Microsoft, Machinima strike 'stealth marketing' deal

The companies reportedly have signed an agreement to promote Xbox One on network videos, but questions abound over their tactics.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Microsoft and Machinima, a wildly popular network of video channels online, have been caught in a seemingly strange affair aimed at promoting the Xbox One.

Tech site ArsTechnica on Monday reported that Microsoft and Machinima had signed a "stealth marketing" deal in which the video network's content partners would receive an additional $3 per thousand video views when they featured at least 30 seconds of Xbox One game footage. The content partners would also need to mention the Xbox One by name and use the tag "XB1M13," according to ArsTechnica.

The news came after an image from an e-mail campaign was leaked onto gaming site NeoGAF. That image detailed the deal between the companies.

That Microsoft and Machinima would partner to promote a product is nothing surprising; companies engage in such deals all the time. However, ArsTechnica pointed to a leaked document purported to be the official agreement between the parties that has set the Web ablaze. That agreement requires that the video network providers "not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its games."

The agreement also stipulates that the video personalities cannot make public the deal they have struck.

As Ars points out, that could run afoul of Federal Trade Commission guidelines that require such disclosure. Whether it's an actual violation, however, is unknown. Nonetheless, it's an interesting move that has called into question guerrilla marketing and the possible implications of promoting a product without appearing to do so.

CNET has contacted both Microsoft and Machinima for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.