Brooklyn BlogFest Brings Up Issues of Blogger Disclosure

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Absolut Vodka is facing scrutiny after it sponsored local blogger event Brooklyn Blogfest, which some attendees felt was overbearing.

For example, host Spike Lee said at the event, “This is to celebrate Absolut, so we’re not going to get into gentrification tonight.” Others felt the sponsorship didn’t follow proper disclosure.

Here is the short story: not unlike other social media marketing programs, Absolut offered bloggers involved with Brooklyn Blogfest a free Flip video camera and a bottle of Absolut Brooklyn, their new limited edition flavor, which the company promoted at the event via their Brooklyn Stoop Life campaign.

So what went wrong?

According to Ketchum, Absolut’s PR agency of record, nothing. We’ve posted a pitch sent out to bloggers below, offering free stuff to bloggers in exchange for coverage on their respected blogs.

The pitch does not mention any disclosure requirements, but a Ketchum spokesperson told PRNewser today that only nine bloggers accepted the offer, and all of them have disclosed their affiliation. Here is a post from Clinton Hill Blog that contains disclosure.

Other blogs added disclosure after the fact.

“What is getting confused here…is that people who attended Blogfest and referenced Absolut in their post were part of Absolut’s program,” said the spokesperson.

The Federal Trade Commission’s recently revised, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” read in part, “bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

The FTC recently sent a warning to retailer Ann Taylor after it offered bloggers free gift cards in exchange for covering an event.

So, is the FTC investigating? Even if they were, we wouldn’t know, as it’s FTC policy not to comment on ongoing investigations. The New York Times reported, “There is no investigation in the Absolut vodka case so far.”

Regardless of any potential investigation, it seems that while some bloggers at the event had no problem with the sponsorship, some did, and they are making their voices heard.

Even the event organizer, Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, is wondering if the sponsorship went too far, although she admits she was too inebriated at the event to remember. She wrote, “There’s definitely a learning curve associated with having a sponsor and maybe the event tipped too far to the side of Absolut. I can’t tell. The evening is a bit of a blur (all those sponsor martinis).”

Here’s the pitch that went out to the bloggers to begin with:

Invite to Collaborate with ABSOLUT + Spike Lee

As you sit at your desk blogging about the latest and greatest in Brooklyn lifestyle and real estate, we’d like to offer you inspiration of the liquid kind. As the world’s most iconic vodka, ABSOLUT has built itself on the philosophy that creativity inspires excellence = evidenced in everything from the brand’s place in modern day mixology to the history of collaborations with artists dating back to Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. As we enter into a new artist collaboration with Spike Lee, we are reaching out to you as the creative forces behind Brownstoner with what we believe is an interesting proposition.

Over the last several months, we have been collaborating with famed director and Brooklyn beloved Spike Lee, on a one-of-a-kind project that serves a veritable love letter to Brooklyn. As a creative visionary and voice of your community, we’d like to let you in on the secret by asking you to join us in a viral, underground effort. By agreeing to participate, you will sign on to celebrate Brooklyn in a manner befitting of this beloved borough, and will receive exclusive access to product, information and events before anyone else. In addition, we will ensure that your name and your blog are a very special part of all the big news.

We have also recently been working with Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn on her Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest and are hoping you will help us reveal the announcement there, on June 8.

More specifically, we would be offering you:

· A feature as our “Blogger of the Week” on ABSOLUT VODKA’s Facebook page (reaching half a million fans!)

· VIP access to a celebrity event in Brooklyn we are planning for early June

· Special call-out as a key collaborator during the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest on June 8

· Gift of a Flip camera to capture all the action this summer

· Gift of product that has yet to hit store shelves

And in turn, we want to leverage your creativity through:

· Your participation at the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest on June 8

· Three dedicated blog posts throughout the summer

o One story that we will unveil at Blogfest on June 8

o Two other posts inspired by the project

o Agreement to carry an ABSOLUT blogger badge on your first post

· Tweets, Facebook posts & Four Square activity when appropriate, to promote the blog posts/program throughout the summer

· And most importantly…

We want your thoughts, ideas, feedback and excitement towards the program. ABSOLUT collaborations are wholeheartedly just that – a collaboration. If you are interested in joining us for the celebration, please let us know by May 12. We will be bringing all collaborators together on May 13 or 14 to share all the details. More to follow!