Microsoft In Hot Water After YouTube Stealth Marketing Stunt Backfires

/ 3 years ago


Microsoft have played a dirty trick on the gaming community and while I imagine this kind of move is not uncommon in the world of advertising, it didn’t take long to be called out when they tried to fool gamers. Basically, Microsoft have been paying bloggers to post favourable videos about Xbox One, in effect the bloggers were taking bribes.

The idea is that the video would need to contain at least 30 seconds of Xbox One game footage and for the tag “XB1M13” on the massively popular Machinima YouTube gaming channel, which has sparked a huge wave of complaints, as well as confessions from many YouTube video creators, as well as a more than headed discussion on the related Facebook posts, Reddit, N4G and many other forums.

Video makes were able to feature the content for at least the prescribed time, including the aforementioned tag and it had to be in either a neutral or positive light, say something negative and you won’t get paid… not exactly the format that works in the review community at all. It was easy money for video makers and in many ways I don’t blame few people for wanting a few extra dollars for a days work, they’re only human after all. Machinima’s UK community manager ever described the PR stunt as the “easiest / best promo” they had ever done.

The terms of the deal specifically blocked disclosure of payments, but a leaked copy of the legal contract does shed some light on the situation. Those involved may have to face more than public backlash too as it could breach the US Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for endorsements and advertising, as they didn’t disclose what they were doing, and it may even break the Advertising Standards Authority rules that govern bloggers and video makers.

Over 7,000 videos have been tagged XB1M13, still racking up views and we expect still earning money. Most of the feedback so far has been about how these channels have sold out, with many stating that they came for honest personal opinion, not an advertisement.

The heat from this one will likely take a while to die down. Many people won’t really care, but we suspect many users have already unsubscribed from the offending services.

Thank you The Guardian and Igameresponsibly for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Igameresponsibly.

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  • NotJustSomeIdiot

    It is just marketing. They don’t say it has to be all positive things they say and show, only that they show something to get publicity. This shouldn’t even be news.

    • I know Wut you did Last Winter

      I think you didn’t read it since yeah they don’t say it has to be all positive but there shouldn’t be any negative. THIS Part: It’s not a honest review without negative or cons at all.

      ” it had to be in either a neutral or positive light, say something negative and you won’t get paid”

  • Peter Dreyer

    Why is that they had to pay these bloggers to promote their product? I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that everyone would already know that they’re recording a game on an Xbox One, especially if they’re playing an exclusive title. I’d imagine that if the Xbox One is really as great as Microsoft says it is, then people wouldn’t need to be misled into buying it.