Earlier this week, it was revealed Warner Bros. Interactive had settled charges filed by the FTC that suggested the publisher had “deceived consumers” during its Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor marketing campaign. The complaint alleged WBIE had failed to “adequately disclose” payments of “hundreds to tens of thousands” of dollars to “online influencers".
Prominent YouTube personality Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg was the only so-called influencer referred to in the statement by name. He's since responded with the following video:
“A lot of YouTubers were involved in this sponsorship,” says Kjellberg above. “But since my name is the biggest YouTuber, my name is the only one that pops up. Basically what happened was that we weren’t required to disclose. I still did it. Some other YouTubers actually didn’t disclose.”
The FTC statement suggests Warner Bros. “instructed influencers to place the disclosures in the description box appearing below the video” and not the video itself. Incidentally, this means whenever the video is shared on other platforms besides YouTube—embedded on websites, Facebook or Twitter, for example—the disclosure is not present at all.
Kjellberg references this above. “Yes, I could’ve disclosed it better. I could have put it above the fold,” he says, however later points out that the FTC guidelines didn’t come into play until 2015, while the video under scrutiny was filmed the year prior.
“Basically, all of these news articles are using me as a clickbait, putting my name to shame, when I didn't even do anything wrong," he continues. “Back then [before 2015], YouTube paid promotion was a bit of a grey area, nevertheless I still disclaimed it. Today, I make a verbal mention before the video begins, and the top line of the description mentions it as well.”
Ultimately, the FTC is not actually imposing any penalties on Warner, beyond an astringent warning. Kjellberg however concludes by asking people to “see past the headlines.” He adds: "If I did something wrong, I should be paying the consequences. In this case, I don't think I did anything wrong."