×
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

  • Facebook's Oculus Quest Shows How AR

    What the Oculus Quest Can Teach Us About the Future of Mixed Reality

    Facebook’s new Oculus Quest headset is a great gaming device that simplifies virtual reality (VR), doing away with the need for an expensive PC and external tracking hardware. But with its integrated tracking, the Quest can also teach us a thing or two about the future of virtual and augmented reality. Those two areas of [...]

  • snapchat-logo

    Snapchat Takes Down Porn Lenses, May Start Cat-and-Mouse Game

    Snapchat quickly removed a handful of x-rated augmented reality lenses Tuesday, dealing a blow to efforts by adult entertainment company Naughty America to promote its subscriptions to the service’s users. However, the porn studio may not be quite done with Snapchat just yet, as it is still distributing the source files that allow Snapchat users [...]

  • YouTube logo

    Why YouTube Is Changing the Way It Reports Subscriber Counts

    Within the next three months, YouTube will change the way it publicly displays channel subscriber counts: It will provide only rounded figures instead of actual follower numbers. For example, under the change, T-Series — the Indian music-video channel that recently surpassed PewDiePie to become the most-subscribed channel on the platform — would be listed in [...]

  • Phillip Eubanks and Marc Hemeon Join

    Phillip Eubanks and Marc Hemeon Join Troy Carter’s Q&A

    Q&A, the music and tech company founded by former Lady Gaga manager and Spotify exec Troy Carter, today announced the appointments of Phillip Eubanks as Chief Operating Officer (pictured above, right) and Marc Hemeon as Head of Design (left). The pair join Carter, J. Erving (Human Re Sources, Atom Factory), Suzy Ryoo (Atom Factory, OMD) [...]

  • 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 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content