I think it is more important than ever in today’s internet ecosystem to be as transparent as possible. Because of this, I’d like to lay out my own advertising guidelines for anyone who is curious about the level of involvement from brands/sponsors have in what I do (as well as make some promises to you about things I will not sacrifice while doing what I do here and on my YouTube channel).
First, let’s briefly explain why there is a need for advertising at all.
Why the Need for Advertising
We live in interesting times for content creators. Thanks to the internet, blogs, social networks, and YouTube, there has never before been less of a hurdle between the people who create content and those that consume it.
In a lot of ways this is a wonderful thing. It’s allowed so many creators who make amazing content that wouldn’t normally be seen by many people to amass huge followings that sit with baited breathe for the next video, article, photo, etc. And for people on both sides of that, to be able to have the ability to do that, is truly amazing.
The thing is that because of this there is an overabundance of content and with that a feeling that content, in whatever form, should be free. I myself consume tons of tutorials, articles, videos, etc. on the web and, like everyone else, if there is a paywall requiring me to pay will usually turn it down to find similar issue in a free source.
That’s all fine, but the thing is, content takes time and money to create (and more valuable, thought out, higher quality content takes even more). So while it’s okay that content is free to consume, if we, the consumer, are not willing to directly pay for it, then we have to be somewhat accepting of advertising in and around that content to be the third-party that does.
That is not to say that horrible advertising should be allowed, but if ads are not intrusive, created well in their own right, we need to simply understand that it’s there for us to be able to see the content we crave for free.
Now, we can go into a much larger debate about advertising, crowd-sourcing, etc. but I think that’ll suffice for the reasoning behind why there is advertising around content on the most basic terms. With the understanding of why it’s an integral part of content creation, let’s talk about the guidelines I plan to adhere to to make sure that it isn’t abused.
Why the Need for These Guidelines
In today’s day and age, there is a huge influx of marketing dollars being spent on individuals on the web who create content that others seem to enjoy (they call them “influencers”, but, frankly, I’m not a fan of that term). Because of this, as someone who is approached, and very occasionally accepts offers from brands to promote their products, I think it’s important to layout advertising guidelines for the people who appreciate the content/the brands you want to advertise so that there is an all-important level of understanding and transparency from all sides.
I’d like to break these guidelines into a few categories that seem to be regular points of contention in this industry. First up, reviews.
I will not do reviews of products or services for money. Period.
Let me clarify what I mean by reviews, by the way. A review is a piece of content (video or article or social post even) that is centered around a product/service, what it does, how it works, and features just that product and the premise of whether or not someone should spend their money on it. It also involves me giving my unbiased opinion. I think in order for a review to be valuable to anyone, it must be an unbiased one. Because of this, I won’t accept payment for a review as I feel that makes it too difficult to truly be as honest as one should be (or at the very least to difficult for anyone watching to trust it to be honest).
This doesn’t mean I won’t do content with brands, however, just not when it relates to a review of their product.
An example of branded content done right (by, of course, Casey Neistat)
Branded content is content that a brand/advertiser sponsors to get it made around a topic they feel resonates with their potential customers. When this is done right, it can be a huge success for both the brand (in terms of awareness, sales, or other marketing KPIs depending on the goals of the campaign), for the creator in terms of a long-term relationship that can help fund them to make more and/or better content for an audience, and for the audience themselves in that it allows a piece of content (as long as that content is truly valuable to them) to be created.
I’m happy to work with brands to do custom branded content so long as it strikes the above balance for all three mentioned parties. I will also make sure to label any content like this as such so that readers are aware that it is sponsored and everything is transparent.
With the understanding that advertising plays an integral role in allowing creators and readers/viewers/subscribers to create and consume content, it still needs to be transparently done and not affect the content in a negative way.
I hope this explains the use of advertising on my site, social networks, and channel. Thank you for supporting me doing something I love doing and I hope I can keep my standards to the highest of levels because that is exactly what you deserve.