The Internet is full of ads so gaming companies are using dubious tactics to cut through the noise. Case in point: Microsoft and EA games are working with Multichannel Channel Networks on YouTube to turn entire videos into ads. This new form of payola undermines the credibility of the YouTube creators and, ultimately, the ability their to generate and leverage the trust necessary to build viewer engagement.
Embedded advertising has been around since the Flintstones smoked Winston cigarettes during the commercial breaks. Product placement is sewn throughout TV shows, movies, music videos and more. So why is the MCN deal with gaming companies any different? Largely because YouTube gaming reviewers build an audience through credibility and they give a lot of airtime to new games and consoles.
In one example, Microsoft made an agreement with MCN Machinima containing a non-disclosure agreement that the video creators could only disclose paid placement using the video tag “XB1M13.” Understandably this has backfired, and not only are users discussing the shady deal, but discussions have overrun the paid content on the tag.
The credibility of the reviewer is tied directly to viewership statistics and thus their income. So promoting the Xbox One through this kind of agreement could be very damaging if the viewers feel conned. And the agreement that “you may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One or any of its Games in your Campaign video” robs anyone receiving payment of the opportunity to speak out against it, or the Xbox One.
YouTube user and game reviewer boogie2988 released a video laying out how things should be, and how he’ll be doing things going forward. “It’s not fair to you when YouTubers are not being open and are not being transparent about them getting paid,” he said. “The basis of the system needs to be transparency, openness and honesty.”
YouTube is still struggling down two paths, but some users care enough about their audiences to speak out against shady deals and bad practices.
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