UPDATE: Both Microsoft and Machinima have responded and neither side is claiming responsibility. Microsoft said they were “not aware” of the contracts that Machinima handed out, and Machinima says they’re not sure why full disclosure wasn’t mandatory for this particular promotion, as it has been in past Machinima YouTube promotions. You can read their full responses after the jump.
ORIGINAL: It appears as if popular YouTube channel Machinima recently partnered with Microsoft to offer a promotion to YouTubers. This was first uncovered by website Ars Technica, who managed to get hold of a copy of the legal agreement that participating YouTubers had to enter into with Machinma and Microsoft.
Apparently, the promotion offered YouTubers payment of $3 for every thousand views of video content that showed Xbox One gameplay, mentioned the Xbox One and include the tag “XB1M13”. The gameplay footage needed to be no less than 30 seconds long, and could have been worked into any video game coverage the YouTuber wanted to produce.
While that doesn’t sound particularly dicey considering one doesn’t need to look far to find YouTube channels that are sponsored and paid for by other companies, it becomes a lot more suspicious once certain sections of that leaked contract are highlighted.
According to the contract, any YouTuber participating in the promotion could “not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games”. What’s more, the document stipulated that the details of the contract had to remain confidential. Basically this: you have to talk about the console and a game in a positive light and we’ll pay you for doing so but only if you don’t tell people we’re paying you.
Interestingly, this promotion began on 14 January and ended two days later. According to e-mails that Ars Technica acquired, Microsoft only agreed to pay for the first 1.25 million views, which means they only gave this campaign a budget of $3, 750. While that’s not exactly a lot of money, the method of marketing is somewhat suspect and once again raises questions about the validity of game coverage across different mediums. As Ars Technica points out, this type of marketing will probably increase over time as more and more people utilise ad blockers to bypass traditional online advertising, forcing companies like Microsoft to resort to other means of marketing their products.
Since this became public, Machinma’s UK community manager has deleted a Tweet that pushed YouTubers to participate. Neither Microsoft or Machinma has issued a statement, but we’ll update this if that changes.
What do you think? Is this a storm in a teacup? Is it indicative of the future of online marketing? Is this something that leaves a sour taste in your mouth? Let us know below.
UPDATES: Below is Machinima’s response:
We execute large network wide activations routinely and, where part of a promotional campaign, typically require channel partners to include certain language in their video content relating to the promotion. That didn’t happen here and we’re evaluating why. All participants are being asked today to include our standard language going-forward. We apologize for the error and any confusion.
And here’s Microsoft’s response:
Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts Machinima had with their content providers as part of this promotion and we didn’t provide feedback on any of the videos. We have asked Machinima to not post any additional Xbox One content as part of this media buy and we have asked them to add disclaimers to the videos that were part of this program indicating they were part of paid advertising.