why don’t we react against the (illegal) covert advertising in blogs?

  • Swedish and Norwegian press have been fascinated by a Swedish teenager who reportedly “makes millions” off her blog.
  • Kenza.se is the second most popular blog in Sweden. It’s written by another seventeen year old girl. This one’s a model, and told Dagens Media that she makes 30,000-40,000 SEK a month on income from her blog.
  • Isabella Lˆwengrip says her advertisers buy “package deals”, where she’s paid a fixed sum for writing about the product or company a certain number of times on her blog and making sure she mentions it if she’s interviewed on television or by a newspaper. (N‰r ett fˆretag hˆr av sig till mig s brukar vi skriva ett avtal, om att den h‰r mÂnaden ska jag skriva s h‰r mÂnga gÂnger om det fˆretaget, jag n‰mner deras fˆretag om jag ‰r med i tv, eller blir intervjuad av tidningar.) The newspaper article mentions a company that she says paid her such a lump sum.
  • Anna Bodin from the media bureau PHD says they like to use blogs to influence a target group without them knowing they’re being influenced (-Vi vill pÂverka mÂlgruppen utan att den ska k‰nna att de blir pÂverkade. D kan en blogg vara bra, s‰ger Anna Bodin p PHD.).
  • WOMMA – the Word of Mouth Marketing Association – explicitly requires complete honesty in word of mouth marketing campaigns: “We stand against shill and undercover marketing, whereby people are paid to make recommendations without disclosing their relationship with the marketer.”
  • Even PayPerPost now requires full disclosure that the blogger is being paid to write.
  • It’s illegal by Swedish law to pay for editorial content without such content being marked as an advertisment. I think the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines in the US also ban this, though I don’t know what the legal status of this is. I presume it’s also illegal in Norway?
  • There are lots of examples of dishonest blog marketing practices gone wrong – I link to a few in the summary of a talk I gave a while back (in Norwegian), and I discuss the issue pretty thoroughly in the “Blogging Brands” chapter of my book on Blogging.
  • Apart from this one article, I haven’t found anything in the many enthusiastic articles about Swedish teens making money off blogging that even questions the deception involved – or its legality.
  • So are Swedes – and Swedish and Norwegian journalists – simply accepting of covert advertising in blogs? Or are they all fooled by the sweet and authentic girls?

27. June 2008 by Jill
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