Blogs: Mrs. O Blog and the FTC's Double Standards
Oct 27 2009
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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