Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: TWC) settled charges of Federal Trade Commission over failure to disclose that it paid YouTubers thousands of dollars for positive game reviews on YouTube and social media. According to a FTC announcement this week, Warner Bros. should make the proper disclosure in the future and understand that the sponsored content is the independent opinion of influencers.
“Consumers 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.” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said.
According to the FTC’s complaint, during the marketing campaign for a role-playing game called Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which was based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Warner Bros. hired influencers including PewDiePie, the No. 1 most-subscribed individual creator on YouTube with more than 46 million followers, through advertising agency Plaid Social Labs, LLC to develop gameplay videos and promote them on YouTube and social media such as Twitter and Facebook. FTC also mentioned that Warner Bros. asked the influencers only to promote the videos positively, ignoring any bug they found in the game. The videos were viewed for millions of times, and PewDiePie’s video generated over 3.7 million times. Each influencer got bonus for the promotion, including hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, and a free advance-release version of the game.
Warner Bros broke the rules of FTC about disclosing the behavior of paying for reviews, and violated the independence and objectiveness of the influencers views. Warner Bros wasn’t fined for the charges, but the company promised to clearly disclose similar paid promotion in the future.
“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment always strives to be transparent with our customers and fans when working with social influencers, and we are committed to complying with the related FTC guidelines.” the company said in a statement.