Analysis: How Twitch’s New Branded Guidelines Further Hurts Streamers

With Twitch going back and forth with its branded guidelines, what does this mean for creators like VTubers?

Just recently, popular streaming platform Twitch had unveiled new branded guidelines, majorly putting limitations to what streamers can integrate into their streams as branded content.

  • These include limitations to burned-in ads, ranging from video format, display ones, to even audio ones.
  • However, the platform allows logos of other brands to be included, as long as they consist of 3% of the stream layout size.
  • Other branded formats that are permitted include branded panels on page, showcasing products in the background, promoting links on chat, unboxing and promoting products on stream, and playing sponsored games.

Hours after the news was amplified by prominent streamer news reporter Zach Bussey (Today on Stream), there was evident uproar from the larger online community, including streamers. The sentiment is mostly the same: it is “anti-creator.”

Following disdain from the community, Twitch has pulled back its statement and limitations saying that "these guidelines are bad for your and bad for Twitch". However, some have pointed out that Twitch's Terms of Service still prohibits third-party embedded advertisements or banner ads on stream.

But in what sense are these guidelines detrimental to the content creator experience? Let’s look at it from a much broader perspective.

The Irony of Limiting Brand Experience on Twitch

If we were to look at some of the best brand-integrated Twitch campaigns over the past few years, one can see a pattern of using more diverse branded options–which unfortunately won’t fly past the new branded guidelines.

  • In 2021, McDonald’s Singapore launched a massive campaign on Twitch where it tapped streamers on the platform to encourage viewers to go out and try the Chicken McCrispy and other McDonald’s products on their own.
  • This campaign resulted in massive success, with viewership numbers to tapped streamers spiking through predetermined benchmarks by 160%.
  • How did the campaign roll out? By utilizing various forms of branded integrations on stream, which has also resulted in McDonald’s winning The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising back in 2022.

As a marketing and advertising journalist for over two years, there is an irony to Twitch limiting these brand experiences, knowing full well that brands fully understand that an organic brand integration has worked well in this growing content creator economy.

No wonder why many brands such as G-Fuel, Gamer Supps, Displate, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Electronic Arts utilize the grassroots of Twitch communities to integrate their brand into the influencer marketing scene and properly execute campaigns that work for viewers.

Perhaps Twitch is still stuck in the primitive idea of using collected data to roll out ads for viewers, and not allowing streamers to both properly communicate great brand experiences and earn from these opportunities.

It is no wonder why Twitch and media buying giant GroupM formed a partnership back in 2021 to allow advertisers gain access to the wider gamer base. We know all too well that we despise pre-targeted pre-roll ads–even the Twitch CEO himself has expressed interest in improving said service.

Doesn't Twitch Understand Grassroot-based Marketing?

Despite all the strategies marketers imply to make the traditional ad experience on Twitch work for viewers, pre- and mid-roll ads have little to no benefit for creators.

  • Data shows that on average, a streamer can receive between US$0.25 to US$4.50 per 1000 impressions. And of course, this earning differs from different time periods or stream time.
  • Meanwhile, a 30-second ad read can earn a creator US$20.00 or US$30.00 per 1000 impressions, which is a bit more stable and higher compared to relying on ad revenue. It is no wonder why many popular streamers nowadays–even VTubers themselves–rely on sponsorship deals to add up to their monthly revenue.

Limiting creators in exploring ways to organically integrate branded content will slow down the constant growth of the content creator economy. The real battlefield of influencer marketing nowadays is no longer confined to trusting A-listers and other out-of-reach celebrities.

Instead, consumers prefer to reach smaller yet dedicated creators who want to foster grassroot communities. Through these nano- and micro-influencer groups, brands have a much better grasp of who they want to tap into, and see more organic results.

Following the clamor of some of Twitch’s biggest creators, Twitch has released a statement, saying they recognize the “overtly broad” nature of its branded guideline policies. It also added that they never intended to limit a content creator’s ability to enter direct relationships with sponsors.

In the new Twitch branded guidelines, some of the exceptions they have included include:

  • A streamer's offline channel page has panels promoting a brand or sponsorship.
  • A streamer has merchandise, memorabilia, or other products in camera view but are not being paid to actively discuss or promote them.
  • The streamer and their mods share affiliate links in response to questions from your community.
  • A streamer mentions a sponsor in passing, but are not actively promoting the product or service in exchange for payment.

Streamers and VTubers and Share Their Feedback

Despite Twitch revamping its branded guidelines to appease to creators, clamor in the online community continues to grow, with no chance of subsiding as of this writing.

For VTuber Elle, one of the hosts of the NecroNews gaming news series on YouTube, the update could just drive more dedicated Twitch streamers to continue sticking exclusively with the platform, with no intention to branch out.

Meanwhile, for MSM Talent’s assistant manager KalystC, the new branded guidelines may pose more issues to VTubers, as they have other integrated assets which may be misidentified by the platform. She recommends that the platform further look into these special cases for streamers, especially VTubers.

Meanwhile, popular Twitch streamer Asmongold has stated that with Twitch introducing these branded guidelines, streamers should consider boycotting the platform and move to other competitors.

This was also echoed by the rest of the One True King (OTK) network, who said as a collective that they will leave the platform if these policies go through.

On more humorous responses and interpretations to the guidelines, streamers Nutty and Paladin Amber as well as VTuber Projekt Melody took their own take of what embeds should be allowed on the platform.

Meanwhile, in response to Twitch’s allowed logo size of 3% for a sponsor logo, former VShojo VP for Product and Design Bryan Veloso depicted the size comparison–to an absurd extent. This is aside from Bussey's interpretation of the measurement.

The Twitch fiasco hasn’t stopped several streaming competitors to trendjack on the issues, with and Trovo Live offering Twitch partners and affiliates the US$25 fee on breaking the contract of the platform–should they move to their respective platforms instead.

Aside from Twitch’s response to change the guideline language, Twitch partner Lil Lexi had pushed a meeting between ambassadors, twitch staff, and Twitch Executives.

  • She added that they have raised the need for ambassadors and community members to be in the room sooner during decision-making and that the teams are actively working to ensure that happens as much as possible.

Despite Twitch pulling back its specifics on branded guidelines, there is a sliver of fact that the platform won't still budge of allowing more open ways for a streamer to integrate brand experiences in their platform. Hidden within its walls of texts is still a solid fact: Twitch will continue to keep a close eye on streamers and potentially suspend accounts.

Banner Photo: Caspar Camille Rubin / Unsplash