In keeping with the FTC rules that compel bloggers to reveal when they receive gifts or freebies from the companies they cover, Ann Taylor has gone a step (or twelve) further than most. Following an e-mail inviting us to attend Ann Taylor's Fall 2011 Editor Preview on Wednesday, March 30th, we received a follow-up email from the Ann Taylor PR Team containing a "Blogger Acknowledgement Form," which we were instructed to fill out and either email back or print and bring with us to the event (which we had already declined due to a prior engagement).
Now, we're all for full disclosure on gifts and freebies, but this vaguely worded release reeks of a double standard—presumably, magazine editors, who routinely receive gifts worth ten to tens of thousands of dollars from designers large and small (having worked as both a print journalist and a blogger, we know whereof we speak)—are not being asked to sign a similar acknowledgement form before being granted access to said event.
And what, exactly, constitutes "anything of value?" The AT team goes so far as to mention cash and "access to events not generally open to the public" and states that receipt of the above must be disclosed "clearly and conspicuously" on the recipient's blog. Sorry, but as long as we've been covering fashion, we've never been offered nor received cash for covering an event (hel-lo, that's called a payoff and, as amply demonstrated by the Derek Blasberg/YSL/Style.com fiasco, it can rightly cost you your job).
But neither have we ever been asked to calculate the value of "access to events not generally open to the public." Huh? So AT expects bloggers to do what, exactly? Calculate the amount of complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cocktails they quaff at the press preview, assign them a monetary value and include that info in their write-up? That'll make for some scintillating reading. And how to put a price on the special performance by Bebel Gilberto (if her concert tickets normally sell for X and she plays for Y minutes at the event, I listened to Z dollars worth of music)?