A recent advertising campaign by Microsoft employed a tactic known as “Stealth Marketing” to try and promote the Xbox One. The campaign was leaked and many gamers are criticizing Microsoft and Machinima, who were linked to the campaign.
It’s been leaked that Microsoft were offering Machinima partners $3 CPM ($3 per thousand video views) for creating video featuring content regarding the Xbox One. The offer was first announced to Machinima partners via a now deleted tweet by Machinima’s UK community manager. In order to make use of the offer, Machinima partners had to release a video containing at least thirty seconds of Xbox One game footage, mention the Xbox One by name, and include the tag “XB1M13”.
Microsoft paying Youtubers to create videos about the Xbox One would have been innocent enough if the video’s creators were allowed to inform their viewers they were being paid and were allowed to say whatever they liked regarding the console. It seems this wasn’t the case though.
The legal agreement behind campaign states that the videos “may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games”. It also goes on to say that in order to get paid, the video creators can not tell anyone that they are being paid to speak positively about the console.
It seems this method of advertising goes against the FTC’s guidelines for the use of endorsement in advertising. The guidelines state that there must be full enclosure when there is “a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement”. The guidelines go on to give an example of a video game blogger reviving a free console from a company that he will then talk about. The FTC states that the blogger would have to make it clear that he received the console for free because his opinion is “disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious”.
It should noted however that this form of advertising doesn’t seem to be a major cog in Microsoft’s Xbox One campaign. According to Machinima, Microsoft would only pay for the first 1.25 million views on the videos which puts the total sum paid to the video creators at $3,750. It’s unknown at this point whether Machinima received any additional funds for participating in the campaign.
Although some have criticized the campaign, it is reasonable to assume that this kind of advertising could become more common in the future as consumers are getting better at blocking adverts with browser add-ons.
You can read the blog of the person who leaked this information here: