FTC reaches settlement with Warner Bros after the latter was caught of offering money to influencers without proper disclosure.
Back in 2014, near the launch of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, publisher Warner Bros. paid star YouTubers (like PewDiePie) to promote the game on YouTube and social media, according to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
How it worked was Warner Bros. provided said YouTubers with early access to the game, while asking them to not mention bugs or any other issues. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the industry. However, the problem is that most of the creators failed to disclose this information to the viewers properly, some not at all. Many included disclosures in the description box for their videos, however, the FTC said this was not clear enough.
But it didn’t stop on YouTube. The YouTubers and influencers were also paid hundred to tens of thousands of dollars to also promote their videos on social media.
The press release reads,“Under a proposed FTC order announced today, Warner Bros. is barred from failing to make such disclosures in the future and cannot misrepresent that sponsored content, including gameplay videos, are the objective, independent opinions of video game enthusiasts or influencers.”
As mentioned above, Warner Bros. will now be treading on finer ice, and be prevented from misrepresenting gameplay videos in the future. Further, the company will be required to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose all paid sponsorship deals.
If this stink smells familiar, it’s because it happens all too often. Just last year, a similar campaign by Machinima came under fire from the good folk of the FTC, after the YouTube network paid a number of YouTubers to promote Microsoft products unabashedly.
This news is still young and therefore most of the internet has yet to have the chance to pitchfork riot Warner Bros, however, one thing is for certain, this will hurt the company’s credibility in the immediate future.
Warner Bros. had a great game on their hands with Shadow of Mordor, so why they thought they needed this additionally risky promotion, is beyond me.
Tyler Fischer is an Associate Writer for MONG who plays video games when he’s not busy researching alien conspiracy theories at 2AM. You can find him on Twitter.