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Here's what the feds have to say about paid YouTube content

Here's what the feds have to say about paid YouTube content Exclusive

July 11, 2014 | By Mike Rose

July 11, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, YouTube

As part of Gamasutra's ongoing investigations into the explosion of the video game YouTuber, the Federal Trade Commission has told us that those YouTubers who are paid by publishers to advertise their games must provide clear, obvious disclosure in videos.

Disclosure of payment in YouTube videos is a particularly hot topic at the moment, as some high-profile YouTubers believe it is adequate to bury a single sentence disclosure about any payments from video game companies in the text description of a YouTube video.

But having discussed the topic with the FTC, an independent agency of the U.S. government that fights for the protection of consumers, it would appear that this simply isn't enough.

"Generally speaking, if an advertiser or a marketer is paying someone to write favorable reviews, the reviewer needs to disclose that," says Mary Engle, associate director for Advertising Practices at the FTC, "and that disclosure should be clear and conspicuous, and should be upfront and easy to see where the viewer won't miss it."

"What we say is that it should be easily seen or viewed... It should basically be unavoidable by the viewer."
She adds, "What we say is that it should be easily seen or viewed (or heard in the case of audio) by the consumer or by the viewer. It should be made within the endorsement message, and within the review. We don't prescribe particular words or phrases that need to be used, but some people might say 'this is a compensated review,' or 'I got this free to try.'"

Given that embedded YouTube videos do not display the description of a video below them, this means that burying disclosure in the description is not acceptable.

"It should basically be unavoidable by the viewer," Engle adds -- and if it's not, the FTC can step in to investigate the YouTuber.

"The FTC can conduct an investigation to look at what's happening, and determine whether we think there is a violation of the FTC act," she says. "We certainly welcome any complaints -- a lot of our investigations are the results of tips from consumers or reporters."

"If we do bring an investigation, it may or may not turn into a case where the company would be under order," Engle concludes. "It varies a lot with the particular facts."

What percentage of YouTubers are actually taking money from publishers to talk about games? Gamasutra has investigated the movement in-depth.

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