HOT OFF THE PRESS - Advertising on YouTube – the Sidemen

insights - 20 June 2024

ASA's recent decision on complaints about the Sidemen's Youtube video being in breach of the ASA's rules for failing to clearly identify it was an ad.

The Sidemen are a global YouTube channel comprised of seven members all creating virtual content. Their brand is focused on creating YouTube videos for entertainment, and their most popular videos have over 80 million views. It is safe to say they are a global sensation, and their brand has expanded into clothing, food and beverage and even the world of football.


As their global reach continues to grow, and their business ventures expand, the risk of breaching the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”s) rules increases. On 8 October 2023, the Sidemen released their new premium vodka, XIX Vodka and smartly advertised the launch via a YouTube challenge video, (the “Video”) where two teams trapsed around London completing tasks.


The Video, set out where viewers could purchase the premium drink, how much it cost and showed photos of what the drink looked like. Following on from our article last week, you may be thinking about whether the Video advertised as an “#ad” and if it complied with the ASA’s rules.


Two complaints were made to the ASA about the Video. The first issue was whether the Video was directed at under-18s and was likely to appeal to people under 18. The second was whether the Video was obviously identifiable as a ‘marketing communication’.


On 12 June 2024, the ASA upheld one of the two complaints against XIX Vodka Ltd. The first complaint was not upheld as the Sidemen showed their Video was not made for under 18s and provided data which supported its demographic.


The second complaint was upheld, even though Sidemen argued that the Video used language which described the segment as an “ad”. The Sidemen also argued that the segment in the Video was easily identifiable because it was separated in the Video by a break (like adverts appear on TV). Whilst a convincing argument, the ASA did not agree and found that in accordance with the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (“CAP Code”), the marketing communications had to be obviously identifiable.


The link in the Sidemen Video allowed users to input their details so they could enter a draw to win a bottle of the premium vodka. The ASA found that this was a breach of the CAP Code because the Video was in a ‘non-paid for space’ under the Sidemen’s control, and the link was intended to promote their brand. 


Whilst an ordinary viewer and a Sidemen fan would have known that the Sidemen were launching their new brand, the ASA held that this was not sufficient. Even though the Sidemen removed the promotion/segment from the Video, the ASA still found that they were in breach of rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the CAP Code.


Using the word #ad on the Video may have avoided breaching the ASA rules. 


If you are starting out in this space, whether it be advertising via affiliates, promoting your brand or growing a customer base online, be sure to remember the following: disclose all relevant details in the right way!


Be sure to follow @km__dhrutishingadia on Instagram and @kaurmaxwell on TikTok for more commentary about the ASA’s rules and recent rulings that we all should be mindful of!

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