Working with brands and PRs can be incredibly fruitful, providing the knowledge and access to products that allows me to write this blog on a daily basis. Although I could write to eternity about beauty without ever speaking to a brand representative, it does make it easier to make this an interesting and varied place to visit. However, with the growth of blogs and online platforms, PR has had to evolve to take into consideration the need for instantaneous information. We no longer wait six months to read what shades of lipstick will be on-trend in Vogue, nor are we willing to settle for finding out details of the new MAC collection only two weeks before it hits stores. With the internet holding an infinite amount of information, it takes only a search engine and a click of a button to find out all the details you could ever need; with brands launching products internationally, it’s not hard to find out about the ‘next big thing’ months before it’s due to hit our shores… This is precisely why embargoes no longer work in the digital age.
An embargo is essentially the prohibition of release of a certain piece of information, imagery or product news before a specified deadline. Brands often enforce this as a way of restricting the flow of information, but still informing press or relevant parties about a forthcoming piece of news. Often embargoes accompany big launches, newsworthy collaborations, celebrity associations or charity partnerships – stuff that brands want you to talk about, but only on their terms and within their specified timelines. I frequently get sent information on a product or attend a launch that’s embargoed for anything up to six months, meaning it falls off my radar and mostly gets forgotten about; with the hundreds of new launches every single month, I don’t have the room in my brain to remember to write about something in three months time when there’s so much exciting stuff happening in the here and now.
There are a huge amount of launches that happen overseas (particularly in the US) up to a year before they hit the UK. This means information can easily be sourced via blogs and websites that already have access to the details or products themselves – often there’s no need for a PR contact if you simply want to share news that’s already available online. Similarly, if a brand has struck a deal with a large press title and embargoed the news to everyone else, as soon as it’s out there there’s absolutely nothing stopping every Tom, Dick and Harry from sharing the news simultaneously. Some brands still get incredibly shirty when you want to share information out of their pre-agreed perimeters, when realistically those perimeters are completely redundant as soon as a speck of information appears on the world wide web.
I was recently contacted by a brand to share news on a pretty big celebrity collaboration, on the basis that the information was embargoed until the following Monday. Although embargoes as a whole drive me potty and are somewhat unnecessary (why not just tell me the day of the launch, to save you and I both a bunch of effort?) I begrudgingly agreed to keep it under wraps for a few days. However, when the collaboration was announced by Vogue three days before the embargo was officially lifted, it made the whole situation seem somewhat ridiculous. How can you have an embargo and then lift it for one publication, expecting everyone else to stay schtum until the day of your choosing? I decided to regram and share information that was already out in the ether for all and sundry to see, only to be scolded and asked to remove it until after the previously specified date. This is precisely why emboargoes don’t work in the digital age – because I’d been informed about the launch I officially couldn’t talk about it, but the millions of sites that hadn’t been contacted weren’t bound by the embargo and therefore could discuss it to their hearts content.
Embargoes are there for the benefit of the brand, not the consumer. Embargoes are there to ensure a brand gains the maximum amount of exposure around key dates – usually just as products are about to become available, so as to create hype and demand in a short space of time. However, embargoes are no longer a realistic way in which to operate with digital press because we’re not bound by the same restrictions as our long-lead print counterparts. Whereas an embargo would ensure print coverage within the month of launch and not before (which makes total sense,) for digital darlings embargoes are just a pain in the posterior we don’t need. I want to be able to share news and feature products as soon as I feel it’s relevant to my readers, not when a brand deems it to fit within their year-long strategy. I’d much prefer not to know until the last moment, rather than being given information that will sit in my inbox for a month until something more exciting comes along. For me, embargoes are just a headache I don’t need…
Are you a blogger that’s been bound by embargoes? What do you feel about their implementation? Do they bother you, or do you just agree to be bound by them and never think of it again? I’d love to know your thoughts!