legality of influence. [Fashion Law Symposium]

24 Mar

This past Saturday, March 22nd, I spent a few hours on campus (weird, I know) to attend a symposium put on by the Fashion Law clinic at my law school.  The name of the symposium was “One Channel Does Not Fit All:  The Fashion Law Implications of Omnichannel Marketing.”

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Let’s be real — I will be the first to tell you I am NOT interested in high-fashion (or even low-fashion, if that’s a thing).  My best friend is always on me about buying clothes that actually fit and spending time in stores that aren’t Lululemon.  So I didn’t go to this symposium because I want a career in fashion law.  I peeped the different panel discussions and one of them — about the legality of influence and the laws governing disclosures for bloggers — really interested me.

I had to miss the panels before lunch (because spin class) but I showered quickly, threw on a business-y dress that passes for fashionable in my eyes (even though I’m pretty sure peplum is pretty 2012), and headed over just in time for the lunch program.

Lunch was awesome for two reasons – first, it was catered by Joan’s on Third.  Second, it featured an interesting discussion between Bernard Campbell, co-founder of Fi3, and Crosby Noricks, Founder and Fashion Marketing Strategist at PR Couture.

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One component of the discussion was whether or not there is a place for stores in this era of digital marketing.  Crosby emphasized that she thinks stores will gain importance again, but it will be about the experience as opposed to the products themselves.  Again, I had to think about this as it applies to my life — but there’s definitely something about the Lululemon experience that makes me willing to spend a little more as opposed to trudging through clearance bins at the Nike Outlet.

Crosby also commented on the prominence of social tools — like bulletin boards — on brand websites, and how brands like Free People are reacting to consumer behavior by encouraging the use of things like selfies and hashtags and integrating them into the in-store and online shopping experience.

After lunch was the panel I was super stoked on — “Legality of Influence (Advertising & Disclosures).”

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Moderator:  Oren Bitan, Attorney,  Buchalter Nemer

Speakers:

  • Candice Hyon, Corporate Counsel of Marketing, Privacy, and Property at Forever 21
  • Lauren Indvik, Editor in Chief, Fashionista.com
  • Stacy Procter, Staff Attorney, Federal Trade Commission
  • Rey Kim, General Counsel and Senior VP, Legal and Business Development, HALSTON

I nerded out HARD while listening to this panel because it was pretty much a direct convergence of my professional (ish) life with one of my passions – blogging/social media.

First, I found it interesting that the FTC governs bloggers (I’m living in a cave and never really gave it much thought).

The FTC  is a civil enforcement agency.  It serves to protect consumers and to protect competition, and specifically focuses on policing unfair or deceptive acts.  Unfair or deceptive acts consist of:

  • a representation/omission
  • that is material
  • and is likely to mislead the consumer [a reasonable consumer, not someone who is ingrained in the industry and should know that posts are sponsored, etc.]

Under Section 5 of the FTC Act,  ALL material connections between bloggers and the advertisers/sponsor must be disclosed.  This applies to all types of blogs, and fashion bloggers are not exempt even though it could change the reader’s perception of them. Stacy suggested bloggers err on the side of caution and DISCLOSE material connections.  Makes sense.

Disclosures don’t have to take any specific form — they just need to be clear and conspicuous to the reader.

Here’s some other facts from the discussion I found fascinating:

  • Pinterest is the highest grossing social network.  The average user is on it for 1 hr and 15 minutes and spends $175.  Take that, Instagram.
  • One audience member explained that many brands mentioned in rap songs are paid placements. (Example: “Pass the Courvoisier” was paid, but “Tom Ford” was not).  He also emphasized the fact that rappers are held to a different standard because there is no disclosure requirement.  I thought that was really interesting — I had no idea these were paid, but it makes sense.
  • While there may be some confusion between who is a “blogger” and who is a “journalist,”  journalists are governed by a Code of Ethics that requires that they do not accept gifts.
  • One panelist mentioned GOMI in the context that readers  are aware of when bloggers aren’t disclosing things they should be. LOVED the GOMI shout-out and I am pretty sure I was the only person in the audience who had heard of it.

I stuck around for the last panel —  “Legally Good: How to be Socially Responsible and Why it’s the ‘Right Thing to Do’ for Fashion Brands” — but I started to zone out a little and didn’t find this one quite as interesting.

After the presentation, I chatted with some of my friends who are in the Fashion Law clinic and got to meet Professor Riordan and some other people who attended the symposium.

I’m glad I checked it out!  If you made it all the way to the bottom of this nerd-fest, do me a solid and answer one of the following:

  • Favorite apparel brand (fitness or normal “fashion”)?  Why? 
  • Do any of your favorite brands do anything marketing related that you find particularly innovative? 
  • Favorite marketing slogan (currently)? 
  • What is your personal policy for your blog re: disclosures? 
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