The Youth Lab


Increased transparency means increased confidence

According to Goldman Sachs the global Creator Economy is worth $250bn today, set to double in size over the next five years to $480bn.

In short, the global Creator Economy is booming. The Hype is Real.

Creators and brands are building symbiotic relationships, successfully blending the social media experience with D2C ecommerce, purchasing and shopper promotion. It’s not hard to see why; almost half of all global shoppers say they ‘depend’ on social media network recommendations to help with their purchasing decisions. Transparency and trust is essential for this ecosystem to work, prompting calls for tighter controls and guidance on promoted content (starting at #ad hashtag and beyond.)

This week’s 52INSIGHTS looks at emerging guidelines in the Creator Economy that organisations, brands and creators need to know about.


“A brand is no longer what we tell the customer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

Scott Cook, Co-founder, Intuit.

Word of mouth recommendations have always been one of the strongest forms of marketing (and indeed, one of the best ways to drive major behavioural change), but how does it work in 2023 and beyond, in a fast-shifting, content-powered culture?


If shoppers feel confident about a creator’s recommendation, they are more likely to make a purchase; 40% of people have purchased something after seeing it specifically on YouTube, X or Instagram. This dynamic becomes even more important with youth audiences. ‘Youth Culture Uncovered 2023, research by The Youth Lab, 82% of Gen Z say they’re ‘more trusting of brands that use real people and stories in their advertising,’ and more than 1 in 4 (26%) Gen Z shoppers trust influencer reviews ‘more than product page reviews.’

“The power of the Creator Economy is firmly established. Online, it's fueling the very growth of social media platforms. Offline, creators are having a profound effect on how brands do business.” Donagh Humphreys, Head of Social & Digital Innovation, THINKHOUSE

Did you buy any of these? The ‘Tiktok Made Me Buy It’ viral phenomenon is proof that the hype is real. Brands like The Ordinary, Dyson, LL DreamBoat; Adidas have benefited enormously from Creator-first strategies in culture.

In a recent campaign in Ireland, where Heineken came out as the no1. Brand associated with the Rugby World Cup (IPSOS x Most Recalled Brands Rugby World Cup 2023), Heineken acknowledges that much of its success was from the deployment of a transparently communicated, creatively co-developed creator strategy that landed the brand in culture.


For the success of everyone within this ecosystem (brands, content creators and shopper audiences) trust and transparency is essential - and that means more control and regulation. Given the speed of growth and innovation in the D2C space, sometimes regulations and guidelines take time to catch up.

The Irish government wants to help shoppers to make informed decisions, prompting the CCPC and the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) to develop new guidelines for paid advertising on social media.

The key takeout? As the CCPC says “If in doubt, label it.” Promoted content of any kind must now include #AD or #Fogra (in the Irish language), and no other variations such as #IWorkWith or #OwnBrand to avoid confusing the shopper. Up until recently, there was no specific direction around language for gifted items; now with this updated guidance, even when content creators aren't being paid there is direction to make ‘gifting’ clear.

Confusion around exact labelling in social media advertising is something that content creators and brands are grappling with around the globe. This year a Dutch study found that only 5.4% of influencer paid or gifted posts were clearly labelled in local market content. In 2018, a team in Princeton University found that only 10% of Pinterest and Youtube advertisements were clearly marked as advertising. In Germany, complaints lodged by consumer associations even led to a landmark judgement by the Federal Court of Justice in 2021.


Younger shoppers, who are already particularly savvy in who they look to for recommendations online, are largely welcoming of increased oversight in this space. “I think regulation will help stop people getting confused when scrolling on social media which is a great thing. I would go to Instagram or TikTok to watch reviews of products before buying them and a lot of the time these turn out to be paid or gifted. This can be really frustrating!Niamh, 23, The Love Network

The majority of content creators are also fans of guidelines and transparency, with some high profile creators frustrated about the gaps in oversight of branded content.“A Youtuber doing an ad isn’t a problem, the reason it becomes taboo is down to influencers not revealing it’s an ad or a sponsorship...” Robert Welsh, Youtube Content Creator


According to Influencer Marketing Hub, businesses that invest in global content creator marketing can make, on average, $5.20 ROI on every $1 invested. Success requires transparent communication; from clearly outlined briefs to content creators through to transparency in finished pieces of content.

The updated guidance in Ireland echo’s trends we’re seeing in global markets. Recent updates in the UK for example require PR, media and content creators to label paid partnerships and adverts but currently only influencers need to identify promoted gifted content. Right now across the EU authorities are in the process of revamping EU-wide guidelines on transparency in sponsored content - in line with the global trend towards more consistent terms and language.


The Love Network 2.0 is THINKHOUSE’s newest platform for the Creator Economy; a tech-enabled, custom-built platform that helps brands grow brand love through a global network of Creators, Influencers and Changemakers. In addition to the database built by the agency over two decades, it capitalises on the latest technology to identify and measure the most impactful communities and networks of people to garner insights, broadcast brand messaging and drive conversation in culture. To build a Love Network for your brand or organisation contact us for a one-to-one introduction.