×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Warner Bros. Settles FTC Charges Over Payments to PewDiePie, Other Influencers to Promote Game

Warner Bros. paid PewDiePie and other digital stars upwards of tens of thousands of dollars each to promote a 2014 game based on the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” without properly disclosing the arrangements, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Under a settlement WB reached with the FTC, announced Monday, Warner Bros. has agreed to make such disclosures in the future.

The FTC charges stem from a promotional campaign for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s video game “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor,” first released in September 2014, for which it paid influencers to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media. The sponsored videos were viewed more than 5.5 million times, with PewDiePie’s sponsored video alone viewed more than 3.7 million times.

“Consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns.”

In a statement, the studio said, “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.”

PewDiePie, who is the No. 1 most-subscribed individual creator on YouTube with more than 46 million followers, is affiliated with Disney’s Maker Studios. Reps for Maker did not respond to a request for comment. Other digital influencers enlisted by WB for the “Shadow of Mordor” promos, according to the FTC, included I Am Wildcat, Silentc0re and Siv HD.

It’s not the first time marketers have run afoul of the FTC’s rules requiring disclosure about paid promotions by digital influencers. Last fall, Machinima reached a settlement with the agency after an FTC investigation into promotional videos for Microsoft’s Xbox One system and games.

According to the FTC, Warner Bros. enlisted ad agency Plaid Social Labs to hire online influencers to develop sponsored gameplay videos for “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor,” post them on YouTube and promote them on Twitter and Facebook. WB paid from “hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars” to each influencer and gave them a free, pre-release version of the game, and told them to not disclose any bugs they discovered, according to the complaint. In addition, Warner Bros. failed to instruct the influencers to include sponsorship disclosures “clearly and conspicuously” in the videos themselves, but instead told them to put disclosures in the description field of the videos, the FTC said.

With the campaign, according to the FTC, Warner Bros. misled consumers “by suggesting that the gameplay videos of ‘Shadow of Mordor’ reflected the independent or objective views of the influencers.”

More Digital

  • Simran Sethi Quits Netflix India Role

    Simran Sethi Quits Netflix India Role

    Simran Sethi, the Los Angeles-based director of Netflix international originals, responsible for India content, has resigned and will quit after a transition period. Netflix did not comment. Sources familiar with the matter told Variety that Netflix prefers an executive based in India to oversee local original content that has now grown to 11 series and [...]

  • The Secret Life of Pets 2

    ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $11.52 million through Sunday for 869 national ad airings [...]

  • Cory-Haik-Vice

    Vice Media Hires Cory Haik, Former Mic Publisher, as Chief Digital Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vice Media has recruited Cory Haik, former publisher of digital news start-up Mic, as chief digital officer to lead the youth-culture company’s global internet businesses. Haik will be based at Vice’s Brooklyn headquarters and report to CEO Nancy Dubuc. She most recently worked at Mic, which last fall laid off virtually its entire staff before [...]

  • Snapchat logos

    Porn Studio Starts Building X-Rated Snapchat Lenses, Encourages Users to Do the Same

    Adult entertainment company Naughty America wants to use augmented reality to get the word out about its paid services. The company has begun to make Snapchat lenses featuring some of its models, and is teaching its audience to do the same. Naughty America shared three such lenses on its website (link not safe for work) [...]

  • New, Likely Cheaper Galaxy Home Speaker

    Samsung Is Getting Ready to Introduce Second Smart Speaker

    Samsung still isn’t selling its Galaxy Home smart speaker, but the company may be getting ready to introduce a second model soon: An FCC filing for an “AI speaker” suggests that the new model, like the original Galaxy Home, will be dual-branded, featuring both Samsung’s own brand name as well as that of its audio [...]

  • Streaming Placeholder

    TikTok Owner Preparing Streaming Service to Rival Spotify (Report)

    ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of the TikTok video app, is developing a paid streaming music service aimed at the same emerging markets that Spotify and Apple are seeking to explore, according to a report in Bloomberg. The app could be introduced as early as autumn, according to the report, which adds that the company has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content