Warner Bros. recently settled the charges filed by FTC for allegedly deceiving the customers during a marketing campaign for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by not disclosing the fact that they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to famous YouTubers, including PewDiePie to post positive gameplay footage of the game on YouTube and other social media.
Even though the videos were sponsored, Warner Bros. didn’t ask the influencers in question to disclose that information clearly, as required by the FTC’s endorsement guidelines. In fact, they told them to put disclosures in the video description box, which meant that most of them wouldn’t be seen at all without clicking the “show more” button. The result, according to the complaint, is that “Warner Bros., through its marketing campaign, misled consumers by suggesting that the gameplay videos of Shadow of Mordor reflected the independent or objective views of the influencers.”
The settlement is relevant in light of the recent CSGO Lounge fiasco, which put light on similar failures to disclose a financial relationship between influencer and the sponsor. However, it may all be bad news for the people involved, as the FTC is only issuing a warning to Warner Bros. asking them not to go this again, the company does not face any penalties.
“The proposed order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits Warner Bros. from misrepresenting that any gameplay videos disseminated as part of a marketing campaign are independent opinions or the experiences of impartial videogame enthusiasts. Further, it requires the company to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connection between Warner Bros. and any influencer or endorser promoting its products,” the FTC memo says. “Finally, the order specifies the minimum steps that Warner Bros., or any entity it hires to conduct an influencer campaign, must take to ensure that future campaigns comply with the terms of the order.”
In other words, Warner Bros. doesn’t have to do anything apart from what it was originally required to do. Lenient as it may sound, by making it official, FTC has ensured that this thing will not happen again as Warner Bros. may face multiple civil lawsuits if they repeat this.
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