Study finds only one-tenth of YouTube videos with affiliate links properly disclose them in the video description
The requirement to disclose any official sponsorships or relationships (such as providing products) with a brand or seller in a product review is vital to inform readers or viewers of any potential conscious or subconscious bias towards a product. This is especially critical in endorsement marketing that is designed to look like a genuine product review. An example of this was ‘Dysonpocalypse’ around four weeks ago where several high-profile YouTubers posted a collection of promoted-content videos that all seemed to follow the same script, with varying levels of disclosure.
A study out of Princeton University looking at affiliate disclosure among YouTube and Pinterest influencers found that only 10.5 percent of YouTube videos that had affiliate links adequately notified viewers that affiliate links were included (515,999 videos assessed, 3,472 found to have affiliate links). Of those who did include a form of disclosure, many didn’t meet FTC guidelines.
We need to note that the authors only focused on affiliate links posted in the video description, possibly to allow them to assess a broader range of videos. This means that coupon codes or other similar affiliations weren’t considered. Secondly, no allowance was made for an affiliate link disclosure in the video. Again, this was possibly done to allow for a higher number of videos to be assessed, and maybe because the FTC guidelines state that the disclosure should be mentioned near the link, so this would likely be needed in writing.
Remember that the inclusion of affiliate links doesn’t mean there is a sponsorship between the reviewer and the manufacturer or merchant. The reviewer may have purchased the item themselves, but then include an affiliate link as an important source of income. The researchers are hoping to develop a browser plugin that can identify common affiliate marketing (Amazon, AliExpress, etc.) and notify consumers of their presence.
Note: Most online publications, such as NotebookCheck, use affiliate links as an important source of income.
Mathur, A., Narayanan, A., Chetty, M., (2018) 'An Empirical Study of Affiliate Marketing Disclosures on YouTube and Pintrest.' Princeton University. (PDF)