Microsoft leverages YouTube content creators for Xbox One praise

In the twenty-first century, advertising seems to find a way to either sneak into our lives or take the more blunt approach and literally pop up in our faces. When we look into Microsoft’s initial advertising campaign for the Xbox One, it has been a vast improvement for public image in relation to the original downfalls and shortcomings of the Xbox Reveal event. The company in Redmond wants to do anything they can to improve that original image – even if it means paying off prominent YouTubers.

The new tactic, which is being touted as Microsoft’s “Stealth Marketing”, is aimed at paying additional incentives to current Machinima video partners. YouTube channels who are already teamed up with the well-known video entertainment company will be able to earn extra dollars per every one thousand views by simply mentioning and promoting the new console.

In detail, partners must post a video that includes thirty seconds or more of Xbox One game footage in which the console’s name is mentioned. Videos that are attempting to take advantage of the once stealthy campaign are tagged “XB1M13”.

The technique doesn’t seem like a bad one, Microsoft and Machinima give YouTubers three extra dollars and their console gets a bit of time in the spotlight, but the story gets a bit unorthodox when looking at the fine print. Studying what is a now leaked copy of the full legal agreement behind the promotion shows that the video creators “may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games.” So if you aren’t a fan of Ryse: Son of Rome – now is not the time to mention it.

Leveraging social media isn’t anything new and it comes down to common sense that if Microsoft is paying you to praise your console, then you probably don’t want to bash them. The question is whether or not Microsoft’s stealthy guerilla tactics will be seen as everyday advertising or something a bit shadier.

What do you think about Microsoft’s latest attempt to advertise the Xbox One?

Update: Microsoft has issued a statement claiming that they didn't know details of the Machinima contracts:

"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."

Source: Arstechnica

Michael Archambault
  • Xbox FTW!
  • I never did make a move on the new consoles. But I am loving my PC I built!
  • Win 7 or 8?
  • Windows 8 now 8.1 after the update. I'm enjoying it quite a lot. And it plays nicely with my surface rt and l920.
  • Dude, my console is a Sega
  • I am planning an Atari party for March
  • Pretty standard practice, to be fair. But as the media loves to bash Microsoft, this standard fare will be spun to death.
  • When the iPhone 2 came out and it went on sale outside America, if a store wanted to range it each one of their employees had to sign a contact saying that they would never say anything bad about Apple or the iPhone to a customer (ever), and if a customer ever even casually mentioned Apple or the iPhone in the sales process we were then not allowed to sell them any competitor products from that point forward. We were at high risk of losing our jobs if we broke the contract. It was ridiculous but the companies wanted to sell the iPhone so much that they made everyone sign it.
  • Just imagine the same practise if done by Google/Samsung, the amount of trolls in this will be overwhelming. But since it MS, it definitely must be legit.  You should read this story:    
  • You're right about that.  It's pretty sickening.  The spin and blind zealotry around here is just off the scale.
  • That's not what I said. This is standard practice and I'd have no issue if other companies were doing the same, so long as the terms are reasonable as they are in this case. Something such as the Apple terms I mentioned above is not reasonable as it's extremely anti-competitive.
  • Seems fair to me... Why should Microsoft pay for negative reviews?
  • Why should Microsoft mislead people in thinking that the YouTube "influencers" opinions are not infact their own opinions? because It's rather unethical and also fairly illegal
  • Unethical maybe. Illegal? Not really.
  • They should state that they are being paid for it, not sure there are any legal issues in this.
  • No, it's not standard practice, they are in fact required by law to disclose this relationship. Your comparison to ales people is apple to oranges and does not apply to this situation.
  • Your article refers to online broadcast television. You'd need to show me legislation that says the FCC can control privately-owned online videos.
  • It's not about control in that respect, it's more like: "Don't play the game by our rules, you don't get our money. We are making this very clear in the TOS so take it or leave it".
  • Sorry, I'm confused -- what do you mean?
  • Xbox WTF!
  • For shame.
  • Good marketing as long as no one knows you are being paid for it.
  • That's illegal.  You are supposed to disclose if you are 'promoting' a product.     
  • Like I said... "As long no one knows you are being paid for it".
    Not saying I condone it especially now lol
  • What about product placement in all movies, tv shows, radio shows, and the news? I never see an indicator saying 'The iPad being used by this character right now is an Ad'. 
  • You'll usually see something to that effect during the end credits. Like "______ was provided by/sponsored by *insert name of company"
  • I've never heard Sean Hannity say that Lifelock paid him to tell you that it's great....
  • They list that sort of thing in the credits.
  • Link or false.  There is no law that requires an ad to be identified as an ad.  If so, half of the internet would be banned.
  • I guess the problem isn't whether it's legal or not, it's that people are being paid/incentive to give a positive review without any criticism (and that might be why it's illegal)
    I stated before that I think it's a great way to market the Xbox however now that everyone knows that you are being paid to tell me how great the Xbox One is you might not be so inclined to tell me any downsides to the Xbox.
  • I found this online: WOM marketing without disclosure is illegal.
    Any form of deceptive word of mouth campaigns are illegal. This include any program where you are: Asking buzzers to recommend your product without disclosing that they are part of a campaign or received and incentive. Falsely representing your employees/agents as consumers. Asking buzzers to claim they like your product when they don't, or never tried it.
  • XBOX ALL THE WAY! I love my Xbox One and even though Sweden was not in the launch territories, I preordered mine from Amazon. Thank you, Microsoft for this wonderful product. (Let the envy flow through you, haters.)
  • All Microsoft has to do is have a google + account and they could use the snuff out of it.
  • That would entail using Google+ - which, gross.
  • This is probably the most pro-Microsoft one of these articles I've seen. haha. Though I suppose its to be expected. Not that it would really effect me anyway, being a PS4 user. Nor do I think it would influence someone to switch sides and buy a One over a PS4, or a certain game.
  • I'd never touch a Sony product but this wouldn't effect me in the slightest, it's stupid YouTube vids, who cares?
  • height of fanboyism
  • Bribing.  That's all it is.  All large media/services/device companies like MS do it.
  • Does that make it okay?
  • It doesn't make it ok, but it's not illegal either (unless they don't disclose it).
  • Which means in this case that it was illegal.
  • "Bribing" aka marketing.
  • Every advertisement is paid for, and not all advertising is traditional. When you are watching tv and someone is drinking a Coke, that has been paid for, and they don't tell you that it is an advertisement. This is just a different way to advertise, effective or not. To try to slam Microsoft for promoting their product, or to imagine that any of their competitors haven't done something similar doesn't make any sense to me. Microsoft just happens to always have a large target on their back. I wouldn't be surprise if any negative press about this tactic wasn't started by one of their competitors or a lonely fanboy.
  • Yes they do tell you, that coke (or whatever) placement is disclosed in the credits.
  • Lol, riiiight. When I watch shows, there is no 2 minute credit at the end that discloses all that info at all. The time slots are packed so tight, usually it goes straight to the next show. And disclosing in any credits is barely effective if at all, no one reads it if they are there.
    All Microsoft is doing is product placement, that's it. I really don't see what the big deal is. Anytime I see a branded product in any video, I assume there is some external motive for it.
  • It reminds me of when Bart gets a job on the Krusty the Klown show, and wants to show his friends his name in the credits to prove it...
  • In retrospect they had no choice. PS4 was comming out and there was no way to release XBOX ONE 6 month after. So they released "beta" product... I love my XBOX One but it was simply too ambitious to be ready in time. Interface is not there yet, voice commands leave a lot to be desired, TV issues for those not in US are too plenty to count...etc etc etc... Once Feb patch comes out system will finally be ready for prime time (hopefully fixing TV voes that many including myself are experiencing) but full potential will not be realized for a year or two untill XBOX One OS finally gets to where it needs to be... In the mean time they needed new console out and people prasing it as much as they can.
  • I don't know were they not ready. The 360 has been out for 8 years. They made the transition from Xbox to Xbox 360 in 4 years. They obviously had the hardware built by E3 of last year. The software should be up to par.  I really love my One, but the one gripe I have is the forced inclusion of an accessory (Kinect). That's a big blunder on Microsoft's part and one that will see the PS4 continue to dominate in sales. 
  • I'm in oposite camp. I think that inclusion of kinetic was defenetly way to go. But SW and control issues are preventing it to raise of full potential. And that's the thing... it's a box full of potential... but SW wise, sadly, it's not there yet...
  • Bundling in the Kinect was the smartest thing they did. It will win them a lot of sales because the Xbox One is infinitely more interesting and useful than the PS4 because of it. Even if you don't want to personally make use of these great features (they are very handy), it is necessary to bundle it in with all consoles so that developers have the incentive to develop for it.
  • This is nothing new, companies have been doing this type of stuff for years. (including MS direct competitors)
    The things people do for money and attention.
    I enjoy the XBO btw.
  • "The things people do for money and attention."   You mean like bribing bloggers for positive PR while ignoring disclosure laws?
  • 1) Microsoft pays Machinima for advertising, Machinima pays for non negative review. 2) I am pretty sure no bloggers are being bribed to go against Microsoft, it is just a requirement to hate Microsoft if you are a blogger. Don't even dare to think that company will pay to push out negative review of the rival company. No.
  • MS, Fix the YouTube app first. Then worry about everything else.
  • You should say that to Google instead. Google blocks all Microsoft attempts with a good YouTube app.
  • Come on, Michael, I expected more from you. Nowhere in these agreements does it say anything about "Microsoft". All of these agreements are between Machinima and their affiliates. In actuality, MS probably just paid Machinima X amount of dollars and Machinima did as they see fit. I was hoping MS wouldn't have the blame on this website, since nowhere is it defined as coming from them, but I must say I'm disappointed.
  • Well, there is/was a partnership between MS and Machinima.  See the update in the ars post...
  • "Any confidentiality provisions, terms, or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima" means that they didn't set these terms, Machinima did, yet everyone is blaming MS.
  • I would have thought that this was something that was easy to understand. However, reading many of the comments means that it apparently isn't. People jump to conclusions far too quickly.
  • Finally, someone who speaks with reason! Thank you, Jas00555. It has been frustrating reading this story on other websites and they're blaming it all on Microsoft based on zero evidence. This article was the fairest of them all. Most of them were completelly irresponsible journalism.
  • The fact you expect more from Michael is amusing lol
  • Isn't this what EA, Ubisoft, Samsung... I dunno ... Probably everyone does?
  • Xbox FTW!! Why the hell not.
  • Ps4 ftw. Have no gripe with the xbox though
  • Standard practice or not, does anyone actually take the blindest bit of notice of what YouTubers say? The major tech and gaming sites perhaps, but not some amateur opinion guffer surely? Considering how much respect from gamers MS has lost since E3 I would have expected them to be a bit more discerning in their PR endeavours.
  • I haven't cared about game sites, online opinions or reviews for years.
  • Move along. Nothing to see here.
  • I will buy an Xbox one when more of the functionality is enabled in the UK, for now the 360 suffices.
  • I don't see the issue, they'll pay you extra if you meet their requirements, they won't if you don't.
  • Lol "leverages". Oh, it what it is "Microsoft pays YouTubers in not-very-legal scheme to promote the Xbone". I don't think anyone in this site will mind that. The blind-fanboys will praise MS even if they were sacrificing young children to produce the console. The others will read it as it is and don't care anyway since almost every company does it.
  • I hope your angst is against every corporation, then, because they all are "guilty" of much the same behavior, over and over again.
  • i am shocked at the level of fanboyism on this webiste bro...go on every other site and everyone is of the same opinion.. its unethical.. machinama has already come out defending their asses on this one.. but everyone here is of the opinion that "Microsoft FTW. XBox FTW.. everyone does it".... when you have to pay people to say something nice about your device that shows that MS is scared.. its too early to judge any console at the moment.. but i think Sony won the 1st battle on the very 1st day of their console anouncement.... and looks like they will be having few more victories under their belt....anyhow.. this was wrong on MS's end...
  • *every* company does this, wouldn't it be stupid if you pay people for bad reviews?
    you know, thats what you do when you make a partnership... you pay to get what you want, and negative comments or bad reviews are excluded. I mean... its clear the point of a partnership in this case.
    its nothing new, and nothing wrong...
    you do everything to get noticed or your product... other companies do worse things, but hey, this is Microsoft so they should be condemned /s oh and of course I have to mention:
    love the lifeless playstation fanboys who come here. I guess ps4 is so amazing that they dont go and play with it but tell their love to everyone... you know, playstation or sony wasnt mentioned once...
  • I have read this story other places too and it's such a non story. I would expect all companies to do stuff like this. This is click bait.
  • I saw this on a few other sites, but I find this piece of info from the Guardian to be the most important to this story: "Described as the “easiest/best promo” Machinima had ever done by the Machinima's UK community manager, terms of the deal specifically blocked disclosure of the payments, according to a leaked copy of the legal agreement. That could breach the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidelines (PDF) for use of endorsements in advertising that require links between endorsers and sellers of the product be disclosed. It might also break Advertising Standards Authority rules on bloggers and paid promotions."
  • If so, that's on Machinima, not Microsoft. Microsoft simply outsourced a marketing campaign to them. The details of the campaign are out of their control. No one will get in trouble here because every company does this guerilla marketing stuff, but if anyone were to get in trouble, it would be Machinima, not Microsoft.
  • I agree, that's why I think it's so important to the story, especially when people are mainly attacking Microsoft. Plus, I've seen similar agreements now from EA, who paid even more to Youtubers than the $3 in this agreement.
  • I really don't see what is wrong with this.  They are paying people to make commercials for them.  COMMERCIALS.  That's what it is.  Instead of a high budget, high production value commercial distributed through traditional means (TV, movie theatre commercials), they are trying out a different approach with low production value low budget but HIGH volume and potentially high distribution to to a targeted audience.   This is not shady.  This is marketing.  Nobody would make a commercial bashing the ones paying for it.  
  • You should check out alphaomegasin on YouTube. Maybe you will change your mind
  • Nowhere did they require praise like most headlines imply. Negative was forbidden if they wanted to get paid, but nothing required it to givve out any opinion one way or another. It couldve been 30s of,DR3 footage and them saying new dlc is coming out and that wouldve sufficed, nothing praising about that. Now if US law forbids that kinda stuff unless you disclose it, then meh, law is law, but I dont really see anything unethical in this.
  • That's actually a wack tactic. If u don't follow suit with their contract then they will take a massive shit down your throat. If the console can't sell its self than that's to bad. Its not that bad of a system, it has its pros and cons
  • I am awfully certain that the legal department at a corporation such as Microsoft is far more versed in complying with disclosure law than anyone on here with access to a search engine. Simmer down.
  • Can I just get a dollar off some games and I'll post all sorts of things online..? Lol =P