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According to the watchdog, the publisher paid thousands of dollars to “influencers” for glowing Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor gameplay clips.
“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,” the watchdog wrote.
The FTC complaint noted that Warner Bros. paid “influencers”, including PewDiePie, between hundreds and tens of thousands of dollars for coverage. It also required them to refrain from disclosing bugs or glitches.
Where was the disclosure?
PewDiePie’s own sponsored video was viewed over 3.7-million times.
The watchdog also claimed that Warner Brothers didn’t instruct “influencers” to clearly label their clips as sponsored, appearing at the bottom of the description box instead.
“Because Warner Bros. also required other information to be placed in that box, the vast majority of sponsorship disclosures appeared ‘below the fold’, visible only if consumers clicked on the ‘Show More’ button in the description box.”
The FTC added that the sponsored disclaimer wasn’t visible on social media as a result. In fact, some YouTubers failed to disclose the sponsored nature at all, only saying they received early access to the title, the FTC alleged.
The settlement offer also proposes that the publisher educates YouTubers and other “influencers” on sponsorship disclosure, monitors clips for compliance and terminates/withholds payment if influencers don’t adequately disclose the nature of the partnership.