posted by Hollie-Anne Brooks

If you’re a fan of fashion and beauty videos, you’ll have probably watched 108 hauls this week already. High end beauty hauls, Topshop clothing hauls, lipstick hauls, home wear hauls… You name it, your favourite YouTubers have filmed it. These videos allow us to see new products, gain inspiration and encourage us to ultimately hit the shops and buy from the brands the creators are endorsing.

It’s well known that full time vloggers can have a comfortable lifestyle thanks to the money brought it by pre-roll ads, sponsorships, endorsements and so on. So it’s no wonder they can afford to drop a few hundred pounds on bath bombs, Muji storage or face masks. But did you know that many of your favourite YouTubers receive hefty press discounts that they don’t need to declare as sponsored content?

Patricia Bright

When it comes to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority), content which is paid for by a company must be declared as “sponsored” or “ad”. Free products, samples and heavily discounted items are classed as “gifts” so don’t need to be declared, although some bloggers and vloggers like to be totally transparent.

Press discounts are as old as time; a PR will send journalists, writers and content creators a physical card or a code for online stores that gives them anything from 10-90% off retail price. Wondered how come Kate Middleton seems to wear Reiss all the time? The Royal Family can’t accept freebies but they can accept a hefty discount. Bloggers and vloggers often receive these discounts in the hope they’ll buy items from the brand and feature them on their platform of choice.

We have no confirmation of which stores have given which vloggers discount cards but if you often notice several content creators featuring hauls from the same brand in a small amount of time, this will be more than likely the case.

Feel Unique, Lush, Topshop… Just a few of the brands Zoella, Tanya Burr and the likes have hauled in recent months. With no obligation to state discounts and free products, these positive videos are a big thumbs up to the brand from the creators in a similar way to sponsored advertising is. We don’t want to be skeptical but it does make you wonder…

So why don’t many people know about them? Brands don’t want the elite openly discussing their perk for fear of fans just believing it’s another piece of sponsored content. Rather, the benefits to companies of a YouTuber tagging their heavily discounted handbag or filming a video of a huge 75% off haul are massive.

Topshop apparently have a list called the “Topshop 250”, an elite selection of journalists and social talent who receive a large discount when visiting the store. The list is changed frequently depending on who is flavour of the month and those in possession of one can easily lose it if they loan it out or even discuss owning one.

The benefits to companies of a YouTuber tagging their heavily discounted handbag or filming a video of a huge 75% off haul are massive.We’re all guilty of buying endless products off the back of our favourite creators raving about them or looking amazing in them and there’s nothing wrong in that, it’s what the brands want. The knock-on effect of a YouTuber featuring their product is worth more in monetary value than what they’d gain from the vlogger buying the items themselves. Make sense?

What the issue of press discounts comes down to is integrity and authenticity, those two words which hang over the vlogging community like your teacher in an exam. Sticking within the ASA guidelines is one thing but do we want, expect and need our favourite creators to be totally transparent? That’s up for you to decide on a personal level.

We’ll be exploring more around the issue of consumerism within YouTube soon and we’d love to know your thoughts on issues such as advertising, sponsorship and transparency of gifted items.

EDIT 10/01/2016: We’ve now been made aware that Emma Blackery has never been offered a press discount on the aforementioned brands- undisclosed or otherwise. We apologise for any offence this may have caused.