No matter how you feel about embargoes, one thing is clear – they just don’t work any more.
I’m going to cite the Alber Elbaz range for Lancome as a good example of this. Before I go any further, they are aware that I am posting and using this as an example.
An embargo on writing or posting about a beauty product is usually because a brand has arranged an exclusive with another publication – usually print. However, seeding out a story, as Lancome has done earlier in the year in the hope of an excitement build, ensures that a million and one bloggers (myself included) studiously scour the internet for any picture leaks. Pictures mean stats. Blog world isn’t the friendly place it used to be and we’re all fighting for stats. And these days, there is always a leak. Always.
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The first lot of leaks on the Alber range came from Russia – or China, I forget – the pictures were tweeted and posted and then very quickly – I am assuming because of PR intervention – were taken down. But not before hundreds of screen grabs had happened. I have the pictures grabbed and stored but I didn’t use them. A) It’s not fair to take away stats from the blog that posted, and B) I didn’t feel that I could ask for permission from the other bloggers to use what clearly were first looks. There’s fair and fair. So, I went by the book and sat on pictures without using them.
Then, a few weeks later WWD.com posted the pictures and from there (with Lancome’s knowledge) I posted a picture on my site. And, guess what? Not one single comment or shred of interest. WWD is considered a ‘trade publication’ despite the fact that anyone can subscribe and therefore the pictures used were ‘official’ with Lancome’s sanction. This Alber thing has been rumbling on for months – I want exactly what everyone else wants and that’s first looks for my readers and I have argued hard for it from the very beginning. I’m cool about stats having learnt my lesson well and truly from when my blog broke, but why shouldn’t BBB readers have the same information and access (hopefully better and earlier) than everyone else? It’s what I am here for.
The upshot of this really is that I can see how the game was attempted – seed it out, get everyone to bite, control the images (not officially available til June), ensure the agreed exclusive happens, offer different bits to different publications and end up with mass coverage everywhere. But that’s not how it’s worked, because they didn’t factor in the internet – that little world wide webby thing. By the time Alber actually launches (and it’s beautiful by the way – more than deserving of every scrap of coverage) we’ll be well and truly over it.. I am already. It will be like trying to re-inflate a popped balloon. You can look on-line and see pretty much the lot, so where’s the sense in making everyone *officially* wait. The days when you could attempt this kind of game are over – if you have an embargo, then every single person from the factory floor to the poshest executive suite needs to be sworn to secrecy – and that’s pretty much impossible – and you don’t then ‘officially’ give pictures to a site that anyone and everyone can look at and tell everyone else they can’t use them.
I’ve had a constant, amicable dialogue with the UK PR.. this is as difficult for that office as it is for everyone else… we’re still friends :-).
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