Blogs for sale

Last week’s Brooklyn Blogfest made headlines when it was uncovered that event sponsor Absolut Vodka gave gifts and promotional exposure in exchange for editorial coverage from bloggers who neglected to disclose ties to Absolut.  The ad campaign, created by New York’s Ketchum agency, promotes a special edition Absolut Brooklyn beverage endorsed by Spike Lee, who was also a guest speaker at Blogfest.  The ensuing backlash has invigorated discussion on ethics in the relatively nascent medium of branded blogging.

Last year the FTC published new guidelines for bloggers stating that “’material connections’ (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed.”  The commission investigated Ann Taylor earlier this year for a LOFT campaign that offered bloggers gift certificates in exchange for proof of editorial coverage.  While no fines were issued, the case is largely viewed as a warning to companies to take the lead in ensuring that participating bloggers disclose the nature of branded campaign.

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