The Cap Code fun police risk stifling creativity

It was simply a matter of time before vlogger guidelines were introduced into the Cap Code, which is what happened last week. But what effect will it have, asks Mark Stringer, founder of Pretty Green?

Mark Stringer: the biggest concern is how the new rules will work in practice
Mark Stringer: the biggest concern is how the new rules will work in practice
With the huge growth in the number of YouTubers and bloggers, the commercialisation of these media was always going to be explored (or, as some might argue, exploited) by brands and vloggers.

If you could get a few million views, 100,000 likes and endorsed engagement by paying tens of thousands of pounds, why wouldn't you?

Especially when the alternative could be paying an agency ten times that amount to create content that usually requires a seeding budget to help get those spurious views. Honestly, if done correctly, it's a bit of a no brainer.

The creative purists hate the idea that a bunch of untrained, amateur kids have stolen the limelight. But, given the demand for them, we need to accept that vloggers aren't going to just turn off their cameras and go away. 

Therefore, it's about time there was form of regulation and self-regulation, if only to prevent the potential abuse and exploitation of the general public and to give brands a way to capitalise on a hugely engaged audience.

But, in doing so, there's a danger this incredibly exciting new medium is curtailed, stifled and, ultimately, ruined.

None of us likes the idea of being hoodwinked into buying a product because a so-called independent person's review or endorsement isn’t actually independent.

But I strongly believe we need to approach this from this standpoint that the general public isn't stupid. It does people a disservice to think they are.

Editorial bias isn't a new thing and the leveraging of advertising to influence editorial content happens every day (anyone who thinks it doesn't is at best naive). 

There's a great rumour that Mr Murdoch Senior once issued a company diktat across all his companies, ordering them not to run disparaging stories about China because he needed Chinese government backing for his Asian interests.  

The biggest concern for most brands and agencies is how it will work in practice. 

Obviously, most of us will look at ways of pushing the boundaries to discover where the limits are and to see whether they are practical.

For instance, is it an ad if a vlogger is given editorial control, regardless of whether money has changed hands?

Is this any different to ad-funded programming or product placement? You don't see Channel 4 saying: "This programme, for the next 23 minutes, is an ad."

There’s also the argument that the guidelines are overly restrictive. When was the last time, while watching a Bond movie, you heard a voiceover say "advert" every time 007 put on a Tom Ford suit, stepped into his Aston Martin or took a sip of his shaken, not stirred Heineken. 

But it seems we will have to do this for vloggers in the future.

What none of us wants to see is anything that limits this new and incredibly exciting creative landscape. 

But I think we all feel comfortable with the idea that there are some rules in place to help us all play nicely. 

Mark Stringer is the founder of Pretty Green

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