Influencers under the magnifying glass or how to recognize hidden advertising

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As part of the series “How do we make information”, the result of a collaboration between Agence Science-Presse and École branchée, we are now focusing on hidden advertising. Favorite or publicity stunt? Let's unravel all that with some educational and interactive activities!

ATTENTION: If you are browsing the English version of our site, you will probably see an automatic translation of this guide. 😱 You can change the language from the menu in the header of the site or consult our English language guides here.

The main activities aim to:


As part of the series “How do we make information”, the result of a collaboration between Agence Science-Presse and École branchée, we are interested today to hidden advertising.

👀 Background

For some time now, influencers have been required to mention in their posts if they have received any amount of money in exchange for advertisements for a product, service or event. You may have seen the mention “paid partnership” above certain publications on Instagram or the hashtags #advertisement, #ad or #collaboration at the end of these.

Pourtant, il y a encore des influenceurs qui ne précisent pas ou qui cachent à leurs abonnés ce genre de publicités :

"In the United Kingdom, the situation is such that the CMA, the English Competition and Market Authority, has decided to turn the screws and remind the social network of its obligations. The CMA, which investigated the matter, concluded that the platform was not doing enough to remedy the problem and to fight against hidden advertising. And to fight against the problem of disguised advertising, the government agency announced new measures. "

Numerama, October 17, 2020

In Canada, the Competition Act is clear and prohibits false or misleading advertisements, which includes advertisements on the web. Personalities who are followers of product placement on social networks are therefore exposed to fines of up to 750,000 $ if they do not clearly indicate the link that unites them with said product or said company.

“It's important to be transparent. Here in Quebec, it's a real shame, because there are people who do it really well. We are really well structured. We must mention that it is an advertisement, that it is a product received, a media invitation. But there are others who do not care a little more, it goes in the butter. "

Ély Lemieux (influencer), reported by Radio-Canada, January 27, 2019

We can download right here an infographic that summarizes good and bad practices for product placement on social networks.


At the end of these activities, the student will be able to recognize two types of non-traditional advertising, hidden in different formats and sometimes difficult to identify.

Disciplines and levels targeted

-French (2nd cycle of secondary)

Read and enjoy a variety of texts

  • Put current texts into perspective with the help of other written or oral texts.
  • Make a critical judgment: take a step back from the text by relying on cultural and media references which confirm the credibility or admissibility of a source or information.
  • Organization of the text: Recognize and use the elements which make it possible to relate, in whole or in part, the written or oral text to the current field.

-ECR (1st cycle of secondary)

Theme: autonomy

  • Conditions of autonomy: critical judgment, common sense, moral responsibility, the ability to choose, authenticity, etc.
  • Form of dialogue: conversation, discussion, debate.

Suggested digital tools

  • Discuss, probe and get students to react: Mentimeter
  • Create a post: Canva
  • Analyser une publication : Instagram
  • Créer une vidéo : Clips (iOS), Funimate (Android).

Objectives of the activities

  • Discuss and give his opinion on the rules and best practices to be respected when publishing sponsored content.
  • Create a publication containing sponsored content while respecting good advertising practices.
  • Discuss the students' relationship with the sponsored content that abounds on social networks.
  • Create a video for advertising purposes.

☝️ We challenge you!

It is not always easy to differentiate a favorite from a publicity stunt on social networks. People joined in with Rad's team in this video. Ask your students to try the experiment by viewing the capsule and see if they can identify even the most devious advertisements...

☝️ Activités : Reconnaître la publicité cachée

On the menu of this activity sheet:

  • Exercise 1: Why do you think it is important to identify advertising in the media? What are the consequences of hidden advertising for the public? For the media?
  • Exercise 2: These two influencers were paid to talk about a company via their Instagram accounts. Which one is following good practices? Explain your choice.
  • Exercise 3: Do paid posts affect your perception of the media and influencers you like? Explain.
  • Exercise 4: These two YouTubers were paid to talk about a company in a video. Which one respects good practices? Explain your choice.


Through eight pedagogical sheets, students will be put in the shoes of a journalist and carry out activities specially created to enlighten them on various facets of news production in the age of social networks. 

The design of the various educational sheets was made possible thanks to the collaboration between theScience-Press Agency and École branchée. Each sheet contains a theoretical part on a specific subject relating to the production of information, in addition to activities that tend to develop various disciplinary and digital skills in the student.

Check out the other guides in this special feature:

Sheet #1: Information vs opinion

Sheet #2: How to recognize a reliable news site

Sheet #3: Journalistic sources

Sheet #4: Confirmation bias

Sheet #6: News media

File #7: Scientific information

Sheet #8: Disinformation


A Rad file (3 videos, 2 articles)

Influencers under the microscope of Canadian regulatory authorities
Radio-Canada, January 27, 2019

Instagram isn't doing enough to tackle hidden advertising, UK judges
Numerama, October 17, 2020

The hidden ad in movies, TV and games (video)
Media week


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