FTC Spotlights The Reputation Hole Machinima Dug For Itself With Undisclosed Paid Xbox Pimp-Posts
from the here's-a-shovel dept
Way back in early 2014, we wrote about the revelation that Microsoft and Machinima, the popular YouTube network, had worked out some kind of arrangement in which the newly-released Xbox One would get positive coverage from Machinima personalities. Likewise, Machinima’s agreements with its own personalities leaked, laying out just exactly how those personalities would be compensated for pimping the Xbox One without ever informing fans that they were doing so. This, at a very minimum, was an existential gamble wagering the trust Machinima had built for itself amongst fans for the chance at some dollars from Microsoft. It was a bad wager. Once this all became public, I’m struggling to understand why anyone would put an ounce of trust in the Machinima outlet at all.
And now the FTC is involved, taking the time to ding Machinima for the behavior and enjoining it to never do anything similar in the future.
In a press release today, the FTC announced that the two parties have come to a settlement that will prevent Machinima from pulling this sort of shadiness again. Writes the FTC: “Under the proposed settlement, Machinima is prohibited from similar deceptive conduct in the future, and the company is required to ensure its influencers clearly disclose when they have been compensated in exchange for their endorsements.”
The FTC also cited specific examples of Machinima’s actions, including naming personalities that were involved, helpfully torpedoing those personalities’ ability to get fans to trust them in the future.
Respondent paid influencer Adam Dahlberg $15,000 for the two video reviews that he uploaded to his YouTube channel “SkyVSGaming.” In his videos, Dahlberg speaks favorably of Microsoft, Xbox One, and Ryse. Dahlberg’s videos appear to be independently produced and give the impression that they reflect his personal views. Nowhere in the videos or in the videos’ descriptions did Dahlberg disclose that Respondent paid him to create and upload them. Dahlberg’s first video received more than 360,000 views, and his second video more than 250,000 views.
Respondent paid influencer Tom Cassell $30,000 for the two video reviews that he uploaded to his YouTube channel “TheSyndicateProject.” In his videos, Cassell speaks favorably of Microsoft, Xbox One, and Ryse. Cassell’s videos appear to be independently produced and give the impression that they reflect his personal views. Nowhere in the videos or in the videos’ descriptions did Cassell disclose that Respondent paid him to create and upload them. Cassell’s first video received more than 730,000 views, and his second video more than 300,000 views.
The FTC then goes on to expose the entire deal Machinima had with Microsoft’s advertising group, Starcom, which included an initial roll out of paid positive coverage by a few personalities, but was then to evolve into a Machinima-wide program of paid-for positive coverage of the Xbox One, with payments to be based on traffic/views.
This, it should go without saying, was insane. In the arena of YouTube personalities in general, and perhaps more specifically with the gaming fanbase and the culture that surrounds it, you simply cannot gamble with your reputation and expect the reward to be worth it.