There is nothing wrong with marketing or advertising – let’s all just accept that companies need to get their brand out there, promote what’s cool about it, and get people talking. So sure, advertising and marketing are to be expected. The problem comes in when companies try to pay trusted individuals to stealthily advertise.
Ars Technica has uncovered a promotion from Machinima to its YouTube partners through which they can earn extra money by posting videos featuring Xbox One content. In a subsequently deleted tweet from the Machinima UK community manager, Machinima video partners could get an extra $3 CPM (per thousand video views) by posting a video including at least 30 seconds of Xbox One game footage, mentioning Xbox One by name. Videos had to be tagged with “XB1M13” to qualify – a YouTube search of the tag returned 6 350 results for me, although most appeared to be people looking for attention including videos titled “I’m a Whore” and “Not Selling Out on YouTube”.
The reality is, plenty of people make videos that are sponsored by a company, so this isn’t really a unique scenario. The problem comes in when we look at the legal agreement behind the promotion:
You may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One or any of its Games in your Campaign Video[…]You agree to keep confidential at all times all matters relating to this Agreement, including, without limitation, the Promotional Requirements, and the CPM Compensation, listed above.
So, YouTubers must sell their soul for a small profit? It’s really not a lot of money that’s on the table, yet the rules make vloggers sell their integrity. This isn’t going to be pretty.
It’s hard to say if this is coming from idiots at Machinima or Microsoft, although I’m prone to place the blame on Machinima here. The budget for this campaign is honestly pretty small – it’s capped at 1 250 000 views, which works out to $3 750. Surely if Microsoft were behind this they’d throw more money at the project? Either way, it just shows the way advertising and marketing are going – buying mentions and references on YouTube to try to convince people of the quality of your product. Just be honest, call it marketing, let people declare that you paid them to say nice things – fans will still listen to the paid advertising and maybe take it on board.
In the meantime, Machinima is going to have a lot of hard work ahead of them to try to come out of this looking good. There goes any credibility people still thought they had.
Last Updated: January 21, 2014