Embargoes and Exclusives
Oh no! That thorny old issue has popped up again today as The Sunday Times Style have published everything you ever need to know about the Charlotte Tilbury make-up range. In beauty world, it’s a very big and important launch – to everyone outside the lipstick zone, it won’t even cause a ripple.
I often get asked (and judged on) why I won’t sign my life away on a non-disclosure notice and agree to embargoes and today’s revelations sort of sum up exactly why. Behind the scenes, I was invited to the press launch of Charlotte Tilbury; I was encouraged to attend and write about the House of Rock & Kohl event at Selfridges that preceded the launch and was part of the big lead up to the make-up launch. I politely – but honestly – declined the launch invitation on the basis that I didn’t want to sign an embargo notice, because once you’ve signed that you are completely bound by it. I didn’t go the Rock & Kohl launch because I’m not terribly interested in celebrities (although I am terribly, terribly interested in make-up!) and I popped in under my own steam at a later date.
On Friday, realising that the embargo date was coming to an end (after midnight tonight is the official time) I was in communication with the PR agency – actually I (think) I have a great relationship with them, and was promised the product on Sunday. Because I really couldn’t bear the thought of having someone have to go into work on bank holiday for the sake of a lipstick, I gave my absolute word that I wouldn’t (and I won’t, because a promise is a promise) give out any information at all and got product on Friday. So, while I worked a good proportion of yesterday photographing it, resizing it and writing out the copy so I could post at five past midnight tonight (and was prepared to stay up to do it because WordPress scheduling is notoriously unreliable) knowing now that anyone who picks up a copy of the Sunday Times Style can photograph, Instagram, blog, Vine, Google+, Tumblr and everything other single possible way of communication you can think of can put it out into the world, there now seems very little point in publishing anything on it at all.
And this is where, because of the internet, embargoes don’t work. If you think about it, any website from Russia to China can pick up images from all the above mentioned communication channels, including magazine sites, and yet all the UK sites can’t because they signed away their rights to do it at the launch. And this is a British brand.
We all know that monthly magazines are facing their most challenging times ever – it would have been a super boost for their sites to have elements of exclusivity and share the excitement across the board. I feel now quite flat about it because I know I won’t have anything new to bring to the party for BBB readers. It seems a shame really, not least because the range is quite simply one of the best edited, consistently thought through and user friendly ranges I have ever come across. You can tell to its bones that there is someone who completely understands make-up behind it.
I’m sure it was known that STS had the exclusive, although I didn’t know and neither did many others (to be fair, I had just assumed we’d all go on the same day, so didn’t actually ask the question) which would have been the perfect fan-fare for the range, which certainly deserves one.
If you think about it, how would embargoes work the other way round? If all the publications decided that because one had been chosen over another, the range would be discarded by everyone else? Ouch, I don’t even want to think about how that would work out for a new brand. PRs rely on the professionalism of beauty editors to take the small crumbs that are left and personally, I’m not up for pecking at them. It’s just not a one-way street anymore; blogs in particular don’t have to adhere to the traditional rules of engagement and the beauty industry by the beauty boom we’ve created should be very pleased for it.
If it sounds like sour grapes, hand on heart, it probably is a bit – I could waffle endlessly about how it isn’t – but I do feel disappointed and sad that I couldn’t offer BBB readers what I think they should have… and that doesn’t seem wrong to me.
NB: Some time later.. the brilliant thing about blogs/Twitter is reader feedback.. I am totally over myself and going to post the pics at the agreed time. I worked really hard on them and they show products up close and swatched. It doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind about embargoes it just means I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face. So, a late night ahead for me!