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4 September 2019

Warning, sponsored content! Adolescents discuss influencer marketing

Adolescents often watch online videos made by influencers, whom they consider as credible trendsetters. Because these videos reach a lot of young people, marketers are interested to engage influencers to help promote their brand. In a study in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace adolescents say what they actually think of this sponsored content. It turns out they are not critical toward sponsoring of influencers. They do not mind if a sponsor warning is shown, as long as they can ignore it and they are not disturbed in enjoying their videos.

Take aways

  • Adolescents are aware of sponsored content in influencer videos, but they are not critical towards it.
  • Although adolescents may dislike disclosures that strongly emphasize the commercial nature of the content and thus are difficult to ignore, these disclosures can stimulate adolescents to think critically about sponsored content and help them in understanding the persuasive intent of influencer videos.
  • Disclosures can best be given by influencers themselves, as adolescents appreciate honesty and transparency in influencer videos.

Study information

  • Who?

    20 participants (age range: 12-16, 40% female)

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    Participants discussed in groups their opinions and moral judgments of sponsored content in online videos in general, and one influencer video in particular. Moreover, participants shared their perceptions of disclosing sponsorships (‘warnings’ for sponsored content) within influencer videos and discussed how these disclosures affected the way in which they evaluated the brand and the influencer. Finally, they gave their opinion about two disclosures the researcher showed.

Facts and findings

  • In general, participants said they recognized sponsored content in influencer videos and understood its selling intent.
  • However, their knowledge about the persuasive intent of influencer marketing was limited and they were often not able to tell whether content in a video was sponsored or not.
  • Furthermore, participants accepted sponsored content and showed compassion towards influencers.
  • Participants appreciated disclosures, but only if they had a chance to ignore them and the disclosures did not overshadow the entertaining content.
  • If a disclosure emphasized the commercial nature of video content, participants reported to feel reactance and to like the brand less.