Commentary

FTC Raps Warner Bros. For Social Influencer Campaign

Social media marketing campaigns are supposed to get people’s attention, but this is probably not the kind of engagement Warner Bros. was looking for. The entertainment company is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission because of a social media influencer campaign that didn’t clearly disclose the fact that the influencers were being paid to promote a video game.

Warner Bros. hired a number of influencers including YouTube star PewDiePie to promote its new Lord of the Rings game, “Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor,” in its own online content, including reviews and “play-through” videos. According to the FTC, however, Warner Bros. failed to comply with the rules governing influencer marketing, which require “conspicuous” disclosures alerting consumers that the opinions expressed by influencers are in fact paid promotions.

Instead, Warner Bros. took the tried and true route of shrinking the text of the disclosures and camouflaging them with other boilerplate statements, making it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to actually read them.

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As part of a settlement with the company, the FTC is demanding that Warner Bros. implement an internal compliance system and make sure that influencer partners are also aware of the rules regarding disclosure.

The Warner Bros. faux pas comes amid growing interest in, and scrutiny of, influencer marketing. According to a study by Tomoson, 60% of marketers said they would be increasing their influencer marketing budgets in 2016.

Another study conducted by the Keller Fay Group and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania showed more people are willing to follow an influencer's recommendation, at 82%, than an average customer's recommendation, at 73%.

At the same time, there have been a number of high-profile mistakes: last year Kim Kardashian and drug maker Duchesnay ran afoul of the FTC and FDA for failing to disclose that the social media star was being paid to promote a morning sickness drug, Diclegis.

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