Mad Crowd Media, The Concluding Post

If you had the curiosity and idle time to read my rant last week entitled, “Mad Crowd Media, Don’t Piss Me Off,” and the nearly 100 reader comments it has since generated (including a response from one of the principals of MCM), then you might be interested in this concluding post, with an email response on behalf of one of the multinational companies whose product was a subject of two of the MCM emails. I was glad to see the passionate and often vehement comments of readers, the vast majority I noticed, possibly 95%+, appeared to be in sync with my views on the matter. I was glad to see that many readers DID find the four emails from MCM to be distateful or offensive, and many felt that the manner, style, and possibly unethical content was worthy of a comment…

What really surprised me about that rant, almost more than the original post itself, was the response of one of the principal’s of the MCM firm, who wrote in his comments several points that made it seem as though there was nothing at all objectionable or inappropriate about the emails that his associate sent to me and other bloggers. Instead, nary a trace of remorse or regret, instead a quick defense that struck me as a complete misread of the situation. The key issue raised was the appropriateness or ethics of PAYING FOR A POSITIVE EDITORIAL, not helping bloggers make money from their content through advertising. What was upsetting was the apparent belief that this was just business as usual, and that everyone was cool with it. That new media had different rules. Excuse me for wondering how technology would change the concept of right or wrong…

But thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who found the situation worth ranting about (my first full rant in nearly 10 months). Several thousand readers and even more pageviews of that particular post shows the relevance of the issues discussed. Many readers expressed a very strong reaction to that post, and their comments reflect these reactions. But in a fitting end to this discussion, I received the following email, which is VERY SELF EXPLANATORY, and I quote:

“Bloggers Event of Orbit on September 15, 2008

Dear Market Manila,

I am writing on behalf of our client, (Parent Company), regarding an event organized exclusively for bloggers entitled “7,100 Tastes” sponsored by Orbit Gum. Having one of the largest networks of online independent publishers in the country, (Ad Agency) contacted Mad Crowd Media to invite bloggers like yourself to participate in this event.

We would like to clarify on behalf of (Parent Company) Philippines that a clear misrepresentation was made when Mad Crowd Media communicated “compensation for editorials”, encouraging paid posts. We had no idea beforehand that such a proposition would be offered and neither do we condone such actions. We would also like to emphasize that (Parent Company) was not involved whatsoever in the email invitation independently sent by Mad Crowd Media on (Orbit and Parent Company’s) behalf, and would never have agreed to such an arrangement.

We have consistently communicated to our clients that event participation does not guarantee an editorial post of which they understood and supported completely. We respect the opinions and unbiased feedback of online independent publishers.

In light of this incident, we are no longer working with Mad Crowd Media and we are not pushing through with the event on September 15 to preserve the intention of the event to build a relationship with bloggers in a professional and credible way. We would like to apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

I would like to personally clarify any miscommunication caused by this incident. Please e-mail me your contact details at xxxx@xxxxxxxxx or you can contact me anytime at +63xxxxxxxxxx so we can discuss this incident and clarify all concerns. Thank you very much for your understanding.

xxxxx xxxxxxx
(Ad Agency for Parent Company)”

I have struck out the names of the Parent Company and Ad Agency to prevent bringing any more attention to them, as the issue was primarily a result of Mad Crowd Media emails to, not any interaction between marketmanila and the Ad Agency and Parent Company.

I am pleased to see that (Ad Agency and Parent Company) took the issue of the MCM emails (offering to purchase positive editorials) to bloggers seriously, and acted swiftly to assert that their clients DO NOT ENCOURAGE OR CONDONE “pay for post/editorial” arrangements. So there you have it. Many thanks for their email, which I received last Friday evening. I waited until today to write this post so that I could clarify some issues regarding the email directly with ad agency representatives, which I did just minutes ago. I hope the Philippine blogging community has learned some useful lessons from this experience.


31 Responses

  1. There is hope yet! When the ad agency explicitly states that it does not condone such actions, it makes me a bit more optimistic.

    Thank you again for bringing this issue to light, maybe it’ll remind people that critical thought is a very useful – nay, essential – thing!

  2. Awesome and congrats.

    I also hope that bloggers themselves would own up: if they are writing an advertorial – if they’d gotten a free meal, money, whatever in return for writing a blog post (positive OR negative), then I want to know.

    When I read a favorite blog, I put my trust in the blogger that their review of a restaurant/kitchen good/food item/whathaveyou is fair and impartial. I don’t want small print – I want the caveat that the writer had received some form of compensation for the review up front and center. Let’s keep it clean, let’s keep it honest.

  3. Wait. Why should people fall for this hook, line and sinker? An ad agency plies its trade with the use of its name, and they surely don’t want this mess sticking to them and that maybe the reason they hired a 3rd party outfit. I don’t know how ad agencies really operate, but I smell a rat.

  4. Good work, MM! I love when someone’s daring to speak up about an issue brings the desired result. It motivates the rest to do the same. :-)

  5. Hmm…where was MCM going to get the money to pay the bloggers? Wouldn’t the Parent Company have foot the bill? Or was MCM just going to take it out of their earnings?

  6. Way to go MM!!! I salute you for voicing this out. Continue to keep this blog site pristine and truly sincere in helping out people like me, and thousands, appreciate the art and craft of gastronomical delights. Not to mention travel, and even fashion too(wink-wink).
    I’m glad somehow this ended in a positive note.

  7. acid, I don’t buy this hook, line and sinker either. Only that in this particular case, they responded in the best possible manner. I think the lesson learned is that we must remain vigilant, that bloggers should speak up to maintain their integrity and high standards of professionalism, ethical behavior, etc. And readers need to see transparency and have these kinds of discussions so that the medium doesn’t deteriorate into another paid route for corporate information dissemination. Readers should ask their favorite bloggers to declare their stand on freebies, payments, benefits, gifts, etc. Eina, I think MCM represented itself as the largest grouping or association of bloggers, I can see ad agencies approaching them directly to reach the bloggers, and I have to believe they are being paid for the service, or they receive ad revenues which subsidize other efforts. However, the paid posts are another matter, and as I thought from the beginning, I would find it difficult/dumb for a client/ad agency to explicitly demand or expect a positive post in exchange for a fee in cash — the PR fallout from such a move, documented, would be worse than the positive impact of a blogger writing about their product. Bloggers do have some ability to balance the scales with intelligent use of their medium… for marketmanila, I would like to think that every major rant I have done in the past four years has had a positive result, and actually, that brings up a good point… I should outline those rants and their results in a summary post sometime soon… Thank you all for your comments!

  8. Hurray! huge victory for integrity – continue with your wonderful vision of looking at the world always with ‘fresh eyes”.

  9. This restores our faith in humanity. I can see that majority realize that there is improper behavior in this case. I also hope that everyone understands that not every columnist receives money or freebies for what they write but also do so for their craft. Though many indulge in the practice, there are also many who do so for the love of the job and still are honorable in their intentions.

  10. MM,

    I’m happy that some people like you still has their integrity and idealism left. At the end of the day you come out smiling because you have made a difference. I don’t think the people at MCM can say the same. Cheers!

  11. hi nakakagutom naman dito… nice blog…was just hopping around… hope you can visit mine… thanks.. Gudluck nga pala sa blog awards… tc

  12. MM, you should rant more often because people sit up and listen! hehe
    seriously, thank you for maintaining your integrity and ethics in this blog. speaking up against impropriety is sadly a lost cause nowadays, that’s why we’re a country wallowing in misery as we just tend to look the other way when corruption rears its ugly head.
    Bless you and all the readers who believe in fighting the good fight.

  13. Thank you for standing up and taking a stand on this. I believe a lot of bloggers write honestly about their personal experience and I personally don’t mind that they were given a sample of a product or a copy of a book as long as they are honest about their opinions. I believe the issue gets a bit murky here in the Phils where there is a culture of “utang na loob” where bloggers feel that they have to write positively about something just because they got something for free. The same way i hate critics how critique simply because they can. I hope that other bloggers learn something from this because I personally stopped reading blogs that I feel became too commercialized and biased.

  14. uhmmm… i cant go back and edit so please ignore the first sentence of my comment. I learned another lesson, read before you press submit ^_^

  15. If silence means yes, Nestle’s board should take notice of this and take a hard long look at their governance before the major news org pick this up. This is serious violation of their corporate code of business conduct that applies to their Philippine subsidiary. If Nestle Philippines does not write an apology to this blog in the next couple of days, expect a link of this blog to be sent to their corporate communication and legal departments in Vevey, Switzerland.

  16. I’m glad the ad agency replied. I’m not naive, but even so I was shocked at how kapal the MCM letters were — both the original requests as well as the subsequent justification/defense. Thanks for making a stand, MM. Maybe the bloggers group that organises the annual awards could also organise a forum where bloggers can debate on a code of conduct?

  17. Thank you, Mr. MM, for exposing this ongoing practice. I am under the impression, sadly, that there are very few who, like you, would find paid posts unethical. I gathered this from the way MCM approached you, and later on, had no qualms defending making such offers. My guess is, it’s possible that this practice has been deemed acceptable by bloggers who espouse “making money out of your blog”. Not all, but a significant number, I suppose. Disturbing, really, how money, freebies and favored treatment can warp people’s sense of right and wrong. I hope that readers will be more discerning when searching for food, product and restaurant reviews.

    And here lies the blogging community’s dilemma: bloggers want to be taken seriously, and yet many feel that the same rules on ethics, fairness and objectivity don’t apply to them.

  18. hello MM,

    i am a big fan of your blog and the one thing that i like about it is that it is not littered with advertising. it presents an honest-to-goodness opinion about food. i hate food blogs that are filled with advertising spaces which take half the space of the blog instead of the blog subject itself.

    congratulations for being true to yourself. you truly inspire us new foodies out there who are starting our own food blog as well. may God bless you and your family.

  19. Shooting off on a tangent– the rant was effective because it was crafted with organized thought, was well-phrased, and provided sufficient documentation. Nevermind the rabble-rousing rants of other blogs which provide a quick haha in one’s long day; I think your intelligent audience appreciated that you gave voice to a common frustration. Sometimes I think it’s not the fervor that’s lacking in us, but the eloquence and the fluency to bleed color and breathe life into the passions that beat within. And you, MM, have creative juices flowing madly every which way; and we truly adore you for it.

  20. “That new media had different rules. Excuse me for wondering how technology would change the concept of right or wrong…”
    A thousand “AMENS” to this, MM. How could it? Never!

    Also, one can just imagine how organizations and their ad agencies should rack their brains to respond to that thought provoking article in Newsweek dated June 13, 2005 entitled, “The end of Ads?” Did it ever occur to them that the reason why MM has a large following because aside from the good quality of content, his blog has no ads? It’s like watching tv without the ads…heaven!

  21. thank you for making a very strong stand on this issue, and speaking out. it’s when people like you do this that us readers remain confident in the blogs that we read.

  22. I was late to learn about this issue due to my spotty dsl connection lately

    paid advertisements, common to mainstream media, is now the norm, not the exception. I still read some of them but taken with a grain of salt. Misleading many people indeed still unaware of the “normal” advertising world. Not all media people are like that though. There are still true journalists out there making a difference against unethical writers.

    Photography also has that problem. Photojournalists sticking with a strict no photo manipulation against some photographers using photoshop on models to achieve perfect pictures or food photographers taking pictures of fake food that looks so diffrent from the real food served to customers. again, taken with a grain of salt

    I adhere to no paid reviews policy on my blog, but I rely on Adsense and banners to earn a little on the side. I need money to travel :P

    I’m one of those bloggers always ranting about those payola-ridden lifestyle shows on tv and print media, now i see them on blogs :(



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