An uptick in sponsored creator content following WHO's hazard guidance issued about over-consumption of aspartame reminds us that sometimes we need to know clearly who is sponsoring content - not just that the content is sponsored.


Sometimes we need to know more than whether a creator’s content is an ad or not. Sometimes we need to know clearly who is sponsoring that content.

A recent example is the uptick in paid-for content which followed the World Health Organisation's hazard guidance issued over the summer warning about over-consumption of aspartame - the artificial sweetner.

Reels and TikToks from creators including Steph Grasso and Mary Ellen Phipps sought to play down WHO warnings over the sugar substitute. For example Grasso ends her TikTok saying that WHO should concentrate on making fruit and vegetables more accessible “rather than just using clickbait based on low-quality science”.

@stephgrassodietitian Don’t fall for clickbait headlines without reading and reviewing the actual studies👏🏼 There is A LOT of talk about aspartame right now, so I want to break it down one video at a time to prevent misinformation from spreading. #safetyofaspartame #aspartame #ad ♬ original sound - Steph Grasso, MS, RD

The captions of both creators’ content were marked #AD. However, neither disclosed they were paid by the lobbying group known as American Beverage, which represents the likes of Coca Cola and PepsiCo.

The story was unearthed through an investigation by The Washington Post and The Examination, a new nonprofit newsroom covering global health. Together they found that registered dietitians with large audiences on social media are frequently paid by food companies to promote diet soda, sugar and supplements on Instagram and TikTok.

Why it matters

Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to discover new products and services via social media ads than they are to learn about them through search engines (GWI, Swipe, click, buy 12 Sept. 2023).

More broadly, half of us turns to influencers for mainstream news stories ahead of journalists across TikTok (55% vs 33%), Snapchat (55% vs 36%), and Instagram (52% vs 42%) - on YouTube the split is 45% vs 42%. This is according to The 2023 Reuters Institute Digital News Report.

The News Consumption in the UK 2022/23 report from Ofcom, UK's communications regulator, shows the majority (83%) of 16-24 year-olds consume news online. This is driven by use of social media for news (71%).

A version of this article first appeared in today's Creator Briefing newsletter.  Sign up here to get all of the week's top stories affecting the creator marketing industry. 

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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