An arrangement between Microsoft and Machinima video partners in which positive or neutral coverage is awarded with extra pay has come to light via a leaked copy of the campaign agreement.
According to the agreement’s terms, participants who produce videos featuring at least 30 seconds of Xbox One gameplay footage within the first two minutes and verbal mention of the console would earn the video producers an $3 CPM bonus—an additional $3 per thousand views. The agreement outlines that said coverage, however, must not include “anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games” in the campaign videos.
The issue at hand is that this requirement may violate the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s endorsement guides, which state that “when there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.”
The campaign agreement, however, requires participants “agree to keep confidental at all times all matters relating to this Agreement, including, without limitation, the Promotional Requirements,” meaning that producers could not divulge to viewers that they are being awarded a bonus for curbing their Xbox One coverage in favor of a neutral or even positive tone.
According to Machinima’s activity feed on Poptent, a similar campaign arrangement was held late last year, following the Xbox One’s launch in November.
In response similar reports on the matter, Microsoft and Machinima sent the following prepared statement to various outlets:
“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.”