Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eat with your Eyes: Scotchmallow Heart

I will eat See’s Scotchmallow in any shape or size. Witness See’s Valentine’s version.

See's Valentine's Scotchmallow

The construction of the See’s Scotchmallow Heart is actually upside down from the piece (but consistent with the Egg): marshmallow then caramel then covered in chocolate. It’s tougher to eat in layers than the piece. I usually nibble the sides off of the piece, then pull the chocolate lid off, pull the marshmallow off of the caramel and eat it separately. Messy? Sure. Tasty? Definitely. In this version though it’s less about the dark chocolate and more about the chewy textures of marshmallow and caramel. I also think the marshmallow is less fluffy from being smashed down by the caramel.

I thought it was a pretty good deal at $1.40 for a one ounce heart but I still prefer the pieces.

UPDATE 9:20 AM: About 45 minutes after I posted this I got an email offering me $30 to post a version of some provided text with a link to See’s. (The text was generic, about how a Ses’s gift would be great for Valentine’s day.) Please note that I have never taken money for any of my posts and I actually bought all of the See’s candies I’ve posted about on Candy Blog (well, someone might have given me some of it as a gift and there are the free samples in the store). Please note that this is the second time that I have been offered this sum of money in exchange for posting a generic item about See’s with an SEO building link.

seesscreengrabThe first time was in November, before the new FTC full-disclosure rules for bloggers. The email came from a gmail address but after some prodding I found out that the woman who refused to actually name the company she worked for but some digging revealed that she worked for a company that does search engine optimization with social media. Today’s email was formatted similarly, came from a different person, but also via a generic gmail address. (I saw a half a dozen of these posts on other blogs, an example of one is posted here with identifying info blanked out.)

So if you see some rather generic looking posts about See’s in the next few days (the deadline to post for this premium of a whopping $30 is Friday, February 12, 2010) you might want to ask the blogger. The offer specifically admonishes do not disclose this is a paid post. Again, this is now against the FTC rules governing paid posts by bloggers which says that bloggers must disclose.

But also note that these emails did not come directly from See’s nor did any of them say that they were employed to do this by See’s.

The sad thing is that See’s does not need to do this to buoy their reputation. A better option would be to offer samples to bloggers and allow them to voice their own opinions and disclose how they came about the candy. Right now I just don’t know what to do. I love their candy, but I detest this road they’re going down.

UPDATE 2/11/2010: After posting this I wrote to the one contact I had at See’s and explained the situation, naming names as I knew them. Last night I heard from one of the principals of the agency where the offer originated. He disavowed any knowledge of the campaign and apologized. He was very sincere and fully recognized that this rogue activity was not within any guidelines or boundaries of acceptability (or probably even effectiveness). At this time I consider the matter closed. I still have a bad taste in my mouth about See’s PR practices, but it hasn’t influenced my feelings about the products.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:11 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyFeatured NewsFun StuffPhotography

  1. Thanks for pointing this out for all the food blog readers out there.  Paying for pub is so pathetic beyond the legal implications.  That is just my $.02…and a shame that the See’s brand has to get sucked into the mix via unsavory SEO cos.  Especially those delicious nutty nuggets-o-toffe and chocolate goodness.

    Comment by theresa on 2/10/10 at 6:55 am #
  2. I got that same email!  And it was weird, because it came from a gmail address—not some marketing firm.  Very strange!  I love See’s, but if they are behind this underhanded marketing ploy, I’m not at all happy with them.

    Comment by Julie on 2/10/10 at 7:09 am #
  3. This is ridiculous. No self-respecting blogger would or should do this, at least I hope not. Have you tried contacting See’s directly about it?

    Comment by ShopEatSleep on 2/10/10 at 8:22 am #
  4. Cybele's avatar

    ShopEatSleep - I have an email address for one person there (though from over a year ago) and sent a note detailing most of this (with names & email addresses of course) in hopes that either she can help me or can point me to the right person.

    Julie - I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one aghast at this.

    theresa - I’m glad to hear that you value the standards that most of us review bloggers uphold. An unimpeachable ethics standard is the most valuable thing we offer our readers. (And of course sexy photos of unwrapped candy help.)

    Comment by Cybele on 2/10/10 at 8:25 am #
  5. I wasn’t offered $30 but a jerk at a jerky company wanted me to link to “beef jerky” and he offered me samples of dried pineapples. I said I only post reviews of products that I’ve actually sampled so if he wanted me to write about his beef jerky, he’d have to send me beef jerky. Otherwise, I could only comment on the pineapple “jerky,” which would still link to his website as standard for product reviews anyway.

    He kept going on about how they were a small company and trying to get their name out there and offered some pineapples for me to do a giveaway, all the while still hounding me for a beef jerky link.

    I said, “No” to his offer. I don’t need freebies that bad.

    I’ve been offered money for text link ads, which I only accept if they don’t insist on being hidden in the text of a normal post. Link ads, like image ads, are fine for me as long as they’re clearly marked and separated.

    For a while during the fro-yo craze, every blog post that mentioned fro-yo got hounded by commenters saying Yogen Fruz was the best. I will never eat or blog about Yogen Fruz because I detest that type of spam marketing.

    The links back to gmail accounts and not a business address though makes me wonder if See’s marketing department outsourced their publicity and aren’t really aware? I would just email See’s directly and tell them about it. Either they’re aware and now know that it’s a turn-off for people who are fans, or they didn’t and will look into it.

    Comment by Wandering Chopsticks on 2/10/10 at 8:48 am #
  6. Cybele's avatar

    Wandering Chopsticks - oh, I know! I don’t know if it’s the same jerky guy (how many could there be?) but I’ve had similar experiences. I pretty much tell them to buy and ad, but they really want the text links.

    I try not to hold it against the product itself if the company’s hired some bad marketing firm, but there is one that’s specifically banned from here (unnamed) because they have contacted me dozens of times directly & through affiliate companies (one of them was kind of threatening).

    I’d love somewhere to safely vent about the spammers, the skanky pay-per-post stuff, the SEO links and all that other stuff that just mucks up the web.

    Comment by Cybele on 2/10/10 at 2:59 pm #
  7. I love See’s (and I happen to be willing to do bad things for the Scotchmallow myself) but I really don’t like the whole cash for reviews angle.

    Comment by Gigi on 2/10/10 at 3:04 pm #
  8. Thanks for being up front and honest about this. I think bloggers and companies need to be publicly called out on this behavior. Jezebel did the same thing last week re. bloggers who hyped Ann Taylor Loft without admitting that they got freebies.

    Comment by Jen on 2/11/10 at 12:34 pm #
  9. Holy crap! I’ve never had that happen to me, but thanks for the heads-up. I’m surprised that it would be an offer from a company that makes good products… I could see this coming from a crappy candy company, but See’s? Wow.

    Comment by Patti on 2/12/10 at 3:55 am #
  10. I’m sure the marketing agency never conveyed to See’s what kind of smarmy tactics they’d be using. Most companies don’t want to be affiliated with shady practices.

    Anyway, your transparency is top-notch and I wish more bloggers had your ethical standards.

    Comment by tola on 2/17/10 at 3:06 pm #
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