Steam and Twitch now requiring disclosure of sponsored content

In news that might impact video game clients and the ad agencies who make their ads, and one which wil hopefully effect gamers in a positive way (which we haven't been seeing much as of late) Twitch and Steam are finally catching up to the FTC's more recent updates from last year concerning sponsored content and native advertising, and updating their ToS to reflect the change. Sponsored content. I love that phrase. See the image above? That was sponsored content from like 1957 or something. No one bristled at it then. But now we do everything in our power to try and hide the fact it's an ad until circumstances demand otherwise.

Steam posted some new rules for its curators, telling them this:

"If you’ve accepted money or other compensation for making a product review or for posting a recommendation, you must disclose this fact in your recommendation."

Meanwhile, a blog post on Twitch reflects a desire to be more transparent (that old word again) when it comes to influencer campaigns and their usage.

An increasingly large part of the Gamer/Platform/Media/Advertiser equation, particularly in the video game industry, is what we commonly call “Influencer Campaigns.” Influencer campaigns are one way for an advertiser to leverage the celebrity of a content creator on various video platforms to drive awareness and purchase intent for the advertiser’s brand or product.
For example, an influencer campaign will feature a well-known broadcaster playing a newly released (or sometimes pre-released) title. When done right, this is a win-win for everyone involved: Brands get their games out there, influencers make some money doing what they do best, and viewers are entertained and informed by great content.
Sometimes though, because of a lack of clear best practices and shifting regulatory guidelines, coupled with a sometimes less-than-transparent sponsor relationship, these kinds of campaigns have become a bit of a dark corner in the industry, and that’s bad for everyone.

They end by saying viewers can expect clearly identified sponsored content. They've also included a somewhat helpful link to the FTC's site, specifically regarding testimonials and endorsements in advertising. I say "somewhat" helpful because that particular document only discusses endorsements in a general sense, it doesn't specifically address anything that happens online. For that it would be better to look at the Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices” in the context of the FTC's .com disclosures page, as I believe it is more thorough. It's not just shady practices by influencers we need to worry about, but so-called "native advertising," too.

For instance, according to the FTC, you can't bury your disclosure, you need to make it prominent and easy to see. That applies to your concept of using gamers in general to do your advertising for you.

It is a bit suspect that Twitch is only just now getting around to rectifying this, since they've been owned by Amazon for a few years now, and parent companies are usually much more buttoned up. But I guess we're now used to it thanks to google's own Youtube, who set a precedent for claiming no responsibility. It's the old "even though we built or own the thing,it's just too big for us to police and we won't police it. That is, until someone forces us to. And then we'll drag our feet a few more years."

Speaking of Youtube not necessarily complying with this sentiment of clear and precise wording, gamer and Youtuber Totalbiscuit had this to say in a Twitlonger post.

Seen some of the sponsored content for Shadow of Mordor popping up on Youtube, some of it masquerading as first impressions. Look for disclosure buried in the description, but don't assume anyone who doesnt have it is secretely on the take. It's reasonably unlikely that any sensible channel would forgo disclosure and risk their business over one brand deal (since disclosure is required under FTC regulations). That stuff should be "unavoidable" according to the FTC though ( source ) and clearly some channels havent learned that yet.

I doubt it's less about not having learned it, and more about looking the other way. FYI the same is true outside of the gaming world. Instagram updated its ToS last year but I am willing to bet that some pages fall through the cracks. Not just that but other social sites, too. Terms of Service updates and "calls for transparency" aside, until the FTC really cracks down on these entities it will be business as usual.

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