On August 1, one YouTube channel by the name of Hong Sound uploaded a video titled “Everything I Know About Under-The-Table Promotions On YouTube”. In this video, the YouTuber revealed, “Such under-the-table paid promotions on YouTube are more rampant than viewers can ever imagine.”
YouTube, as a platform, enforces video creators to specify ad content by including a small pop-up box that reads “Includes Paid Promotions“. According to Hong Sound, however, YouTubers and brands alike feel less inclined to do so — mainly because “real” contents perform far better than “paid promotion” contents. This is why under-the-table paid promotion deals have become an industry norm.
Plus, for YouTubers, ads are like trading in their channels for money. That’s why paid promotions on YouTube channels cost a lot. A single channel can only promote so many brands. So instead, these channels charge a hefty fee to endorse select brands. But when the promotions are not revealed and under-the-table, the channel can ‘endorse’ as many brands as offered. So really, one of the fastest ways any YouTuber can start to make money is to accept tons of these under-the-table paid promotion deals and advertise on the channel without revealing that they’re paid promotions.
— Hong Sound
Then, on August 4 — following Hong Sound‘s video, another YouTube channel named ChamPD went live. During this broadcast, this YouTuber openly attacked fellow YouTubers by name, accusing them of fueling their channels with under-the-table paid promotions.
Sangyoon, Hamzy, tzuyang, Eat with Boki… I can name them all, you know. Creator agencies like DIA TV, Sandbox Network, and Treasure Hunter are all also in on these deals… The Korean YouTube industry is a mess. Most YouTubers, from anyone with 1 million to 4 million subscribers, have accepted under-the-table paid promotion deals. They’re all guilty of completely manipulating their subscribers.
Shortly after the live broadcast, the channel subscribers of the named YouTubers grew outraged by the exposé. All four YouTubers mentioned admitted to having accepted under-the-table paid promotions in the past and apologized for being unclear and dishonest with their contents. YouTuber tzuyang even announced her decision to quit YouTube altogether.
Since I started my YouTube channel, I have been dishonest with my paid promotions. I’m sorry. One, I have not specified paid promotions as paid promotions before… I overlooked how influential it is to specify this. I apologize, I will edit all the videos to follow the policy. Two, I have made it difficult to realize paid promotions are paid promotions by adding it unclearly in the ‘Read More’ section…
— Eat with Boki
Countless other channels have come forward with apologies too. Some popular names include channels YangPang, Fran, ddeonggaeddeong, and MBRO. Since the reveal, Korean YouTube subscribers have been sharing endless disappointment in some of their favorite channels for having “manipulated” them.
As the heat continues to build and more YouTube channels criticized, K-Pop idol KARD‘s Somin also came to face criticism.
Her subscribers are now demanding to know why one of her videos, originally titled “[Bought With My Money] HONEST Reviews! Somin’s TOP 10 Favorite Things!”, has been edited to be called “HONEST Reviews! Somin’s TOP 10 Favorite Things!” — as well as to display the “Includes Paid Promotion” pop-up previously unseen.
Read Somin’s response here: