There has been a couple of thought patterns being transmitted out in the wine blogosphere about the ethics of ‘schwag’ or ‘media samples’ and what it means to review these in publications. This is intriguing because it seems that some think the providing of samples is some sort of “payoff” or there is some ethical tie between being given a sample and the honest review of that sample.
That is very odd.
I’ve worked in marketing quite a while and when a product is turned over for review, the reviewer is never charges for the product. Additionally, the product is reviewed honestly and therefore the sample is given at the vendor’s own risk. If you’re confident that you make a good product then submit it for review in as many places as possible (thats what a good PR staff will do for you). There’s no conflict of interest there and that is how PR is done. Free product doesn’t mean good review (believe me, I’ve submitted some real stinkers in the past and have gotten slammed). I personally have put out negative reviews and gotten some pretty hateful e-mails back, but whatever. Its a free country.
Now a paid advertisement is different. Absolutely disclose paid advertising and endorsements. Writing a blog entry because you were paid $800 should be plainly spelled out. But the basic tenet of publishing a review, sample provided or not, is that you’re independent. Do restaurant reviewers, who are often comp’d for their meal, disclose that the meal was free? Why should they?