Do we still need more transparency when it comes to influencers promoting products?

Every parent’s priority is to make sure their kids are happy and healthy. We also teach them right from wrong, providing insight and knowledge to help make educated decisions throughout their lives. We never like to think of them as being naive and taken advantage of.

So that’s why my mouth almost hit the ground while I listened to my 14-year-old, smart son protest that YouTubers, or ‘vloggers’ as he corrected me, did not get paid money to endorse or promote brands via their videos. He was adamant that I had my facts all wrong, despite working in the media and marketing industry, and it took a bit of persuasion to convince him otherwise.

Before this revelation, he truly believed that vloggers got sent products from brands only on a rare occasion, and that’s why they spoke about them. It was nothing to do with getting paid thousands of pounds or dollars; it was just purely for the love of the product.

Despite ASA’s influencer marketing guidelines around labelling branded content, most kids are probably still oblivious to any kind of commercial partnership. They are too engrossed in the video itself and phrases like "I’ve been challenged by ‘this’ brand" or "I am working with ‘this’ brand" to notice. Phrases which don't quite register the same as "I am being paid by ‘this’ brand."

As I soon found out, influencer marketers have a much tighter hold on your kids that you might think because the stars of social media are now perceived as trusted figures with much more street-cred than most Hollywood stars have these days. The reason the conversation with my son started was because Alfie Deyes, a now-famous author and vlogger, will be speaking at The Drum’s Future of Marketing event on 11 May in London. Sure enough, my son followed Alfie’s ‘Pointless Vlog’ and securing him to speak boosted my ‘cool mum status’ by several notches. It was a bittersweet moment.

While as a parent it is cause for concern that influencers are so darn persuasive, for brands, this is like hitting the jackpot. The influencer marketing era has given them a word of mouth opportunity that will resonate with their target market, in a way the brand itself could never achieve through traditional marketing methods.

But with influencer marketing comes a need for trust by the brand. At an event I attended last year, in Los Angeles, US vlogger Connor Franta explained: “I know my audience better than anyone else and brands have to trust me. My favourite thing is when I can work with a brand I authentically like – it’s a brand working with a brand.”

When Alfie takes the stage in May, his session will be attended by brands and agencies who are looking to get insights into this world to help inform their marketing plans. And while they think about engaging fans in the future, my one question will be: ‘should there be even more transparency when it comes to marketing products to kids?’

As well as social, at the Future of Marketing we will also be covering the future of: TV, personalisation, content, trends and technology. Thanks go to our event partners Sysomos, Stein IAS and University of Oxford.

Lynn Lester is managing director of events for The Drum

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