It’s Not Just You, There Are More BetterHelp Ads on YouTube

betterhelp logos next to therapist on video call
BetterHelp Bubo4ka/Adobe Stock Pixel-Shot/Adobe Stock

What do Anthony Padilla, the Try Guys, JacksFilms, and Good Mythical Morning all have in common? Other than the fact that they are all incredibly popular YouTubers with millions of views, they’ve all recently taken sponsorships from BetterHelp.

The online therapy platform has been aggressively promoting YouTuber sponsorships over the past half-decade. Its reach has grown in the wake of a series of controversies that have called into question the platform’s legitimacy. 

Founded in 2013, BetterHelp was acquired by telehealth company Teladoc in 2015. This acquisition transformed BetterHelp from a small business with under $5 million in revenue to a juggernaut. It pulled in a projected $60 million in revenue by 2018.

Its strategy was simple: flood the market with ads on content from YouTubers, streamers, and podcasters. Burnout and mental health issues are common byproducts of influencer life, seemingly giving creators a chance to market to their audiences authentically. 

“BetterHelp has collaborated with influencers and celebrities who use their platforms to share personal mental health journeys, reduce stigma, and encourage others to seek help,” the company wrote in a December 2023 blog post. “Through these partnerships, BetterHelp reaches a wider audience, fostering open conversations about mental health and normalizing the act of seeking counseling.”

But despite its recent big-name partnerships with creators, in 2018, BetterHelp found itself in a massive scandal due to its YouTuber collaborations. That year, creators like Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg and Memeology 101 posted videos that pulled in millions of views and soured the company’s reputation. 

These creators specifically spoke out about how BetterHelp claimed to offer licensed professionals. But the platform’s terms of service specifically stated it does “not control the quality of the Counselor Services” or “determine whether any Counselor is qualified to provide any specific service.”

The controversy led the company’s founder, Alon Matas, to address the situation in an October 2018 blog post. In it, Matas said BetterHelp does have processes in place to check the licenses of its therapists. However, he clarified that BetterHelp would remove the controversial line in its terms of service — which it did.

He then claimed the company was doing better than ever. He said it “had a record number of new members who signed up” the week the controversy broke. 

The platform continued to advertise heavily in the creator space but focused more on podcasts after the scandal, like Tigerbelly. According to data analyst firm Magellan AI, BetterHelp was the biggest advertiser in the space in December 2020. During that month, it spent $7 million across 556 podcasts.

Over the past couple of years, the company appears to be trying to win back YouTube. In Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 report on advertising on YouTube, BetterHelp didn’t break the top 10 advertisers. But in 2022, it spent $10 million on YouTube sponsorships, making it the eighth-highest spender

Over the years, the YouTube ads kept flowing. According to influencer marketing agency the Outloud Group, BetterHelp sponsored 392 YouTube videos in the quarter of 2022. By the third quarter of 2023, they quintupled their output by sponsoring 1,999 videos.

According to its founder on Linkedin, in 2023, BetterHelp had “double-digit growth” and earned “over $135 million in profit.” Coincidentally, in March 2023, the FTC ordered BetterHelp to pay $7.8 million in partial refunds. This was part of a settlement after the company forced users in questionnaires to “hand over sensitive health information through unavoidable prompts.” 

For over half a decade, fans have been continuously loud about their feelings for BetterHelp. Redditors decried the practice of taking their sponsorships, calling the service a “a joke.” On TikTok, there are nearly 100 million views of videos reviewing BetterHelp. These videos share positive but largely negative experiences with the service.

BetterHelp costs between $65 to $100 a week, which is a lot for a service that could sell your information. Or worse, could give you a therapist who tells you something like you need “to experience more pain.”

Some creators have spoken out against BetterHelp in video essays, discussing the platform’s past problems and why creators take these controversial ads. YouTuber Mickey Atkins even claimed in a video that BetterHelp sent her a cease and desist letter after she publicly criticized the company. 

The YouTuber outrage, Reddit comments, TikTok videos, and the FTC scandal did little to impact BetterHelp’s bottom line. Many casual viewers don’t vet the content they’re being fed, assuming their favorite influencer has done the work for them.

BetterHelp has faced enough scandal to at least require a critical examination before spending hundreds of dollars on Zoom therapy. These creators willing to make a quick buck are doing a disservice to their fans. Fans could have their private medical data sold — or their money wasted.

As YouTuber Soggy Cereal put it, “I don’t think YouTubers only have to advertise the greatest of products. However, when a company with such a shady and deceitful past tries to sell something as important as a mental health service, that should be called out.”

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