If a writer for a top automotive website took money or gifts from an ad agency to promote an automaker's celebrity contest, would it raise eyebrows? It would certainly raise ours. Today, Autoblog writer Jeff Glucker wrote about Nissan's Britney Spears contest. Trouble is, he's working for the agency that's running it.
UPDATE (9:00 PM EST) Autoblog's editor-in-chief, John Neff, responds.
Earlier this week, Glucker sent out an e-mail solicitation to several of his contacts in the automotive website world, asking for help promoting a new campaign for the Nissan Versa:
I am working with third-party agency that's assisting Nissan with a new campaign for the Versa. No, I didn't lose my job or anything - this is just some side contracting work so I can buy a second iPad or golden shift-knob for my car.
Basically, the agency is hoping to get this video out and about on the Interwebs.
The premise is that Nissan wants people to share their road trip experiences, and the automaker has created an app along with Google Maps that will allow users to create roadtrip videos of their own (http://www.myversaroadtrip.com/). Once they do so, they can enter to win an all-expenses-paid road trip, where Nissan will outfit a Versa with cameras, and the best video created from those winners will wind up with a new Versa to take home.
If you can run with the video, you're helping me out - if not, no worries - I understand.
Let's be crystal clear about the situation here: There is a post on Autoblog under Jeff Glucker's byline whose subject is an entity Glucker has copped to working for. At best, that's a conflict of interest. At worst, it could be a violation of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines. Either way, it doesn't pass any reasonable ethics smell test.
As of now, Glucker hasn't responded to Jalopnik's request for comment. Chris Paukert, Autoblog executive editor, said he was unaware Glucker was working for an outside ad agency.
There's no doubt it's tempting to cash in on the massive pageview-count of one's employer, especially when you're toiling away in a $20-per-post sweatshop environment, but double-dealing, no matter who does it or how it's done, is wrong. Every violation of the trust between reader and writer — no matter how seemingly innocuous — casts all of automotive "media" in the light of suspicion.
It's been said before, but it bears repeating: Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Here, let's open the window.
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