France sets its sights on sponsored endorsements on YouTube

Mar 8, 2016
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YouTube monetization is a tricky game, and making a living off of posting videos on the Internet has required those who want to reach peak success to diversify their income beyond the Google-controlled advertising network. YouTube videos have pre-roll & banner ads; however, many YouTube stars gain their living through product placement: that is, direct partnerships brokered with brands that will see stars endorsing, featuring or sometimes just mentioning products.

Many of YouTube’s largest categories – fashion, how-to’s, beauty, lifestyle – are filled with stars and hopefuls talking about their favorite shampoo or hair product, showing viewers how a certain brand’s masquera prevents smudging, or simply eating certain brand name goods on-air.

A new law in France, however, might seek to penalize those stars who are not clear about their endorsement of products. Martine Pinville, France’s State Secretary of Commerce, announced that she has been working with France’s fraud prevention authorities (DGCCRF) to draft regulation for fining YouTubers they say are touching between 20-100K€ for name-dropping a product in their video. The fines, they say, can be a portion or the total sum of money paid for the product placement. Media agencies contracting these deals may also be fined for their participation in such affairs, says LeMonde.

I have a tendency, as usual, to agree that ambiguity on YouTube around product placement has made it increasingly difficult to know the difference between an authentic endorsement & a paid one, and it doesn’t seem like something that Google is in a rush to moderate anytime soon (as it tacitly agrees to their terms, notably around revenue sharing with content creators); however, it seems like a harsh shift to go from being unaware to penalizing to the full extent of the law. More specifically, I’d like to see some clear documentation around what constitutes a clear explanation of product placement, so that general guidelines can be established such that any YouTuber could easily follow them without impeding their ability to grow.