stopped watching a couple of people that either “discreetly lie” about their advertisements and sponsored content, or “withdraw” necessary information for me or make my own decision about purchasing the product, using their code, or using their link. For example, Allana Davison does a great job at putting “(ad)” in her Instagram posts (example) and “This video is not sponsored” in her YouTube videos. Similarly, Allegra Shaw does a great job at explaining the gains she receives in her YouTube videos. For example, she adds the disclaimer “FTC: This video is not sponsored. I do however make revenue from AdSense from the ads that were played in front of this video. I also use an affiliate link program for linking products I mention. These two revenue streams help me to make content for a living” in the description box of every video she provides links for. Lastly, Delaney Childs always puts “AD” on all her sponsored stories, even if there are 10 consecutive video clips, notifying her viewers clearly even if they were to skip over the first one that mentions the partnership. Lastly, there are also cases when people will put “#AD” above the YouTube title, signaling a sponsored video immediately (example I saw last night).

Screenshot from Delaney Childs Instagram Story from last night (March 16th, 2021)

In my eyes, as Bleymaier (2013) points out, “it sure seems like [we] should have all the information at hand to make [our] own choice[s]” (p. 15). 

References

Tom Bleymaier. 2013.  On Advertising – Maria Popvova

Featured image created with Canva

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