The Federal Trade Commission has outed publisher Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for paying YouTube stars without disclosure for positive commentary on their 2014 release, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Warner Bros. reportedly paid “hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars” to online personalities, such as PewDiePie, in exchange for their channels to post videos discussing positive aspects of the game that did not show any bugs or glitches that may have occurred while playing. These videos garnered more than 5 million views on Youtube, with PewDiePie’s receiving 3.7 million alone.
According to the FTC, WB “failed to adequately disclose that it paid online ‘influencers.'”
“Consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns.”
The charge also states that WB instructed influencers to place any disclosures in the description box appearing below the video, visible only if consumers clicked on the “Show More” button in the description box.
In addition to the charge, WB has been “barred for 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.”
The charge will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through August 10, 2016, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.