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Monday, 21 December 2009

FTC Guidelines: F* This Crap?


From December 1st, FTC (US Federal Trade Commission) guidelines have been put in place. The reaction amongst bloggers and YouTubers in our beauty community has been that of panic, usually disguised as flippancy. Let me first preface this by saying that the UK has one of the most stringent legal systems when it comes to business online. Most of its laws and regulations are similar to those in Europe, but in contrast, the US the rules were very much dependent on the state you happen to be in. Therefore the FTC is arguably applying a level playing field. Many of the FTC guidelines are already Law for UK and Europe based bloggers who fall foul of the disclosures required. But the waters are muddy and moreover Guidelines are not Law: This is acknowledged by the FTC...

"The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act."

In addition, the outrage and confusion of bloggers, particularly those who felt the new strictures and penalties violated their right to the sacred First Amendment, have provoked this soothing assurance from the FTC:

"Where we have brought cases, there are other issues involved, not only failing to disclose a material connection but also making other misrepresentations about a product, a serious product like a health product or something like that. We have brought those cases but not against the consumer endorser, we have brought those cases against the advertiser that was behind it. If people think that the FTC is going to issue them a citation for $11,000 because they failed to disclose that they got a free box of Pampers, that's not true. That's not going to happen today, not ever."

In addition, Richard Cleland (assistant director, division of advertising practices at the FTC) addressed individual blogger concerns and reiterated this point:

"That $11,000 fine is not true. Worst-case scenario, someone receives a warning, refuses to comply, followed by a serious product defect; we would institute a proceeding with a cease-and-desist order and mandate compliance with the law. To the extent that I have seen and heard, people are not objecting to the disclosure requirements but to the fear of penalty if they inadvertently make a mistake. That's the thing I don't think people need to be concerned about. There's no monetary penalty, in terms of the first violation, even in the worst case. Our approach is going to be educational, particularly with bloggers. We're focusing on the advertisers: What kind of education are you providing them, are you monitoring the bloggers and whether what they're saying is true?"


So, the widely reported instant $11,000 is inaccurate, and moreover the onus is on the word of mouth marketeer or advertiser. Now, I have often thought that bloggers accepting money for promoting a brand is in many ways less unethical than those brands getting free publicity, but this FTC rule seems rather patronising to bloggers. Wheras an old media publication can review a free book (for instance) with no risk of breaking the rules, the same does not apply to blogs. This seems incredibly arbitrary. If I print out my blog articles and hand them out for free as a newspaper, suddenly a different set of rules apply:

"The Commission acknowledges that bloggers may be subject to different disclosure requirements than reviewers in traditional media. In general, under usual circumstances, the Commission does not consider reviews published in traditional media (i.e., where a newspaper, magazine, or television or radio station with independent editorial responsibility assigns an employee to review various products or services as part of his or her official duties, and then publishes those reviews) to be sponsored advertising messages. Accordingly, such reviews are not “endorsements” within the meaning of the Guides."

If my day job is as a journalist for print media, is my blog independent, or is it addressed as within my capacity as a "traditional media" employee, is it me held liable, or my employer vicariously liable? In any event, how will bloggers' lapses be monitored?? Will FTC employ people, at the public's expense, to police the myriad of blogs out there - or will snitches and rivals use the muddy rules to threaten the competition? Well, the latter apparently: "Competitors are very quick to turn people in. I've never suffered from a shortage of competitive complaints."

This seems a recipe for disaster. It is not newsworthy to suggest that there is a lot of victimisation and vindictiveness around as it is, without giving people scope for serious dobbing in and invoking a penalty.

Now onto the fraught issue of whether a blog is akin to journalism, or a personal conversation. i.e Should government interference be viewed as justified to protect an innocent consumer, as the FTC maintains, from being tricked into purchases; or should a blog be allowed to maintain its image of being independent and indeed the very embodiment of free speech? A comment on an article made me laugh... "Government interaction is always the best answer. Just look at communist China - the people love it over there. They don't have to worry about that silly 'freedom of speech' stuff." It does rather beg the question, how long before the internet and its content is policed... recent issues such as illegal file sharing and downloading have also been presented as a threat to us as users and terrorism laws can be twisted to suit allegations of suspect community forums; IP addresses could well in future be replaced by an internet passport, with all our ID viewable to the government and the nanny state controlling our every move. But wait, this isn't the Daily Mail. Nevertheless, the point is: from being a soft touch, there is now a reversal. Companies who once took advantage of essentially free publicity will now have to ask themselves, whether the blogger can bring a profit greater than the potential thousands of dollars fine to the company. Very few of us can do that. They take the risk:

"The Commission recognizes that because the advertiser does not disseminate the endorsements made using these new consumer-generated media, it does not have complete control over the contents of those statements. Nonetheless, if the advertiser initiated the process that led to these endorsements being made – e.g., by providing products to well-known bloggers or to endorsers enrolled in word of mouth marketing programs – it potentially is liable for misleading statements made by those consumers."

But wait, what is an endorsement?? What if a blogger confines herself to stating demonstrably proven facts? Does the FTC consider that an endorsement? What if one confines oneself to stating such facts and includes links to an ecommerce site? Has the writing somehow been transformed from a statement of fact to an endorsement? And what if I describe a product I genuinely love and recommend, and have google automated ads on my blog, which are prompted by the article, and thus I make money from my recommendation? This point amongst others was eloquently made here:

"I have been writing nice things about my treatment at Sloan Kettering. This has caused ads to come up on my blog, via Google, from the hospital. Presuming someone clicked on them, I’ve made money from the hospital. Does that taint what I say or me if I don’t disclose the payment? That’s the level of absurdity this can reach."


In fact, where to draw the line - what if a product was received as a gift from granny, or you're a millionaire who buys YSL everyday just for something to do, of course your review will be inflected by your situation. There seems a deep suspicion of the government's need to intercept and determine when a disclaimer must be made. Do the FTC just want to control advertising and shut up any mouthpiece other than their own controlled and approved (ahem, $$$$) outlets?

However I have seen increasingly, many popular bloggers have irritated me with their high blown opinion of themselves. They address companies with the assumption that their word can make or break the product on a global scale. It really does make me think, "It's only a blog/ It's only YouTube!" However popular it gets, surely it still is small fry? But perhaps it can compete, as I have said before, the blogs and videos do cut straight to the core of makeup enthusiasts. Seen in this light, maybe the time was ripe for FTC intervention?

Ultimately, here in the UK there are laws in place which will protect consumers from deliberate scams and astroturfing, but on the level of reading blog and YouTube reviews, it ought to be merely regulated by the individual's own conscience, and taken with the viewer/ reader's own judgment. People who abuse the trust instilled within them will hopefully become a victim of their own destruction. I recently got an email from a company which was so clearly a cut and paste job (Dear... [space] oogle makeup .... etc) and what with my bad experience with a ruthless word of mouth company I value my blog and individuality more than I value the novelty of a freebie. (Chanel, if you are listening, I don't mean that really, haha) but by the same token there is clearly no harm in accepting and reviewing a freebie that genuinely is of interest to you and your readers. It can even be the veritable lifeblood of your blog, and to great acclaim.

"And there is the greatest myth embedded within the FTC’s rules: that the government can and should sanitize the internet for our protection. The internet is the world and the world is messy and I don’t want anyone – not the government, not a newspaper editor – to clean it up for me, for I fear what will go out in the garbage: namely, my rights. "

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Cheapie but goodie


As Christmas rolls around, here are some cheap stocking fillers that despite their price tag, will bring unbridled joy. Let us begin...

I recently spent a fun afternoon with MizzWorthy and this meant a trip to Charles Fox. I have blogged about the wonders held within its hallowed walls before, so the prospect of changing MizzWorthy's spending habits forever seemed tangible (notwithstanding her lavish bag of Shu Uemura shopping already spent). We picked up some things; unfortunately I have no new gems to report. A Kryolan eyeshadow I bought as a highlighter, "Day Rise", turned out to be as chalky and powdery as its flour-like namesake would suggest, and a Charles Fox pencil brush turned out to be rather flimsy. But, it is so neon pink and pretty, that I still love it and it puts me in a good mood.

I stand by my former huge raves for these products:


All available at Charles Fox...


Kryolan Anti Shine Powder

Kryolan Lip palette (they have many, I will be adding to my collection for sure)

Kryolan Lipstick (love my pale pink one so much!!)

Cheap brushes - many interesting additions to be made - MizzWorthy spotted a dupe for that much coveted Sonia Kashuk angled eyeiner brush! Still prefer Crown Brush for cheap brushes, though.


GOSH...


Pencils - their Velvet Touch Lip and Eye liners are dupes of Urban Decay 24/7 pencils, and come in equally vivid shades. Long lasting, soft, excellent.

Liquid Art Liner - If your poor bedraggled drenched body was found at sea and every scrap of you was faded and raw, this eyeliner would still be intact. For a big night out when you need your liner to hold, look no further. Some great shades too!


Queen Helene...

Mint Julep mask - can you say WOW! Clears skin and feels like it's cooling every pore in your face.


Nivea...

Oil Free Moisturiser - Simple, and works.


ELF...


Ah, elf! Pioneers of the "Cheap but professional, direct to the masses" school of thought. I have several faves:

Undereye concealer and highlighter - Budget YSL Touche Eclat, but don't forget to set it with powder

Complexion Perfection - Budget MAC Blot Powder, just paler.

Mineral eyeshadows - £2.50 yet so luxurious! Sophisticated shades, great colour payoff, great packaging.

New Studio lip glosses, I am trying to pick a best one but struggling... hmm, let's opt for the 2 in 1 gloopy gorgeousness. Mighty shine that looks like you MUST be wearing Chanel.

Natural lip liner - Again, looks just like a high end lipliner. Soft, pigmented, flattering.

Warm Bronzer - Has had so many raves, evidence speaks for itself. Get this! (just be careful as it is so delicate, the pretty squares smash easily)

Studio line Brushes - Has had so many raves, evidence speaks for itself.


Barry M...


Mascara - One of the cheapest drugstore mascaras, yet definitey my top pick. An absolutely faultless everyday mascara. Great length to your lashes and some volume too, plus it never flakes or smudges.

Dazzle Dusts - Although I prefer MAC pigments for some reason (denser pigment?) I must admit there are some great shades in the Barry M arsenal. They go on very nicely too, and blend perfectly.

Blusher - I am a big fan!!! I hate the packaging, it is the stuff of nightmares, but the colour payoff and lasting power of these cannot be faulted. You get a lot for your money, and although someone pernickety might say these are slightly powdery, I would say they are extremely similar texture to MAC's sheertone blushers. I bought all of these except the purpley pink one. Highly recommend the Rose and Terracotta, and the Orange neon one if you are dark skinned. (reminded me of NARS Exhibit A)

Collection 2000...

Glam Crystals Dazzling Gel Liner - OK, Collection 2000, I am impressed! Thick glittery liner, that doesn't budge, and for less than £3.

Sleek...

Palettes - couldn't compile this list without them: less than a fiver for a palette?? Crazy.

Sudacrem...

Perhaps not the most elegant stocking filler, but this nappy cream (warning: smells just like baby's changing rooms, funnily enough) works better as a healing cream than most of my high end remedies.

Neutrogena...

Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55 - waterproof, paraben free, non-acnegenic. I love this and use it on bright snowy days when sun damage is a particular menace. This was a gift from the lovely aestheticcoo. Thanks!!



So those are my discoveries, have
YOU got any to share? 

PS. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings  xxxx

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Eyeko NEW nail polishes


Eyeko, self styled "London's cutest cosmetics" have created a new range of colours for their nail polish collection. Priced at £3 a pop, these are an instant pick-me-up. Getting the whole range was so much fun! There really is a shade in there for everyone. In addition, they feature a formula that is Toluene, Formaldehyde, DBP and Camphor free, promising "no colour fade thanks to UV absorbers and an amazing glossy, chip resistant finish which strengthens nails too!"


I could never compete with Eyeko's brilliant descriptions but I will briefly outline my thoughts...

Forgive the brutally clear and messy picture below, this depicts one coat and no base or top coat:
Worn with base coat and top coat, these can achieve luxe effect nails! They are very runny, so best not apply them in your finest garb. Indeed, perhaps opt to apply these in the nude and distanced from any precious objects (poor laptop). My absolute favourite is the "Cosmic". Let Eyeko do the talking:

"This night time hue is loaded with multi-coloured iridescent glitters like fireworks in a black November sky. An ultra, flattering nail look for those who favour the dark side."

I love their atmospheric descriptions! I actually agree with every word. Also, although I am a great fan of the dark side, and indeed of fireworks, I am usually very against black nails. Mainly because of the tiresome link it has with goths and emos (though I was by default a goth at university). However, this is a WARM black. Yes the sparkles, especially the red and gold, lifts this into a girly black which doesn't give you mortuary hands. It applies like the others, runny, but no streaking and very full coverage.

There is also a pinky electro purple, a light pastel purple (likened by those great scribes at Eyeko to "that opaque sugared almond look Lilly Allen craves") - Again, I agree! Also there's a hot on trend pale green that dupes Chanel's Jade polish (an ASOS exclusive) and a nude "just one coat of pinky-beige for luxe-looking super groomed nails like Jenifer Lopez or layer up for an opaque mannequin effect." (the Nude is the least impressive but its pretty colour and usefulness make it another top pick nonetheless) and there is an Indigo. Dark blue never suits me, though I love it and wear it on my eyes all the time. Perhaps I ought to heed their advice first though: "Keep nails short and blunt to nail this shimmery, midnight blue for a touch of cool gothic glamour à la Sophie Dahl."

All in all I definitely recommend these nail polishes. Many nail polishes on the high street at a similar price point are gross. These are no dangerous rival to OPI et al (the wide brush is lacking for starters) BUT they can work wonders given a nice quality base coat (I use Creative Nail Design Ridge Out) and of course your trusty Seche Vite top coat to finish. My Cosmic nails lasted a full week and would have carried on: Impressive performance! Watch out for runny texture and be prepared to layer up on products, but it's worth it. Check these out here.