Microsoft approached YouTube users and offered them extra money, if they agreed not to talk negative about the Xbox One and its related games.
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Update: Machinima and Microsoft both responded, turns out Machinima is more to be blamed for this murky deal.
Machinima responded stating that "This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content. Any confidentiality provisions, terms or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion."
Microsoft's statement went as "Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts Machinima had with their content providers as part of this promotion and we didn't provide feedback on any of the videos," a spokesperson told Eurogamer. "We have asked Machinima to not post any additional Xbox One content as part of this media buy and we have asked them to add disclaimers to the videos that were part of this program indicating they were part of paid advertising."
Not really surprising that Microsoft offering extra money to YouTubers to give positive feedback, sponsors’ deals can often be seen on YouTube channels. What does surprise is the extensive NDA which YouTubers had to sign. What’s even worse is that they were not allowed to tell anyone about the deal. All very private, but Internet wins the day again.
The agreement offered an additional $3 per thousand video views, according to the deal organised through Machinima, which was revealed by Ars Technica. Machinima partners, once the deal was wigned, had to post a video including minimum of 30 seconds coverage of Xbox One game footage, along with mentioning the Xbox One and including the tag “XB1M13”.
I went to search YouTube for this unusual term and got about 6,920 results. After applying few filters, less than few hundreds of those videos seem to be tagged for the Machinima-Microsoft promotion. Others include Xbox One and its games, but there are also videos revealing this hazy deal.
Things get worse by reading the leaked legal agreement. It states that users are not allowed to say anything negative about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games! Along with not being allowed to talk of a deal to anyone and anywhere. Otherwise, YouTubers would not receive the agreed payment.
The arrangement might be against the US Federal Trade Commission guidelines and its use of endorsement in advertising, which states that participants in promotional content must disclose "a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement". The document gives an example of a video game blogger who gets a fre game system and writes about it.
The guidelines clearly state that the blogger would have to disclose that gift, as his opinion is "disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious." The same would apply to the opinions in videos.
The scope of Machinima-Microsoft deal ended on January 16, as Microsoft said the company would pay out for the first 1.25 million views. However, Machinima will still profit from the videos as they remain on YouTube. You can see Machinima’s posts on Poptent regarding the campaign. The comments started on January 14 and “expired on January 16”, apparently the target was reached on that date.
This was not the first time where Microsoft tried to pay for the YouTube promotions. Campaign offering an extra $1 per thousand views was launched in November. The company also gave Xbox One for free to popular YouTube video creators just before the console launched.
Although, most would agree that Machinima isn’t to be blamed for trying to pull more money from their videos, since users are less likely to click on promotional ads, it cannot be seen as a good practice. If you give a 100% positive review on a product and users find out later that your review was not honest, you will start losing both followers and users.
Dolores is SEO and Digital Marketing consultant who has been completely hog-washed into doing this site by KC.