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FTC declines to take action against Ann Taylor over bloggers

Ann Taylor storefront

Photo by Flickr user foxyvoxy

The Federal Trade Commission has made pubic its first investigation into a company’s relationship with its bloggers, according to AdAge.

Even though the agency decided not to take action against the retailer, Ann Taylor, the investigation puts retailers on notice that it is taking seriously guidelines published in October 2009 that require bloggers to clearly disclose any “material connection” to an advertiser, including payments for an endorsement or free product.

The case involved Ann Taylor’s invitation to bloggers to preview the Loft division’s summer 2010 collection. The retailer offered a “special gift” and promised that any blogger posting coverage from the event would be entered into a “mystery gift-card drawing,” where they could win between $50 and $500.

As AdAge reports:

The event and the unusual request for posts to be submitted for a prize received media scrutiny and caught the eye of the FTC. “We were concerned that bloggers who attended a preview on January 26, 2010 failed to disclose that they received gifts for posting blog content about that event,” Mary Engle, the FTC’s associate director-advertising practices, wrote in a letter dated April 20 to Ann Taylor’s legal representation.

The FTC said it decided not to take action against Ann Taylor, because, according to the company, the plea to bloggers during the January Loft preview was the first and, to date, only such event.

So, Bloggers remember there is no free lunch.

And Business Journalists, that’s what the FTC is not doing. Don’t forget to take a look at their website regularly to see what they are doing. FTC.gov There are good consumer-based stories there every day.

About the Author

I am digital director at the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, which I joined in 2009. Before that I was Online Community Manager for azcentral, the online site for The Arizona Republic. Before arriving in Arizona, I worked at Newsday where I was Deputy Business Editor. I was the small business editor at BusinessWeek Online. I teach journalists to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools to expand and manage their networks. And I am a cofounder of #wjchat, a weekly Twitter chat about web journalism. You can reach me at Email: Robin.Phillips@BusinessJournalism.org OR RobinJPhillips.com OR @RobinJP

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