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Blogs: Mrs. O Blog and the FTC's Double Standards

Oct 27 2009

Mrs.O Blog:FTC

Isn't it ironic that under the new FTC disclosure rules, the bloggers who receive a review copy of Mary Tomer's book Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy (Hachette) have to disclose it but Mary Tomer who received funding for her blog from her employer Bartle Bogle Hegarty has no such requirement? Shouldn't blogs with close ties to corporate interests be required to disclose this upfront?

While press reviews mention that the author Mary Tomer is employed by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, they stop short of disclosing that the Mrs.O blog is in fact funded by Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Not one press reference I've read about the book including WWD makes mention of this fact or that all the blog's contributors are in some way connected to Bartle Bogle Hegarty either as employees of the agency or free-lance writers. In fact, many readers believe that Mrs. O is merely another blog written by fashion-obsessed fan of the First Lady. In reality, it was set up for the purposes of illustrating to would-be clients the power of the blogosphere as a tool for brand building.

Since the revelation of their true purpose by the New York Times and the angry reaction of many throughout the blogging community, they have in fact updated their "About" page to include that tidbit of information. To my knowledge, while they did add a brief disclosure statement to their "about" page, they did so quietly and without fanfare. Unless regular readers are in the habit of checking the blog's "About" page from time to time, I doubt they know. In fact, I would be very curious to know just how many of their faithful readers actually know about their real purpose even now.

To be perfectly clear, given the increasing authority of blogs and other forms of social media on consumer buying behaviors, I think disclosure rules are indeed necessary. But surely if the FTC considers it important for bloggers to disclose receipt of perfume samples, they should feel just as strongly about bloggers who receive corporate funding for their activities. So, why the double standard?


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Dear Mary:

With all due respect, you only revealed the nature of "BBH's support" after the NY Times article was published and you drew fire from the Blogosphere. Up until then, your blog had meticulously avoided any mention of your connection to BBH or to the source of your funding.

Further, when you did eventually add a mention in your blog's "About" page, you did so ever so quietly and without ever drawing the attention of your readers to that change. I know because prior to publishing a piece on the growing trust placed by consumers on User Generated Content back in April, I meticulously went through your blog's archives to ensure I wasn't being unfair to you. If I somehow missed your announcement or overlooked it, please do let me know.

It may very well be that your readers don't care about your blog's financial ties to BBH but they deserve to know. If it's important for consumers to know that their favorite blogger received a free lipgloss sample, then it stands to reason that it's important for them to know that their favorite blog is funded through corporate interests.


Dear LC, the United States is an oligarchic plutocracy. Any pretence of a democracy is, at this point, a charade. Anything that benefits corporations and big business is good, anything that benefits regular, everyday people is bad. I'm not in the least bit surpised by the FTC's double standard.

Hi, I wanted you to know that I explain BBH's support and involvement with in every interview I give, but it's up to the journalist to include this information in the subsequent article. Best, Mary "Mrs. T"

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