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Is a PewDiePie video a commercial or an independent review? That's what the Federal Trade Commission wants to make sure Warner Bros. Home Entertainment makes clear after settling with the agency over charges of not disclosing who they paid to advertise a 2014 video game. Warner Bros. was slammed by the FTC for not clearly representing that Felix Kjellberg (popularly known on YouTube as PewDiePie) and other online "influencers" were paid as part of a marketing campaign for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Those involved in the campaign were paid between hundreds to thousands of dollars for their participation, created sponsored videos that garnered more than 5.5 million views, received advance-release copies of the game and were told how to promote it. The arrangement required the influencers to promote the game positively, and to not disclose any bugs or glitches found while playing. View the full article
A commissioner at the US Federal Trade Commission who is leaving the agency after six years of working on consumer privacy issues has some critical words for the ad industry. Speaking with Ad Age, departing FTC commissioner Julie Brill lamented the current state of consumer tracking and data collection on the web, linking the rampant rise of ad blockers with the ad industry's foot-dragging and non-cooperation in the commission's efforts to create privacy systems based on user consent. "We've seen an incredible rise in consumers taking matters into their own hands, which is precisely what I said would happen back then," said Brill, who has tackled a host of consumer privacy issues during her tenure at the FTC. Like many critics, Brill points to Do Not Track, the failed system meant to allow consumers to opt-out of invasive tracking by flagging their browsers, which the ad industry fought tooth-and-nail and eventually killed by ignoring the flags outright. She says that the industry's resistance to doing things the “easy” way is at least partly to blame for the consumer response. View the full article