You know him as PewDiePie
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment had its wrist slapped this week by the Federal Trade Commission for being less than honest about its use of influencers for marketing purposes.
The entertainment company paid several online influencers, including the incredibly popular game reviewer PewDiePie, to promote their fantasy role-play Lord of the Rings themed video game, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Told not to include critique or criticism
Warner Bros.’ ad agency, Plaid Social Labs, paid influencers hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars to post sponsored videos on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Influencers received advanced access to the game.
The contract stipulated that review videos should include game play, a call to action advising viewers to visit the website for Middle Earth, and should not include any criticisms or complaints about glitches in the game.
FTC bringing the heat
Paying influencers isn’t illegal, but you have to be upfront about it, and Warner Brothers was a bit too sneaky for the FTC’s tastes. Influences were required to disclose to viewers that their video was sponsored, but not necessarily conspicuously. For example, on PewDiePie’s video, which was viewed over 3 million times on YouTube, you have to click on the “show more” link below the video to read that “this video was sponsored by Warner Brother.” Other influencers disclosed that they’d been given advanced access to the game, but failed to reveal that they’d also been paid to give a positive review.
The FTC has given Warner Brothers a stern warning not to try any more shady marketing tactics, or risk civil penalties or even a contempt charge in federal court.
Said the FTC’s director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich, “Consumer have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches. Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns.”