Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How transparent is crystal clear?

Interesting to follow the war of words between award-winning journalist Erin Rosa and Mullen's Stuart Foster and Edward Boches over the past couple days.

The story is that Mullen helped launch an online publication called The Next Great Generation, which claims to give 18 to 25 year olds a platform "to share their thoughts regarding life, work, brands, technology, environment, money, faith, sex, love."

On December 15, Rosa published an article named Beware The Next Great Generation:

Meet the “Next Great Generation Blog” a publication that wants “an opportunity for Millennial Generation writers to develop a voice and gather a following, along with a real chance for older generations to listen in,” according to an e-mail message sent from Generation blog editor Gillian Maffeo today and obtained by CampusProgress.

They fail to mention that the blog will also be a great opportunity for advertisers, too, as a little investigation shows the website is really a creation of the Boston-based Mullen public relations agency, and Maffeo is an account executive at the company.

Foster and Boches commented on the post and on Twitter, pointing out that The Next Great Generation's about page openly states that the blog was "started by Mullen’s Edward Boches" and asking Rosa for suggestions, to which Rosa replied in the comments:

It's like I rang the supper triangle for a bunch of "tech startup" advertising fanatics. I'm sorry, but I really don't have time to respond to people who can't read what I wrote or pen a coherent argument. And now, even funnier, Mullen is trying to ask for my advice via Twitter on how to improve their blog! (Actually admitting somewhere on the website that it's a product of an advertising agency to boost business would be a start….)

It's pretty hard to argue with Rosa's credentials, but is she seeing a conspiracy where none exists? Or do brands that sponsor content platforms have a responsibility to find unequivocal ways to disclose their involvement? When is clear not clear enough?

[Disclosure - Rosa and I both used to blog at SquareState and have met a few times at Drinking Liberally and other political functions.]


Stuart Foster said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks for taking the time to look at both sides of the issue :).

We're doing our best to work with everybody in order to produce both the best product and the most beneficial one to our writers.

We've been excited with the results so far...and can't wait for the coming year.


Christine said...

Thanks for these thoughts.

I'm the community manager of TNGG and I have to say I was a bit hurt by Erin's post. I have an entirely genuine desire to give these writers a voice and to promote their ideas.

Does working at a marketing agency automatically make all your work contrived?

300 Spartans Gym said...

Stuart and Christine, thanks for chiming in!

Christine, I don't think working at a marketing agency automatically makes altruistic work contrived. But it does give people reason to be suspicious. And as someone who has worked in advertising for a decade, I don't really blame them.