Monday, July 11, 2016

Sponsored Mordor Game Videos Under Fire by FTC

Warner Bros. has caused a bit of an upset with the FTC regarding paying YouTubers to promote the video game Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. The action itself is not illegal. We see sponsored videos all the time littering YouTube and Twitch these days from top gamers. The problem is in the details, as is always the case.

This morning a press release was issued by the FTC and Warner Bros. settled charges that it failed to adequately disclose that money was paid to online personalities to only post positive reviews of Mordor. Such figures include PewDiePie, and the sponsored videos netted over 5 million views when the campaign was completed. The WB does not deny the accusations. While they won't pay any fines, they will have to re-evaluate any future programs, and deal with an embarrassing fall-out among gamers.

What it boils down to is that the WB did not properly disclose information regarding the sponsored videos, and refrained YouTubers from posting any negative content. In doing so, it did not give the consumer an honest view of the product. A PDF file of the restrictions given to YouTubers was provided in the proceedings that included the following:

• Video will feature gameplay of the [Shadow of Mordor video game]
• Video will have a strong verbal call-to-action to click the link in the description box for the viewer to go to the [game’s] website to learn more about the [game], to learn how they can register, and to learn how to play the game.
• Video will promote positive sentiment about the [game].
• Video will not show bugs or glitches that may exist.
• Video will not communicate negative sentiment about [Warner Bros.], its affiliates or the [game].

That's a pretty hefty list. It essentially gives WB full control over how your video had to be presented and if it met their standards. In return, you got paid. Even worse is that the "sponsorship" tag that is required in any YouTube video was buried deep in the description. The Consumerist used PewDiePie's video as an example, where you had to expand the description to see that it was a sponsored video. Also, note it's location. It's so buried, you have to be digging for that content to realize it was sponsored.

So remember kids! YouTubers are now getting paid to promote new games. If you think something sounds too good to be true, click on the description and see if it's a sponsored product. Sometimes the reviews are honest, and sometimes they are not


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