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[Update: The FTC may be investigating]
This week was full of all sorts of unforeseen surprises. Software corporate giants Microsoft and Electronic Arts have come under full microscopic scrutiny after some unpleasant leaks occurred involving guerrilla (or stealth) marketing to sway opinions by paying off influential YouTubers, while at the same time prohibiting them from making it known that they're promoting products as paid endorsers.
Well, Electronic Arts sent out a response regarding the scandal involving their media program called Ronku, which works with established content creators on YouTube to promote EA's products.
Just a quick history lesson: EA was found out that they were paying YouTubers a minimum of $10 CPM (which is $10 for every thousand video view impressions) for promoting games like FIFA, Madden, Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed: Rivals. That wasn't the bad part, though, the bad part was that according to the content agreement, users were prohibited from making it known they were being paid to endorse EA's products under a certain light. The situation looks especially egregious due to the fact that many of the Battlefield 4 videos – where glitches were prohibited from being displayed – could be labeled as false advertisement and work as further evidence that EA tried keeping investors from knowing about the flaws of the game.
Well, The Verge ran a story about EA's partaking in unlawful advertising that originally went public thanks to Microsoft and Machinima, and the fallout has boiled over into a corporate melting pot of scandalous proportions.
After running the story, The Verge received a response from Electronic Arts about their stance on the situation, with a company representative noting...
"Through EA's Ronku program, some fans are compensated for the YouTube videos they create and share about our games,"... "The program requires that participants comply with FTC guidelines and identify when content is sponsored. User-generated videos are a valuable and unique aspect of how gamers share their experiences playing the games they love, and one that EA supports."
This actually seems like a direct opposite stance of what was issued in the user agreement, which we printed in the original story, where it prohibited participants from disclosing compensation or the stature of releasing content as a paid endorsement. Read the original quote from the agreement...
"You agree to keep confidential at all times all matters relating to this Agreement and any Assignment including, without limitation, the Details and Compensation listed above."
EA was explicitly asked about this NDA clause by The Verge (woot, real journalism for the win) and the company responded with the following comment...
"We explicitly state in the Terms & Conditions of the program that each video must comply with the FTC's Guidelines concerning Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising."
That seems to be the complete opposite of the clause stating that “all times all matters” relating to the agreement, the assignment and compensation are to be kept “confidential”. That is a non-disclosure clause and directly works as an antithesis to the FTC's compliance of public disclosure for paid endorsements or compensation.
I guess we're supposed to forget the past, forget what was true and forget facts in the face of PR-spin? Although, if anyone from Ronku still has a complete copy of their user agreement, it could verify whether or not EA is fabricating a new truth.
Remember the number one rule of the top misconceptions about the gaming industry: PR is about protecting a company's resources, no matter how far removed from the truth those statements may be.