My Topics

18 May 2020

Disclosures do not always make influencer marketing more transparent to children

Because advertising in YouTube influencer videos is often hidden in its entertaining content, many children do not recognize it as such. As a consequence, they are less likely to think about the commercial intent of these videos and evaluate them critically. In other words, they are less likely to activate their advertising literacy. A study in Frontiers in Psychology investigates if a disclosure of sponsorship can help young viewers to activate their advertising literacy while watching a sponsored video. Unlike other research, this study shows that disclosures are sometimes not effective in helping children to activate their advertising literacy.

Take aways

  • Disclosures do not always help children activate their advertising literacy when exposed to in-vlog advertising
  • If a disclosure is ineffective, this may be due to the fact that the brand was prominently placed in the video; as a result, children probably already realized that the vlog was sponsored, which automatically activated their advertising literacy
  • Thus, children may not need a disclosure to realize that a vlog is sponsored if the promoted brand or product is prominently featured in a YouTube video

Study information

  • Who?

    258 participants (mean age: 10 years; age range: 7-16 years; 50% female)

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    All children watched a short YouTube video of a Dutch YouTuber. In this video, the YouTuber provided a sponsored pizza lunch at a secondary school. Half of the children watched the video with the disclosure "[YouTuber name] has been paid by [brand] to advertise in this video" and half of the children watched it without the disclosure. After watching the video, children performed an indirect measurement task to assess the extent to which they activated their advertising literacy while viewing the video. Finally, they filled out a survey with questions about their advertising literacy and about the brand, product, and video.

Facts and findings

  • Children who saw the video with the disclosure recognized and remembered the brand just as well as children who saw the video without the disclosure.
  • Children who saw the video with the disclosure activated their advertising literacy to the same extent as children who saw the video without the disclosure.
  • Children performed well on the indirect measurement task, indicating that they were quite good in activating their advertising literacy.
  • Children who reported to be more critical toward the brand placement in the YouTube video liked the advertised brand less:
    • Interestingly, this was only found when children’s attitudinal advertising literacy activation was assessed with a questionnaire and not with the indirect measurement task.
    • Thus, a conscious critical evaluation of the presence of the brand in the video (dishonest, inappropriate) creates a less favorable evaluation of the brand, whereas a subconscious evaluation of the brand as measured with the indirect task does not.