When a review is really an Advert

It's usually a straightforward transaction.  

A business sends a free product which the YouTuber or TikToker gets to keep in exchange for a producing video.  Is this fair, legal and honest?

It depends on what's not said.  Does the person making the video feel compelled to say only good things about the product?  

In which case, I feel it's an advert.  If they're free to speak their mind and criticize where necessary, then that's a review. 

I've done the latter, never the former.  Those first type come couched in terms like the email I received today.

Are you interested in collaboration? Our newly released XXX are perfect for outdoor sports and are a great fit for your account. Happy to introduce more if you are interested.

We are happy to offer:
❤️Free samples;
❤️Additional incentives;
❤️Giveaway promotion together. We will provide the gifts;
❤️Other benefits we can further talk about!

I've politely declined, even though the giveaway could draw viewers to my channel.  My decline was met with this: 

By the way, do you know any other influencers like yourself who have tried and promoted sports headphones? If you do, could you introduce them to us? 🤞We're revamping our influencer promotion program and need more outstanding influencers like you! Plus, our perks and rewards are quite generous! I think it will be the win-win situation!

My sense of independence and objectivity would feel compromised.  It would also detract from products which excite me and I do want to use and review.  I cannott afford to buy loads of stuff, especially if it might turn out to be rubbish, so I hope it benefits everyone for me to be given a review item.  Once the review is done I offer to return the product, raffle it to my channel members, or put it on long-term test.

For example, the products produced by Redshift Sports.  Where I've not liked them, I've said so.  They welcome that criticism provided it comes with detailed feedback, and have changed a few things in response.  This is a new set of handlebars, released today, which I'll keep for a while to give a thorough long-term review.  An earlier set were raffled.  

 Or the Hover X1 drone.  Goodness knows why I was sent an early version of this, because I don't do tech reviews.  From the description I thought it could be a great tool for cyclists and runners to produce social media content.  

It has proved a superb piece of kit and I'm happy to make videos about it because I think others could benefit from knowing about it and seeing the way it can be used professionally.

In the UK the Advertising Standards Authority has a guide for 'influencers' with some simple tests to assess whether you're making an advert or review.   I aim to stay on the right side of this.

There is, however, one area which can be seen as grey - discounted kit.  

Outdoor equipment companies, and those which make cycling kit, regularly offer discounts to professionals working in the same industry.  It's a reciprocal thing between businesses.  I was part of the Patagonia Pro scheme for years; the company understands we wear-out our kit faster than most people because it's used (and washed) more frequently, plus they like people to see their brand in the outdoors.  This started long before YouTube. 

Rab has recently offered me a similar deal for which I'm grateful, because I need to buy quite a lot of equipment for a forthcoming backpacking trip to Iceland.  

Rapha does something similar too.  The percentages vary considerably, and usually you can only buy one item which has to be for yourself.

So if I appear in a video wearing a jacket I bought and paid for, albeit with a discount, do I declare this?  It's not sponsored... much.  

My solution has been articles like this and my 'Compliance' page.  If anyone wonders about the relationship I have with a particular brand they can check this page.  It's linked below every video, and find out.  Or just ask me.