Posts Tagged Neil Vineberg

FTC Guidelines on Endorsements and Testimonials

If you’re a blogger getting paid to post, you’re now going to have to disclose it. The social Web is under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) scrutiny. I have worked with several mommy bloggers with very high integrity. A few, however, were running pay for post operations — printing product reviews in exchange for cash — without revealing payments. That is influence gone awry. Now the FTC has put bloggers on notice with a requirement to disclose payments or promotional consideration related to such reviews.

The Federal Trade Commission recently approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.

The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

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Is that blogger review really a paid ad? The FTC wants you to know.

050727_mb_Payolacolor_tnThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is stepping into the practice of paid posts on the blogosphere and it’s about time. I have personally been solicited by several mommy bloggers who shall remain anonymous willing to write only for cash.  Pay-to-play schemes among mommy bloggers have been commonplace, it is akin to payola in the record industry, and it does a disservice to other bloggers.

Newsweek just wrote a story on the topic, “Trusted Mom or Sellout? How some mommy bloggers are being co-opted by corporate concerns.”

Decades ago there was a crackdown on payola in the music industry as record promoters paid off radio DJs to spin their records and popularize artists. The practice has largely been curtailed, although payments are still made under the table to DJs in major markets. Brands have been willing to shower freebees on bloggers in exchange for editorial coverage that fails to attribute the gifts and their influence. It stinks and it’s corrupting the blogosphere.

According to Consumer Reports:

“The FTC is updating its “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” which were last refreshed in 1980. What this has to do with bloggers is a new form of advertising, called word-of-mouth marketing, in which advertisers pay your favorite bloggers to “review” their products. The bloggers get paid, for example, with free product samples; gift certificates for JCPenney shopping sprees; cash payments; or the loan of a $30,000 Ford Flex for a year.

The bloggers are supposed to write whatever they want about the product—pro or con—but the payments put into question whether they would be inclined to seriously bite the hand of a “friend” lending a car or giving other valuable goodies or cash.

Last December social media blogger Chris Brogan shared on his blog that he was taking cash from Panasonic to visit the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as their guest. Chris, who I like, rationalized that it was OK to take that cash for travel, hotels and meals, because he liked the idea of attending CES “for free,” he was going to hang with other professional colleagues who were doing the same thing, and he was honest and open about it. Therefore, it was ethical. Of course and no surprise, Chris later blogged about Panasonic which felt like a quid pro quo to me. That’s the problem. If I am going to trust Chris Brogan as an unbiased source but he is taking cash from companies he blogs about, his credibility and reputation go in the trash can.

Years ago I took a reporter from Newsday for lunch to talk about my company. That reporter refused to allow me to pay even for a sandwich and a soda. Why? Reporters at Newsday are disallowed from taking  free anything from companies and their PR reps. Bravo!!!

The FTC is right to investigate and they should extend this investigation far and wide.

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NASA AMES…Getting Mooned Again

LCROSS_Centaur_Sep_small-1I remember joyfully when Mom used to let me cut school for NASA launches and re-entries. Had I had more of a mathematical and scientific personality vs a creative, ADD mentality, I might have become a pilot or astronaut.

I have spent the majority of this great life exploring inner space through meditation with Guru Sri Chinmoy and that’s been an extraordinary, life-changing experience.

Still, I’m still really excited that NASA’s Ames facility in Silicon Valley is managing the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission. This is a pretty cool effort to help determine if there is water hidden in the permanently dark craters of one of the moon’s poles.

NASA plans to crash a vehicle into the moon’s south pole and fly a partner craft through the huge plume created by the crash to analyze it for signs of water and other compounds. Additional space and earth-based instruments also will study the plume, which scientists expect to be larger than 200 metric tons.

If there are substantial amounts of water ice there, it could be used by astronauts to make rocket fuel when they later visit the moon. The $79 million crash is expected to take place in October.

I’m all for going to the moon and Mars while dealing with all the other financial and social exigencies on earth. Space exploration has, in past, challenged America to brilliant innovation, and resulted in all kinds of new products and services.

And we must redirect the innovation driving America’s weapons industry into clean tech, space tech and other more peaceful manifestations of science.

Follow LCROSS on Twitter.

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Narada Michael Walden’s Let the Sunshine In: Light Descended

IMG_0247Many of you know through my Tweets and Facebook entries that I attended and have been supporting my friend Narada Michael Walden and his Let the Sunshine In Benefit which took place on Memorial Day evening.

Narada asked me right after his incredible show, “What was the highlight, what was the best part for me?” I was speechless, and I felt somewhat incomplete having failed in a moment to find and express words. The reality is I was overwelmed by the greatness and goodness of the evening. There were so MANY highlights. Now I am ready to attempt to answer that question.

Let the Sunshine In
10+ standing ovations.
The Olympics of Music, with every artist breaking a world record.
Perfect string and horn arrangements as Narada recreated and brought to life so many hits from five decades with the original artists who peformed them.
The house band: has any one stage featured better?
The backup singers: sheer brilliance under Claytoven Richardson’s leadership.
The production: Narada’s impeccable, tasteful and pristine imprint on everything.
The Love: we all felt it coming from Narada’s Sunlit Heart.
Christopher Rodriguez in the house – we send him our love.

Nothing in my life has matched my experience of Let the Sunshine In, the benefit concert staged by the great record producer Narada Michael Walden for Christopher Rodriguez, a young Oakland boy paralyzed by a stray bullet in a senseless and random act of gun violence. It was a night I will always remember and cherish.

Why was it amazing? Simple: Narada is a consummate perfectionist who has realized Music at a very sublime level. He is like a High Priest, a Guru, and it’s no surprise that he has been the force behind more than 50 hit records that have enriched the lives hundreds of millions of people around the world….recorded by the likes of Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand and many others. With three Grammys and an Emmy and recognition as a Top 10 Record Producer of All Time by Billboard Magazine — it is Narada’s spirituality-infused life that makes his work important now and forever.

Narada knows how to make great musicians and great music sound better. He knows how to connect music, spirit and audiences. He knows how to put it all together. And the performance on May 25th was powered by a giant engine:

A 16 piece backup band with the likes of Chuck Leavell, keyboardist with the Rolling Stones, Jim Horn, one of the most influential horn arrangers in pop music, and the great keyboardist Frank Martin, who partnered with Narada on the music that was performed. Two bassists, three guitarists, four keyboardists, two percussionists, six horn players (including my friend Premik Russell Tubbs), and it goes on and on.

Minna Choi’s 60-member Magik*Magik Orchestra backed up the artists with a gorgeous palette of texture and color, and featured exceptional students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music led by Maestro Michael Morgan, musical director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra.

And a production team with pros like Merl Saunders Jr., Tim Jahnigen, Vadim Canby and Kimrea who made everything work for the audience and featured artists:

Sting, who sang several of his brilliant songs, including Fields of Gold and joined in a joyous operatic duet with the incomparable mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.

Madame von Stade, who performed a breathtaking version of Ave Maria. I loved her beautiful spirit and grace.

The great Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis who performed many Fifth Dimension hits, including Up, Up and Away (a song they wrote), Hair, and One Less Bell to Answer. I grew up influenced by the awesome musicality of the Fifth Dimension so hearing Marilyn and Billy brought back a special magic.

Chris Botti and the incredible violinist Lucia Micarelli surprised us with a duet that touched the Gates of Heaven.

We were graced by the great R&B legend Gerald Alston of the Manhattans who performed Shining Star. And by the contemporary jazz acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh who elevated us to a serene place with his classic performance of Living Inside Your Love.

So many others joined, like Mandolin jazz/bluegrass fusion virtuoso Dave “Dawg” Grisman, singer Lisa Fischer, the incomparable Mary Wilson, and Dale “Satchmo” Powers, who invoked the great Louis Armstrong in a performance of What a Wonderful World. With Narada leading the way, the performers just kept hitting the home runs and the audience was overjoyed and overwhelmed.

And the great Bobby Weir and friends jammed it out and lit up Davies Symphony Hall.

So there were superbly great performances. Why was this a significant event? It all starts with Narada Michael Walden.

We met in 1973. I was an aspiring guitarist and Narada an extraordinary drummer. He joined the path of Guru Sri Chinmoy along with Mahavishnu John McLauglin and learned meditation, and I joined a year later at Narada’s invitation. In those days Narada was washing dishes, giving drum lessons and developing his career. His humble beginnings were short-lived, however. For he soon joined the Mahavishnu Orchestra, met Jeff Beck, recorded with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and Jeff Beck, launched a solo recording career, launched a production career, and 11 years later, earned a Grammy as Producer of the Year. Along the way he catapulted the careers of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, relaunched Aretha Franklin’s career, and recorded over 50 hit records for many of the artists who appeared at the concert, including Shanice and Tevin Campbell.

In his life he has collaborated with a who’s who in music because if you’re a really great musician, you probably want to know or work with Narada Michael Walden. Because music always sounds better when Narada is involved.

Narada is aware of Perfection and it’s an intuitive thing. He knows what music can be and should be, and he takes us there. That is a rare place where goodness and greatness meet together with the penultimate peak of musical satisfaction. That’s where Narada lives all the time, which is why so many people like me and the more than 150 people who made this show happen – were deeply grateful to support his work.

So history was made on May 25th in San Francisco at Let the Sunshine In. We were witness to something sublime, soulful, and spiritual. We heard great music and felt Narada ‘s humility, Narada’s love, Narada’s ability to bring Heaven down to earth. And being the giant and generous Soul he is, we all had a chance to participate as performers, as volunteers, and as audience members. We sang Give Peace a Chance and Let the Sunshine In. We were one soulful love fest for sure.

Welcome to the great Song of Love that is Narada’s life. Welcome to the great Spirit who we know as Narada Michael Walden.

We join with Narada in supporting Christopher Rodriguez and the idea that music can inspire youth and should be part of their lives.

And we celebrate the great work of the Narada Michael Walden Foundation. I say, “Rock on!”

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PODCAST: Launching Your Startup

This past Sunday at Sun’s Startup Camp before an audience of about 600 attendees, I had a chance to explore the challenges facing startup companies with a brilliant panel: Matt Dickman, Fleishman-Hillard (Matt’s blog); Christina Kerley, ckEpiphany, Inc. (CK’s blog); Jyri Engström, Google (Jyri’s blog); and Adam Metz, theMix (Adam’s blog).

Now you can view and download the sessions as we explore prelaunch and launch strategies and questions on Branding, Messaging & Positioning, Social Media, and Public Relations. You’ll hear real-time experience and sage advice from these experts in digital and social media, advertising, PR and technology. Rejoice: there’s something here for anyone managing or promoting a company, product or service.

Read Mashable’s report on the panel, CK’s post and Matt Dickman’s post.

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NASDAQ: Holy Grail

mo_051908_hiresIt’s where several technology startups would love to ultimately end up: as a public company on the NASDAQ. Coinciding with the 17th Annual Meeting of my client, New York Biotechnology Association (NYBA), my PR firm arranged for NYBA executives and members to ring the opening bell at NASDAQ. I was pleased to join Dr. Nathan Tinker, Executive Director, NYBA Board members, and executives from several NYBA-member biotech companies on NASDAQ. The event was broadcast live on CNBC, Fox News Network, by several overseas TV news networks, and on the mammoth NASDAQ screen in Times Square at 45th and Seventh Avenue. An exciting and fun morning was then followed by the very interesting NYBA conference taking place today and tomorrow. (Photo: I’m 3rd from left. Dr. Tinker is signing his name to open the session.)

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The Collision of Technology and PR, Music

19178163For a tech geek like me, rarely does a search for information, sharing of ideas, and conversation take place without technology – a laptop, desktop, iPhone, or desk phone – as an intermediary. And through social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, AIM, Twitter and Jaiku, I’m in a virtual and constant presence with hundreds of key influencers and friends operating in my areas of interest. For technology — computers, software, the Internet and social networking — has touched my life and penetrated my consciousness.

I enjoy it. It’s good for my business, and it satisfies my need to grow and know. But it’s mere technology, not Nirvana. And I go elsewhere for peace of mind. I ride my bike, feel and appreciate nature, embrace a healthful diet and explore Spirit. I also play and write music that expresses my heart. And I meditate daily and seek my Soul. The latter comprise my personal satisfaction and make it possible for me to handle the former.

But make no mistake about it – technology has changed me and the industries I play in – like public relations and music, especially. This week, the San Francisco MusicTech Summit, organized by my friend, Brian Zisk, brought together the best and brightest developers in the Music/Technology Space, along with the musicians, entrepreneurial business people, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. They met to discuss the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem in a proactive, conducive to dealmaking environment.

What was interesting about the conversation was the apparent gap between technology affecting the music industry and the ability of most traditional musicians to use it to their advantage. Social media expert Brian Solis talked about the collision between technology and public relations suggesting that new tech tools are changing the practice of PR and practitioners need to evolve their social media toolset. I agree. I think there’s been a similar collision between technology and music.

Technology has been creeping into the music business for decades. It really gained speed in the late 90s with the advent of digitized music, and, for better or worse, I helped make it happen — working with pioneers of the MP3 movement to help them elevate awareness of their technology and drive adoption. Today, MP3 is the dominant digital music technology, thanks largely to startups like MP3.com, eMusic and MusicMatch. Add to that the power of Steve Jobs and Apple who changed the face of music distribution and sales, with iTunes and iPods.

Brian’s summit brought together hundreds of people and I especially enjoyed the panel that explored the collision of tech and music, led by my friend David Katznelson, of the Birdman Recording Group. Music has taken a back seat to the technology, record companies are no longer the intermediaries between the artist and audience, and if you want to succeed, you better know how to work the tech tools and social networks to your advantage.

Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, was also on site connecting with the digital side of the music business as his brilliant and popular blog is expanding beyond coverage of social web apps coverage into music and other diverse areas of interest.

Some folks at the intersection of music and tech have it down, like my friends, Jonny Kaps and Nat Hays, at +1. They tap the power of technology to their advantage. They have a strong social media methodology for promoting their bands like The Kooks, The Heavy, Kate Nash, and others. They’ve avoided the collision and monetized the tools.

Others are still trying to figure it out, hence a great opportunity for Brian to expand his conference in SF and in major markets across the country.

Ah, the weekend is almost here, and through the chaos I can hear the faint sound of seagulls down at the Marina calling me to take a bike ride, perhaps over the Golden Gate Bridge. Gotta leave tech and engage my soul. See you Monday.

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