The FTC has lambasted Warner Bros after it was discovered that it paid hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars” to a number of YouTubers to praise its Lord of the Rings title Shadow of Mordor.
Recode reports that Warner paid agency Plaid Social Labs to create sponsored videos for the game, with a PewDiePie spot alone generating 3.7m views.
The terms of the deal demanded that content makers praise certain elements of the title, that they should not criticise it and that viewers should be directed to the official website.
While contracts did require disclosure, it was not required that this was done conspicuously or in a way that consumers would necessarily notice. PewDiePie's video, for example, only divulged the sponsorship after the ‘show more' button.
Warner has been told it faces civil penalties if such similarly deceptive practices are repeated in future.
Consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches,” director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich said. Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns.”