Update: Microsoft And Machinima Defend YouTube Promotion Deal

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Update: Microsoft And Machinima Defend YouTube Promotion Deal

xbox one machinma promotion 01

Both Microsoft and Machinima claim the deal, which paid YouTubers to present the Xbox One in a positive light, was nothing unusual.

Update: Machinima has issued a separate statement apologizing for how the deal went down, stating that it typically requires channel partners to include certain language in their video content relating to its promotions.

"That didn't happen here and we're evaluating why," the statement said. "All participants are being asked today to include our standard language going-forward. We apologize for the error and any confusion."

Source: Wall Street Journal

Original Story: Earlier in the week, Neogaf uncovered a rather sinister promotional deal between Microsoft and Machinima, in which Machinima would pay out a bonus to video makers who put the Xbox One in a positive light. Now, both Microsoft and Machinima have commented on the deal, saying that it was a 'typical marketing partnership,' and that these kinds of deals are common.

The two companies' join statement was as follows:

"This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content. Any confidentiality provisions, terms or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion."

The last part, about the confidentiality agreement, is particularly important, as it was previously assumed to mean that video producers were not allowed to say that they were being paid by Machinima to promote the Xbox One.

Under the deal, video producers would receive an extra $3 per thousand views, as long as they made a video that used Xbox One footage, was at least 30 seconds long, mentioned the console by name, and did not present Machinima, Microsoft, or the Xbox One in a negative light. The program was capped at 1.25 million total views, so the maximum combined payout was $3,750.

Source: Polygon

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The deal is not the problem, the problem is the NDA that effectively forces you to A) like to your viewers and B) Break US law. And no its not to cover the agreement it clearly states you cannot disclose that its a promotional /paid video.

Really, I think Microsoft has shot themselves in the foot (yet again) with this one.

Now whenever a video reviewer says something positive about the xbone people will just assume they're being bribed, regardless of whether or not the reviewer genuinely liked the console or game.

The problem was the poor attempt at deception. These videos will essentially be commercial videos in an arena that is traditionally assumed to consist of honest community based content. "Paint in a positive light" is basically Microsoft paying individuals that are supposed to represent grass-roots consumer views to lie to their viewers.

It's the fact that Microsoft assumes it can buy opinion that makes people uncomfortable, the attempt at a collective lie that the Xbone is not a consumer hating pile of micro-transactions and questionable pricing models.

Genocidicles:
Really, I think Microsoft has shot themselves in the foot (yet again) with this one.

Now whenever a video reviewer says something positive about the xbone people will just assume they're being bribed, regardless of whether or not the reviewer genuinely liked the console or game.

Totally! and hell, who's to say Sony hasn't been doing the same thing? guess the only news on YouTube you can trust is about Nintendo since they hate YouTube :P

Well no it's not unusual to you fucker because you just told us this slimy shit has been going on the whole time, but it is quite unusual to us since you never disclosed that extremely important titbit of information for a company that always defended it's content as independent and not influenced, or in short you are a lying bag of male genitalia.

Apparently what you are doing is also illegal under new FTC brand disclosure regulations... so perhaps that will jog your "morals".

zellosoli:

Genocidicles:
Really, I think Microsoft has shot themselves in the foot (yet again) with this one.

Now whenever a video reviewer says something positive about the xbone people will just assume they're being bribed, regardless of whether or not the reviewer genuinely liked the console or game.

Totally! and hell, who's to say Sony hasn't been doing the same thing? guess the only news on YouTube you can trust is about Nintendo since they hate YouTube :P

That, and the fact that they show such little confidence in the product that they resort to bribery. For shame console peasants, for shame.

Scrumpmonkey:
The problem was the poor attempt at deception. These videos will essentially be commercial videos in an arena that is traditionally assumed to consist of honest community based content. "Paint in a positive light" is basically Microsoft paying individuals that are supposed to represent grass-roots consumer views to lie to their viewers.

It's the fact that Microsoft assumes it can buy opinion that makes people uncomfortable, the attempt at a collective lie that the Xbone is not a consumer hating pile of micro-transactions and questionable pricing models.

Except that this isn't really true, which was reveled be recent updates recently summarized by his husky gentleman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CnSIJJNjIs

Basically, this is on Machinima.

Edit: how the hell do you embed things in this forum? Nvm, I'll just drop the link...

TomWiley:
Edit: how the hell do you embed things in this forum? Nvm, I'll just drop the link...

For youtube videos do this minus the spaces:

[ youtube = ###### ]

Where ##### is the part of the url after 'watch?v='

So your video would be

[ youtube = 9CnSIJJNjIs ]

I hope that helps.

OT: I think this is probably going to backfire for Microsoft in that people now know they have been buying positive opinions. No doubt they have given a few reviewers/websites a 'goody bag' for their reviews on Xbone titles.

If the system was all Microsoft claims it's cracked up to be, it wouldn't have to resort to bribing people to fool others into thinking it's a better system than it is.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure Steam never had a problem just being itself, being awesome, and having people legitimately tell others to join the service without having to take Valve's money to do so.

It surprises me that people are actually surprised about this... It was bound to happen, sooner or later.

Reviews have always had an impact on consumer choice, and when provided with a means to influence reviews, marketers will do so. It makes sense from a business perspective both to marketers and to reviewers. It's easy to claim that the reviewers are "selling out", but lets keep in mind that, for many, the money they make off of their videos is their only form of income. It's hard to turn down a chance to earn a bigger salary (which immediately translates to solving many problems of your day to day life).

Now, I'm not saying I think this is morally acceptable. I find the tendency of market forces to simply buy out their respective markets morally repulsive, and detrimental to the market at large.

I just say that such developments, in absence of proper regulations, are not only possible, but totally expected.

There are two ways to solve this issue:

a) Never take any information on a product at face value, and make an effort to check different sources and do some work by yourself to determine the validity of the review's claims.

b) Push for actual regulation (yes, that means political activism) that ensures a level playing field and punishes marketers who knowingly use deception to bolster sales.

Ideally, both options should be exercised. Sadly, the first option will be invalidated by most people having a irrational "loyalty" to the reviewers they follow, and the second option will be ignored because most people seem to think laws and regulations only serve to further oppression, instead of having an actual valid use (when properly implemented).

Oh, and both options require more effort than just posting on a forum like I'm doing right now. :(

Wow... I bet IGN is mad that Machinima is stealing their Micro$oft money..... BAHAHAH!
I am just glad that somewhere someone let this little gem slip. I know people have been crying about companies/websites being bought out for positive reviews but it is always nice to see it really is happening, and not just a load of bullshit.

Great job MS on saying this is normal for you too!!!!

Isn't this type of advertising illegal?

I'm pretty sure if you pay somebody to advertise for you then it is a requirement to dislose the relationship between the advertiser and the person who is employing them, otherwise it is not clear that it is advertising and it looks like you are paying people to say something is their personal opinion when it is not.

The fact that it is stated in the contract that you cannot mention the fact that you are being payed for the comments or from whom makes it an obvious breach of trading standards.

alj:
The deal is not the problem, the problem is the NDA that effectively forces you to A) like to your viewers and B) Break US law. And no its not to cover the agreement it clearly states you cannot disclose that its a promotional /paid video.

Gold star for you, head of the class, you win, game over, gnite everybody!

Really really sceevy filthy stuff this NDA nm the fact it was sheer illegal.

Anthadlas Babyeater:
Isn't this type of advertising illegal?

I'm pretty sure if you pay somebody to advertise for you then it is a requirement to dislose the relationship between the advertiser and the person who is employing them, otherwise it is not clear that it is advertising and it looks like you are paying people to say something is their personal opinion when it is not.

The fact that it is stated in the contract that you cannot mention the fact that you are being payed for the comments or from whom makes it an obvious breach of trading standards.

Under the new FTC disclosure regulation law, yes this is illegal because they're not disclosing.

I find the cap to be the most interesting bit (I lack the legal knowledge to comment on the subtleties). $3750? Microsoft is being seriously cheapass here.

There was a major shit storm going down on Machinima yesterday, I saw a screenie that someone posted and Reddit and people were less than impressed to put it mildly.

My youtube channel is partnered with a fairly major group and I have to say that this kind of thing is VERY common. Usually the partner will approach the channel with the offer (or just let all their partnered channels know.) and it is up to you whether or not you want to partake. Personally I never have since I'm not really looking to advertise anything, but I don't see anything wrong with it. Viewers are generally savvy enough these days to know when their being pitched something, so it's kinda up to them if they want to continually view the content of someone who is trying to sell them on an idea.

Anyone who works relatively close to the entertainment industry could probably tell you that this stuff is WAY more common than you may think. I don't really have a personal stand on whether it's good or bad, but if you remain an informed consumer then you probably don't have a whole lot to worry about.

JarinArenos:
I find the cap to be the most interesting bit (I lack the legal knowledge to comment on the subtleties). $3750? Microsoft is being seriously cheapass here.

Cheap payouts for a cheap ass console. sounds about right.

I still love it though, Microsoft has to fucking bribe people to say that the console is good.

Scrumpmonkey:
The problem was the poor attempt at deception. These videos will essentially be commercial videos in an arena that is traditionally assumed to consist of honest community based content. "Paint in a positive light" is basically Microsoft paying individuals that are supposed to represent grass-roots consumer views to lie to their viewers.

It's the fact that Microsoft assumes it can buy opinion that makes people uncomfortable, the attempt at a collective lie that the Xbone is not a consumer hating pile of micro-transactions and questionable pricing models.

I'm not sure their defense of "this is actually common" helps any, either. It brings them further into question and possibly indicts the industry as a whole. It makes me wonder, too: if they knew we were unhappy with them doing it here, what made them think we'd be happy with the notion of this as SOP?

I'm trying to wrap my head around this one. So, are youtubers being paid to give positive reviews, or just to show footage? If they just go "Here's the content, you judge for yourself" then I suppose it's fine. The only problems come when people start lying or misinforming.

Why would they forbid mentioning the contractual details via non disclosure agreement?
This kinda shit is pretty reprehensible and if lying to their audience is "typical" for machinima then I want nothing to do with them.

Part of the promotion was to not say anything bad about the Xbox One. That instantly taints every single one of your employee's who took money from it - even if they had legitimately liked the Xbox One, it gives everyone involved an aura of tainted opinions.

Giving money for someones opinions isn't that bad of a thing. Its expected. Opinion leaders have been doing it for decades. Logical people are okay with it.

As soon as you start saying "BUT, you only get this if you say something nice about it," you're violating ethics. Oh, and doesn't keeping sponsorships hidden violate the Federal Trade Commissions law?

CriticalMiss:

TomWiley:
Edit: how the hell do you embed things in this forum? Nvm, I'll just drop the link...

For youtube videos do this minus the spaces:

[ youtube = ###### ]

Where ##### is the part of the url after 'watch?v='

So your video would be

[ youtube = 9CnSIJJNjIs ]

I hope that helps.

OT: I think this is probably going to backfire for Microsoft in that people now know they have been buying positive opinions. No doubt they have given a few reviewers/websites a 'goody bag' for their reviews on Xbone titles.

Not to sound naive or anything, but is there any real evidence of Microsoft or any other company in the gaming industry actually directly bribing people to say positive things about their products, whilst telling them to lie about and hide their involvement?

Advertising and promotion, as well as indirect "bribes" such as Microsoft and Sony sending youtubers free consoles and games with no agreement involved, doesn't count.

I'm glad I have integrity myself and am not partnered whatsoever so I won't fall to this kind of foolishness.

Nothing unusual?

Doesn't that mean it's even worse? That not only is this not a one off occurrance, but that it's commonplace?

Then again, I can't see them fooling many people. Machinima has not been a force for good in videogaming for a very long time now.

sageoftruth:
I'm trying to wrap my head around this one. So, are youtubers being paid to give positive reviews, or just to show footage? If they just go "Here's the content, you judge for yourself" then I suppose it's fine. The only problems come when people start lying or misinforming.

From what I know of watching TotalBiscuit's video on the matter, the video has to mention the Xbone by name, show thirty seconds of Xbone footage, and include some sort of keyword in the video tags, or whatever they are.

Loop Stricken:

sageoftruth:
I'm trying to wrap my head around this one. So, are youtubers being paid to give positive reviews, or just to show footage? If they just go "Here's the content, you judge for yourself" then I suppose it's fine. The only problems come when people start lying or misinforming.

From what I know of watching TotalBiscuit's video on the matter, the video has to mention the Xbone by name, show thirty seconds of Xbone footage, and include some sort of keyword in the video tags, or whatever they are.

Total Biscuit has, as usual, a great analysis of the situation on his YouTube channel. It's worth watching. Among other things he addresses the legality of paying somebody for promoting a product but not allowing them to disclose their interest in the matter.

To add to that: he suggests that not disclosing the promotional deal might cause the youtuber to fall foul of US law. I have no idea if that applies in other countries or not, but it seems pretty shady to me. I'd be surprised if you can legally take money for promoting a particular product but not disclose your interest in it. Films made in the UK still have the sponsor credits at the end of them, for example.

I am so thoroughly sick of this non news story now
Content creators on social platforms paid to at the very least mention a product, they don't even have to say anything postive or negative merely mention it and use some footage, it raises awareness of the product it doesn't need to be positive or negative.

I have no doubt that basically every single company in the world trying to tell a product has done a similar thing, if indeed it is a shady practice then it's unfair to merely target one specific company for doing it...

Gee. That's contemptible and despicable!

"This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December.

...If that's true, then...

Gee! More than one company has been contemptible and despicable!

...Also, by signing off on it as "typical", Microsoft has just effectively surrendered any credible claim that they don't share responsibility for it.

Can we stop pretending that something being "industry standard"- especially when similar terms are used by a company large enough that they could make such a claim solely on the basis of their employing the tactic so described- is an excuse for doing something rotten? Industry standard toxic dumping still kills the fish, industry-standard third-world manufacturing still employs children to work on machines that cut off their arms, and industry standard deceptive back-door advertising is still lying to the people whose loyalty you hope to earn.

llamastorm.games:
I am so thoroughly sick of this non news story now
Content creators on social platforms paid to at the very least mention a product, they don't even have to say anything postive or negative merely mention it and use some footage, it raises awareness of the product it doesn't need to be positive or negative.

I have no doubt that basically every single company in the world trying to tell a product has done a similar thing, if indeed it is a shady practice then it's unfair to merely target one specific company for doing it...

Wrong. Just. Wrong.

the terms of the contract mean that you CANNOT say anything negative about The Bone, Microsoft or Machinima, cannot mention the contract ever(Illegal under the FTC regulations), must namedrop The Bone, and must show 30s of Bone footage.

This does not just "Raise Awareness" this is flat out illegal propoganda. And if other companies do it I hope it comes out so we can flay them alive but right now only Microsoft is known to have done this so the data only says Microsoft are crooks who need to buy people's opinions on The Bone to get anything positive said.

TomWiley:

Scrumpmonkey:
The problem was the poor attempt at deception. These videos will essentially be commercial videos in an arena that is traditionally assumed to consist of honest community based content. "Paint in a positive light" is basically Microsoft paying individuals that are supposed to represent grass-roots consumer views to lie to their viewers.

It's the fact that Microsoft assumes it can buy opinion that makes people uncomfortable, the attempt at a collective lie that the Xbone is not a consumer hating pile of micro-transactions and questionable pricing models.

Except that this isn't really true, which was reveled be recent updates recently summarized by his husky gentleman.

Basically, this is on Machinima.

The question that crops up for me is 'what motive would lead Machinima to contract like so completely out of favor of themselves'? They're the ones with a closer finger to the pulse of the community (why else would Microsoft approach them with marketing incentives?); from what Boogie is saying, essentially, Machinima puts up an NDA...on themselves???

Best case scenario, and excluding boop-ups (an outside PR company was mentioned), there's just too much stupid shit going on to even pin this solely on Machinima (until more details come to light).

I'll pick out some things that are pretty universally clear:
- Microsoft is giving out money in hopes to improve their image (AKA marketing)
- A Youtube commentary channel, which bases its following in the integrity of its commentators is involved
- There's an NDA in place.

I was expecting to be hearing a lot more about YouTube's faulty copyright bots that illegally shut down anything they recognize. Surely, that would've undoubtedly happened, as well. In fact, I'd be surprised if it hadn't already!

TomWiley:

Not to sound naive or anything, but is there any real evidence of Microsoft or any other company in the gaming industry actually directly bribing people to say positive things about their products, whilst telling them to lie about and hide their involvement?

Advertising and promotion, as well as indirect "bribes" such as Microsoft and Sony sending youtubers free consoles and games with no agreement involved, doesn't count.

I don't know about the others, but historically for Microsoft the OOXML fiasco from 10 years ago is a pretty big black mark on the company for this sort of shady dealing.

One who really shot themselves in the foot would be machinima. They destroy their own market. Why would i watch game critiques when they may or may have been bought by companies. If i can't trust the reviews they become useless, so i want watch them.
The same thing happened with the print media video gaming mags. A little conflict of interest as well here, videogame companies advertised in magazines who reviewed their games and the magazines felt obliged to maybe review some games not quite as critical.
Possibly pressed by companies. Videogaming magazines where feeling pressure by the internet so they gave into the pressure and then became completely useless. If all i can get is biased reviews, i might as well read ten on the internet for free instead of paying for another one.

That wasn't that long ago and some people at machinima may have worked at a dying videogaming mag...

About Microsoft and Machinima defending such practises:
Well, if you take a closer look at it, the black plague wasn't so bad.

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