Samples and swag are nothing new in blogger relations. Nor is the expectation, generally subtle, that these things lead to favorable reviews. But a recent invitation from Conde Nast's Allure, which remarkably enough went to competitors in the beauty media space, made the connection quite explicit.
"Because of your success in the blogosphere, we would like to include you in our Beauty Blog Sampling Program," reads the e-mail. "From time to time, we send new and interesting products to a select group of bloggers. You are under no obligation to cover the brands or products in your blog; however, if you do, we ask that you follow our mother's philosophy that 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.'"
The email appears to come from the Allure Promotion Department and includes an invitation to join the Allure Experts panel.
Beauty bloggers routinely disclose, as required by Federal Trade Commission guidelines, when they've received free samples of products reviewed. And some make no bones about only reviewing products when they have something nice to say. But it's pretty rare for anyone, particularly a magazine, to put that "nice" expectation in writing and send it all over the place, including to competitors.
Actually mother, or at least Conde Nast, isn't pleased with this application of the "only say nice things" philosophy.
"The email was in fact sent by an advertising intern from Allure," said Elizabeth Bliss, spokeswoman for Allure, in an email. "It was not approved by an Allure staff member, but by a temporary employee who is no longer with the company and who may not have understood that this is in no way the editorial policy of Allure or allure.com. The website in question, allurevirtualstore.com, is not an editorial one; it is operated in full by our advertising department."
"We are not happy about this and are looking in to how this happened," Ms. Bliss added. "We are notifying all bloggers that the erroneous email does not express our philosophy."
"We at Allure stand for transparency when it comes to reviewing products. In fact, we revere honest and effective reviews, whether they are negative or positive, as you'll see on allure.com."