Warner Bros. settles FTC charges over deceptive Shadow of Mordor sponsored videos

The publisher is on the hook for influencer disclosures

As part of its promotional push for 2014’s Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Warner Bros. paid online influencers “tens of thousands of dollars” to produce positive videos about the game that were collectively viewed upwards of 5.5 million times. That act in and of itself was (arguably) okay — sponsored content like this is commonplace these days — but WB is on notice from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for failing to have its paid influencers give proper disclosures in their videos.

The FTC alleges that Warner Bros. “required the influencers to promote the game in a positive way and not to disclose any bugs or glitches they found” and also “instructed influencers to place the [sponsored-content] disclosures in the description box appearing below the video.”

One of the publisher’s contractual stipulations had video makers put other promotional text in the description box, which meant the “vast majority” of sponsorship disclosures were pushed down below the fold, requiring viewers to click “Show More” to see them. The FTC also found that Warner Bros. mandated pre-approval for the videos, “and that on at least one occasion Warner Bros. reviewed and approved an influencer video that lacked adequate sponsorship disclosure.”

Notably, the end result of all of this (WB has settled the aforementioned charges) is not a fine. The FTC is prohibiting “Warner Bros. from misrepresenting that any gameplay videos disseminated as part of a marketing campaign are independent opinions or the experiences of impartial video game enthusiasts.” Going forward, the company must also “clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connection between Warner Bros. and any influencer or endorser promoting its products.”

The onus is on WB to keep a watchful eye on influencers it pays. “These steps include educating influencers regarding sponsorship disclosures, monitoring sponsored influencer videos for compliance, and, under certain circumstances, terminating or withholding payment from influencers or ad agencies for non-compliance.” If Warner Bros. violates the FTC’s orders, it may face civil penalties.

Warner Bros. Settles FTC Charges It Failed to Adequately Disclose It Paid Online Influencers to Post Gameplay Videos [FTC]

Jordan Devore
Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random.