Study discovers vast majority of affiliate marketing links are not disclosed

Study discovers vast majority of affiliate marketing links are not disclosed

A new paper called ‘An Empirical Study of Affiliate Marketing Disclosures on YouTube and Pinterest’ has found that influencers on these platforms are still not disclosing their marketing deals.

The paper, which will be presented at the 2018 IEEE Workshop on Technology and Consumer Protection in May, sampled over half a million YouTube videos and 2m Pinterest pins. Of those, 3,472 of the video and 18,237 of the pins had affiliate marketing links – only ten per cent of which were disclosed.

Furthermore, on YouTube only 1.82 per cent of those disclosures included sufficient explanation of the nature of affiliate links, as per FTC rules. On Pinterest that number was 2.23 per cent.

Affiliate marketing typically operates with an influencer or creator including links to products they might be discussing. Should a viewer complete a purchase via one of these links, the influencer gets a share.

Some of the relevant videos even went as far as to claim that the content ‘was not sponsored’, and this is technically true. However, if a creator stands to profit from a viewer buying the items being discussed, it seems unlikely that comments will remain objective. Plus, FTC guidelines established in 2013 require that affiliate marketing be disclosed and explained.

These rules are not made to be broken

“Our results show that the overall prevalence of affiliate disclosures is low, and that the disclosures are largely of the variety the FTC specifically advocates against,” the paper states.

“Why is it that despite the FTC’s request for specific disclosure requests in affiliate marketing, affiliates fail to follow the guidelines? Is it because the affiliates are unaware that they need to disclose, or is it because they unaware of the FTC’s specific guidelines?

“Our work further highlights why having disclosures in affiliate content is important: affiliate content tends to have higher user engagement metrics, which means they are likely to be picked up by generic recommendations algorithms, and shown to users via search or otherwise.”

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