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5 March 2020

Disclosure makes influencer marketing more transparant for children - but is that enough?

Because of their huge popularity amongst children, advertisers pay YouTubers to spread their commercial messages. When YouTubers are being paid, they have to disclose this. This study in Frontiers in Psychology investigates the effects of a disclosure of influencer video  sponsoring on what children think of the brand and the video. It turns out that it matters a great deal if children feel a personal bond with the influencer.

Take aways

  • A disclosure saying that a YouTuber was paid by a brand to advertise in a video helps children (8-12 yrs old) recognize and understand the presence of advertising in the video.
  • The advertising literacy activated by the disclosure makes children remember the brand better, yet desiring the product less.
  • The disclosure and activated literacy also make them like the brand less. However, this is not the case when children feel a strong personal bond (a so-called ‘parasocial relationship’) with the influencer.

Study information

  • Who?

    112 children between 8 and 12 years old (M = 10.43, SD = 0.89; 50% was 11 years old), divided over three primary school grades, and most of them were boys (56.3%).

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    All children watched a short YouTube video of a popular Dutch YouTuber. In this video, the YouTuber mentioned and showed a brand of fish sticks. Half of the children watched the video with a disclosure ( “[YouTuber name] is being paid by [brand] to advertise in his vlog”) and half of them watched it without the disclosure. After watching the video, the researchers asked children questions about their advertising literacy and about the brand, product, and video.

Facts and findings

  • When the video included a disclosure, 93% of the children remembered the advertised brand, whereas only 56% of the children remembered the brand when no disclosure was included.
  • If children saw a sponsorship disclosure, they were better able to recognize the inclusion of the brand in the video as advertising and to understand that its intent was to sell the product.
  • In turn, children who were more aware of the advertising in the video due to the disclosure, remembered the brand better.
  • Children who understood better that the YouTuber mentioned and showed the brand in the video to sell the product due to the disclosure, desired the advertised product less.
  • If children felt a strong friendship bond (‘parasocial relationship’) with the influencer, the disclosure did lead to a better understanding of the selling intent of the sponsoring, but this did not make them like the brand less.
  • If children did not feel a strong parasocial relationship with the influencer, their better understanding of the selling intent did make them like the brand less.