It has recently emerged that Warner Bros paid various YouTubers, including PewDiePie, to give favourable reviews of the game Shadow of Mordor back in 2014. What, if any, should the role of so-called influencers be in our consumerist society?
The FTC has now ruled that Warner Bros is banned from doing this in future, but no fine was given, so just a slap on the wrist. To be fair, the fact that these were paid reviews was shown, if you knew where to look.
As big companies start to leverage new social media, where should the line be drawn in using so-called ‘influencers’ to build brands and drive sales? Is having some small print during a YouTube video enough to let the public know, or should it be in large print at the start and end, much like TV program sponsorship. But then would you would watch a Movie Review programme that reviewed a Warner Bros movie (eg Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and had sponsored by Warner Bros at the start and end? Maybe you already have and didn’t realise, since they also reviewed other companies movies too…
The movie industry is well known for product placement, where advertisers can pay big bucks to have their product featured favourably in a blockbuster movie, e.g. the hero drinking a can of Pepsi, as opposed to the can or drinks machine just being in the background.
Fast forward to the age of social media and big companies are now spending big money on YouTubers, Instagrammers, Facebookers and Tweeters who will ‘sell’ a product to their fanbase – for a fee. Hell, there’s even a Tumblr account where influencers can post how much they were paid and how promptly so marketing types and influencers alike know the going rate.
These are strange times, where honest opinions seem to be worth nothing, but being a secret mouthpiece for big brands can be very lucrative for both parties as long as neither side gets greedy. How long before the influencer bubble bursts?