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Agencies and Brands To Bloggers: DO NOT Disclose

Recently I’ve heard a fair number of bloggers say that there are companies out there agencies and brands both specifically asking bloggers to violate FTC Guidelines for bloggers.

Yes, really.

As I’m sure you know, in 2009 the FTC instituted a new set of guidelines, some of which pertain specifically to bloggers. Those rules state it very clearly:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers connections that consumers would not expect must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

The emphasis there is mine. It is VERY specific and very clear: bloggers MUST disclose.

So why are companies asking them not to?

Here is an example of an email Jennifer of MommyB Knows Best (I’ve redacted some elements):

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for getting back to me.

To clarify, I understand that you have never used our services, and as a result we are not looking for you to give us an endorsement. The primary goal of this partnership would be for you to mention us in your blog. The post doesn’t need to be ABOUT us, just to include a mention of us.

Here is a recent example from another blogger: [redacted]

If you can link the keyword [redacted] as naturally as possible, that would be great. If you have any difficulty placing this in a post,please let me know if you would like some ideas. I also encourage you to poke around our web page if you want to get a better idea about what we do.

In exchange for placing the keyword within the post, I can give you $55 through PayPal. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in!

I do require that there be no disclaimer at the end of the post saying that this is a sponsored post.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask!

Best,
[redacted]

It doesn’t end there. Rachee of Say It RahShay was told that when she did a product review, “Positive reviews will be given more of the product.” Stephanie of Confessions of a Stay At Home Mom told me, “I’ve been pitched several times in this manner, but one company representing a brand blatantly asked for reviews of only a positive nature and no disclosure (no negative reviews please)…if you stand by your brand and make quality stuff, do you even need to worry about negative reviews? Why resort to being sneaky with no disclosures?”

Good question.Interesting note: according to the bloggers I spoke with (not all of whom wanted to be quoted here), most were asked to not disclose by AGENCIES and not the brands themselves. Makes me wonder if the brands know that the agencies they’ve hired are asking to forgo disclosure. Seems pretty unlikely, to me.

Have you been approached by a brand or agency asking you not to disclose? Share the details in the comments!

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