Branded Event Radicalizes Mommy Bloggers

An exclusive branded vacation/soiree intended for some mommy bloggers—but not others—succeeded this week in raising some questions about transparency, PR, and free shit. Not, surely, the kind of buzz the fancy party was intended to start.

The party was thrown by market giant Johnson & Johnson. The location was DisneyLand, owned by the Disney Company, long controller of the lion’s share of all youth media and licensed products. And the initial questions (paraphrased) were these:

Why didn’t I get invited? Who did get invited? If I complain about not getting invited, is there a chance I won’t be invited next year? If enough of us complain about not getting invited, will they even have one next year? If I continue to voice my opinion about the divisiveness this exclusive party causes my community, will the companies involved stop sending me products for review? If the free flow of stuff gets cut off because I’m voicing my opinion, how will that affect me as a blogger, whose solitary tool, after all, is my opinion?

Soon the questions (taken from comments to the Queen of Spain blog post above) became more pointed and funnier—not to mention angrier:

“What if companies don’t think [voicing our opinions about the DisneyLand gathering is] fair? If it makes them want to run away? If they think we are the “meanest mommies in the whole wide world”?”

“Are you seriously trying to backhandedly threaten me, and imply Disney doesn’t need Moms? Are you telling me Johnson and Johnson doesn’t need Moms to buy their baby shampoo too? Maybe they will market J&J babywash to single males instead??”

“I am the first to admit I want an open and transparent partnership with companies that come a courtin’. But I want it at market value. If my market is *women online*, what’s the value?”

Now I’m not terribly comfortable with most mommy blogs—for the same exact reasons that corporations like Johnson & Johnson and Disney would target them: those people are really busy, and apt to make expedient decisions. This probably is OK in the case of a drooly baby finger in uncomfortable proximity to an electrical outlet, but doesn’t really promote the deliberate approach I like to see in, say, my firefighters. My politicians. Or my cultural critics.

When we add in the economic incentive presented by the free stuff mommy bloggers get, we must view it in context: Women here in Illinois still earn only $.71 to every dollar earned by men. They still conduct a disproportionate amount of housework and, by far, carry the bulk of all babies born in the US every year. Who, by the way, we have few working national programs to help deal with the care, health, and early education of, once outside of the womb. Plus, remember, they’re busy.

Combined, these factors make something of a perfect storm—of free advertising. Because study after study after study has shown that if you take enough away from a subject, and then give that subject an item, that subject will like that item. It’s science!

Check this testimony, from Lady Bug and Blogging Mama:
“I am a very passionate individual and blogging is an excellent way for me to make a positive difference and if you didn’t already know, introduce products to people.” (She also runs a product review blog called Mum’s the Wurd, and need I say it? All reviews are enthusiastically uncritical.)

But the more these women start questioning the value of free speech only granted when all utterances are positive, the more they’ll start investigating the actual value of the work they do as advertisers—$45 per hour, by the way, Queen of Spain. Hopefully, they’ll start to value their potential as critics—and keepers of culture—too. ( Relaxed Homeskool and Work it, Mom! do already.)

These women are questioning their given role in culture as consumers. Weirdly, it’s the ones with proven reproductive capabilities leading the way.

p.s. My friends at InCUBATE are curating a show in Pittsburgh for my birthday next week: Other Options looks at artist groups who are re-interpreting, altering and creating infrastructure that affect their everyday lives and artistic practice. The runs through May 2nd at Goods & Services, 2628 E. Carson Street, South Side, and the opening’s 6-9 p.m. Friday April 11. No presents, please.

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  1. Erika Jurney says:

    Going to this event radicalized me? Shit. I bet that was hard on my addled mommy brain. Incidentally, it was in New Jersey, not Disneyland — you conflated two conferences.

  2. jodi says:

    The Disney event (held at WDW) and the J&J event (held in NJ) are two different events. J&J invited over 50 moms, while Disney’s event is smaller with only 12.

  3. Oh really? Thanks for the clarification. Everything I found referred to them both in the same breath, but I have yet to be forwarded any actual documentation from either event.

    Any further information would be helpful!

  4. […] At Anti-Advertising Agency, Anne Elizabeth Moore reports: “Branded Event Radicalizes Mommy Bloggers.” The basics: Johnson & Johnson put […]

  5. I review products that I LIKE at MumsTheWurd. If you read my header’s tag line, it says, “unique finds for hip parents and cool kids”. People choose to run their review blogs the way they want to.

    And to echo the other comments, if you spent any time researching the situation with J&J and Disney World, you would know that they are two separate events – why do you need documentation?

  6. Damn, finally:

    Check it: “‘[Social marketing runs] a fraction of the cost you would spend on a traditional interactive campaign,” said Paul Rand, president and CEO of marketing firm Zocalo Group.”

    Hooray for cheap labor!

  7. kim says:

    Nice article. As a (erugh, I’ve never uttered these words before)proud mommy blogger, I can say free stuff is darned cool. I love doing reviews too. But dang. Think about those movie review guys/gals. They get paid a salary to be critical. Sure, maybe they take a little cheese on the side for their one liner quotes, like “Earth shattering!” and stuff, but mostly if they were just perky happy ninnies they’d be too boring to read and then they’d get canned. So, I’m kind of libertarian like that. I wouldn’t make it policy that you shouldn’t advertise on your blogs, but I’d caution you to keep the integrity of what you do or else you won’t get much respect. This said form a woman who recently lost her head over a packet of notebooks she reviewed.

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