Sponsored Bloggers: Buyer Beware

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In 2013, The New York Times published an editorial piece by legendary fashion editor, Suzy Menkes, titled “The Circus of Fashion,” in which she laments the onslaught of fashion bloggers peacocking before the shows and shamelessly accepting free gifts from designers. Peacocking refers to the bloggers wearing ridiculous outifts to get noticed by the streetstyle photographers. Menkes believes this “circus” takes away from what’s going on inside the tents and she describes a pre-Internet fashion week, where editors dressed in head to toe black moved unnoticed from show to show.

Fast forward a few years and there is a bigger problem than bloggers dressing crazy and accepting free gifts. Designers and big brands are actually paying bloggers to promote their products online, and until now there has been virtually no government regulation. Consumers browsing Instagram and Facebook or watching Youtube are being misled because their favorite bloggers generally aren’t revealing the fact that they are sponsored.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is starting to crack down on bloggers by enforcing a strict set of guidelines– and using a “#sponsored” amongst dozens of other hashtags may be insufficient. The ad agencies who pair bloggers with big brands are furious, but they had to know they could not go unregulated forever. The bloggers basically carved a new industry and the government was bound to catch on. And shouldn’t consumers know the truth?

The bloggers created jobs for themselves in a time when the government and the economy failed them. They accepted free clothing and paraded in front of the shows because they couldn’t get the traditional editorial jobs in fashion, often despite their qualifications and experience. They hustled and they posted tirelessly to gain followers and create a new branch in the fashion industry. And while I understand why Suzy Menkes is disheartened with the blogger movement, the fact remains that times change and the fashion business is no exception. That said, I believe the bloggers should want to be better than the previous generations that failed them and ruined the economy, and they should be loyal to the millions of followers that gave them a livelyhood. It’s as simple as revealing to your followers that they are viewing sponsored content.

Read more about the FTC guidelines and their affect on the fashion industry at The Business of Fashion.