Exposing More Brands Behaving Badly on YouTube..

My latest video shows another example of how influencer agencies pay YouTube creators to make “reviews” that are actually advertisements.

This video was sparked by a tweet from Mike Rose, CEO of No More Robots, a game publisher. Rose expressed his frustration about how nearly every YouTuber he reached out to wanted to be paid to review his game.

As you can imagine Rose’s tweet stirred up quite a bit of push-back, with some respondents saying it’s entirely possible to make an “honest” review when also being compensated by the game developer or brand.

But is that the case? Let’s take a look at influencer agency Crowdcreate and how they recently communicated with me in regards to a review they wanted done for a client. They approached me with an offer to review a product for payment that directed what should be covered in the review and required the brand’s pre-approval before the video was uploaded (among other things).

Transparency should be key in this industry. Viewers deserve to know if a video is sponsored, if the product was received for free, or if the brand had any editorial input. This transparency is not just a matter of ethics but also a legal requirement in many countries. Unfortunately most of the reviews Crowdcreate solicited on behalf of their client were not disclosed properly by the creators.

The underlying issue here are the changing dynamics of content creation and consumption. In the tech space as products become more integrated and less groundbreaking, capturing audience excitement becomes more challenging. This, coupled with the algorithmic nature of platforms like YouTube, makes organic content reach to followers and subscribers increasingly difficult. Creators are thus pushed towards more lucrative, yet potentially less ethical, forms of content like paid reviews.

To be clear I have no problem with creators doing paid sponsorships – in fact I do them on occasion too. But what I do have a problem with are creators who do not adequately disclose to the audience the nature of the relationship with the brand and how the brand influenced the content. This, in my opinion, crosses the line from an honest review to a paid advertisement, a distinction that is not always made clear to the audience.

You can read more about my ethics and disclosure policy here.