The blog, walmartingacrossamerica.com, chronicled a couple's journey across the country in an RV while stopping at various Wal-Mart parking lots. Although the blog did not initially bear any clear disclosures outside of an advertisement, the trip was funded by the group Working Families for Wal-Mart [WFWM], a Wal-Mart-backed organization designed to promote a positive portrayal of the company. The group is part of Edelman's effort to turn around the reputation of the controversial retailer.
Following several days of outcry on the blogosphere about the blog's lack of transparency, Richard Edelman posted a statement of apology for the incident on his personal blog on Edelman's website today.
"For the past several days, I have been listening to the blogging community discuss the cross-country tour that Edelman designed for Working Families for Wal-Mart," the statement said. "I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client's."
Edelman went on to say his agency supports the transparency guidelines of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association [WOMMA], which call for disclosure of the source of such efforts.
Popular blogger Steve Rubel, who also works for Edelman, posted his own statement today as well, saying "our firm failed to be completely transparent."
"I am sorry I could not speak about this sooner. I had no personal role in this project," Rubel wrote. "There is a process in place that I had to let proceed through its course. This is why it took some time."
It was revealed last week that one of the bloggers who took the RV trip was Jim Thresher, a photographer for the Washington Post. Thresher agreed to repay $2,200 in travel costs to WFWM last week after the paper said he had violated its ethical guidelines by accepting the money.
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