A few years ago, the Federal Trade Commission mandated that fashion bloggers start practicing full disclosure:
Every affiliate link used, every crazy gift received, every check
cashed in exchange for a post on Instagram—bloggers have to let their
readers know about it. While that decree hasn't been monitored too closely, at least it's a step in the right direction.
But what about print publications? Yes, there was that one time a WWD reporter got publicly scolded
for posting images from a PR-sponsored weekend getaway. But for the
most part, the relationship between advertising and editorial remains
murky; when a brand gets a product placement in Vogue and then,
100 pages later, an advertisement from the same brand pops up, there's
no note that the featured brand is also an advertiser.
With transparency out the window, we took matters into our own hands
by analyzing six of the biggest women's fashion magazines (from all
three major publishing houses) to see what percentage of advertisers
received editorial touts....
When we reached out for comment, Condé Nast stated there was no official
correlation between advertisers and editorial coverage. (Both Hearst
and Time Inc. didn't reply to our requests by press date.) However,
advertiser priority lists are an open secret in the biz, and some magazines try harder than others to fit brands in. For instance, every Vogue
fashion editorial except for one in the back of the book included a
"beauty note" somewhere in one of the captions. (On page 744: "Balance
dreamy florals with an elegantly defined brow. Chanel's Crayon Sourcils
Sculpting Eyebrow Pencil offers soft precision in a formula that
lasts.") Four out of the five beauty notes recommended brands that also
paid for advertising in the issue.