EA is requiring streamers and influencers promoting sponsored content of its games to clearly mark it with two new hashtags and watermarks, in an effort to comply with greater Federal Trade Commission scrutiny.
The response comes at a time when the FTC is cracking down on transparency between influencers and creators hosting sponsored content with the public. EA has come under fire before for not properly disclosing that it had sponsored content with some of the biggest YouTubers, streamers and other influencers. In 2014, it was revealed that EA was paying video producers to create content about games like Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed Rivals through its Ronku program.
According to EA at the time, some fans were compensated for their videos, but a representative told The Verge that the “program requires that participants comply with FTC guidelines and identify when content is sponsored.”
On EA’s German blog, pointed out by Neogaf user w3bba, EA details the measures creators must take when publishing sponsored content. The first hashtag, #supportedbyEA, refers to any content that was created with support by EA. For example, if the streamer or “influencer” was invited out to an event by the publisher with additional support, like the costs of travel covered. Using this hashtag is a way to convey to the public that although the video or other content was created with external help from the publisher, EA did not have any say in editorial or design of the final product. The content was created independently, without any input from EA.
The second hashtag, a simple #advertisement, must be used whenever content is published that had direct editorial say or influence from EA. Furthermore, if the creation itself was created by EA, the hashtag must be used to give viewers full transparency about the content they’re seeing.
“EA requires that content creators who are posting sponsored content disclose their relationship with EA to their followers,” an EA representative told Polygon. “Rules may vary slightly by region, but we want to ensure our players are aware when content is sponsored.”
To make that even more apparent, EA has provided two new watermarks that have to appear on videos or other sponsored content. Like the hashtags, one states that the content was created in support with EA while the other one lists it as an advertisement for the company. They can be seen below.
The company also stated on its blog that influencer marketing, like YouTube videos and livestreams on Twitch, have become a crucial part of publicity campaigns. Like other areas, such as film and television, viewers must be aware of the difference between independent content and sponsored content.
“Any YouTuber, Streamer or otherwise active Influencer who enters into a collaboration with Electronic Arts in their content creation and does not yet use their own labeling system, is now requested to use our hashtags and watermarks,” the blog post reads.
It’s not just an issue that affects EA, either. Earlier this year, Warner Bros. Entertainment reached a settlement with the FTC over charges that the publisher paid some content creators, like popular YouTube star PewDiePie, to endorse its game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordow without properly disclosing that it was sponsored content back in 2014. Warner Bros. had ultimate approval over each video and the FTC alleged that at least one of them didn’t follow proper disclosure guidelines, which could have mislead viewers.
EA has asked that content creators publishing sponsored content use the hashtags and watermarks starting immediately.