FTC Slams Warner Bros. For ‘Failing To Adequately Disclose’ Sponsored Gameplay Videos

FTC Slams Warner Bros. For ‘Failing To Adequately Disclose’ Sponsored Gameplay Videos

The US Federal Trade Commission came out hard against Warner Bros. today, banning the game publisher from misrepresenting sponsored content as part of a settlement that will force Warner Bros. to offer clearer disclosure practices in their marketing campaigns.

Under new rules laid out by the FTC today, Warner Bros. will have to monitor the YouTubers who work with them on marketing campaigns, ensuring that those video-makers clearly tell viewers when they’re being paid to make content.

In 2014, the FTC first started investigating Warner Bros. for an “influencer” campaign revolving around the action game Shadow of Mordor. Warner Bros. had paid several YouTubers (including PewDiePie) upwards of five figures to make videos about the game, asking these “influencers” to stay positive and to avoid mentioning any bugs they might have found in the game. Although some of the YouTubers clearly disclosed that their videos had been sponsored, others skipped out or buried their disclosures way at the bottom of descriptions on YouTube, which the FTC wasn’t pleased about.

“While the videos were sponsored content — essentially ads for Shadow of Mordor — the FTC alleges that Warner Bros. failed to require the paid influencers to adequately disclose this fact,” the US government organisation said in a statement. “The FTC also alleges that Warner Bros. did not instruct the influencers to include sponsorship disclosures clearly and conspicuously in the video itself where consumers were likely to see or hear them.”

Today’s agreement is part of a settlement between Warner Bros. and the FTC. Although the game publisher won’t be fined, they will have to ensure that their YouTube marketers make clearer disclosures in the future. They will also have to monitor influencers’ videos and blurbs to ensure that everything operates by the book, with clear warning any time a video is sponsored.

Under a proposed FTC order announced today, Warner Bros. is barred from failing to make such disclosures in the future and cannot misrepresent that sponsored content, including gameplay videos, are the objective, independent opinions of video game enthusiasts or influencers,” the FTC said in their statement.

Big win for customers — and for anyone who feels skeevy about all this stuff.


  • Gotta imagine everyone’s happy with that result. No fine, no penalties, just reasonable clarification of how to do business in a new space in a way that’s fair to consumers and in line with standards elsewhere.

    At least this ruling came after something that probably didn’t do any harm. It was a dumb move by WB in the first place given that Mordor was fantastic and no-one needed to be paid to say that – but it’s pretty hard to complain about being ‘duped’ into buying a great game. It’s not like this was a Colonial Marines kind of affair.

      • Sets a precedent… on how slow the FTC is to react to stuff like this. They have to be wuicker on the uptake eith youtubers and social media influencers… like the CSGO skin lotto fiasco. Come down hard and fast cause it will be old news again before people are punished

  • People have wanted Nintendo ‘to get with the times’ regarding Youtube for ages now but failed to acknowledge that for the likes of big publishers, they can’t help but see the platform as something to exploit (in the true definition of the word, neither positively nor negatively on its own). I’m still waiting for the ‘expose’ of how Nintendo paid PewDiePie to cover Bayonetta 2 last month.

    The fact of the matter is this: there were strict embargoes on anybody saying anything about this game in written form right up until reviews were published – the gaming landscape had no idea which way this game would go – the highs of 8s and above or the ignominy of a 7 or below.

    But at what point during the embargo/release schedule did WB allow/encourage the Youtuber set to cover the game?

  • Obviously Warner Bros couldn’t have predicted how the game would fare, but what surprised me the most is that this game of all games really didn’t need this, or the review embargoes. It ended up being pretty much universally very well received.

    Still glad to see the FTC set a precedent, as delayed as it might be.

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