Creator activation promoting Ozempic highlights the uneven approach to cross-channel branded content regulation

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WeightWatchers has sponsored a creator-focused GLP-1 hype house. It’s a place to promote Ozempic - a medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes - via content creators. 

Bloomberg takes up the story positioning the campaign as a cautionary tale to marketers about

  • Staying relevant as a brand

  • Walking the talk in terms of corporate values and beliefs

  • Authentic creator collaboration coming from first-hand experience with the product

  • Perils of bringing your brand’s community with you when your strategy pivots

There’s a wider, hidden element of this story worth exploring. It centres on the way branded content is treated differently depending on what medium it’s served up to audiences. 

Jeremy Clarkson wrote about the Ozempic drug in his Sunday Times column in January last year. Boris Johnson praised “the wonder drug” in his Daily Mail column in June 2023. 

Both articles were so fullsome in their praise for Ozempic that - had they been influencers posting to YouTube, Instagram or TikTok there would be widespread condemnation of their content as hidden advertising. 

To be clear, I have no knowledge that either Clarkson or Johnson were paid by Ozempic in return for writing such OTT glowing reviews. But let me continue. 

“The obligations for social media creatives and influencers to declare payments, gifts, affiliate marketing links and other relationships with sponsors are clear but are not matched across UK journalism,” writes Professor Jonathan Hardy in an Online Advertising Regulation Policy Briefing produced by the Branded Content Governance Project.

Prof Hardy makes the assertion that “Currently, a teenage creator on TikTok, working without professional or legal support, has a greater obligation to reveal ‘incentivised content’ than the professional publishing sector.”

Divisions between paid media (ads in third-party publications/media vehicles) and owned (self-publishing by brands) have become increasingly blurred through corporate convergence, joint deals, and emerging marketing forms and formats.

These seemingly uneven approaches to regulatory efforts across marketing and communications channels will become an increasing irritant amongst creators and marketers in the near future. 

DECLARATION: I’m an advisory board member to the Branded Content Research Hub which leads the governance project.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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