August 17th, 2012

When Does Mom's Blog Become An Ad?

By Jessica Camille Aguirre

Blogging about being a mom is a booming business. And the popularity of these blogs has spawned an industry that turns some of the moms into virtual product reps.

With companies and conferences devoted to connecting moms with industry, regulatory agencies that keep track of truthfulness and transparency in advertising are struggling to keep up.

Recent complaints about a Merck campaign that had moms throwing movie-watching parties to promote Children’s Claritin got us wondering about the practice. How does the Federal Trade Commission deal with the blurring the distinction between online social activities and marketing?

We asked Mary Engle in the FTC’s office for advertising practices. Here are highlights from our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

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