Monday, September 10, 2012

Weighing the American Apparel Connection

Sorry for the lag between posts. I've been visiting family, and that tends to slow things down. The blog will be back to its regular 4-5 posts per week soon. In the meantime, I have some news to report and advice to solicit.

For the last three weeks or so, since being contacted by a "market research" firm that connects brands to bloggers, I've received a number of solicitations, mostly press releases and mass emailings, asking me if I'd like to feature such and such a beauty product or shoe line on my blog. Mostly, these are not very interesting. I skim them, take note, and move on. They are blog-specific spam. 

The other day, however, I received a more compelling request. American Apparel wants to run an ad on my blog, the kind of flashy side banner on display on street style blogs from Stil in Berlin to Vanessa Jackman. I like American Apparel, I have to admit, despite, or perhaps because of, the acrimony and outrage their ads often elicit among my fellow lefty academics. I like their '70s smut-inspired image, their disdain for retouching. I like their minimalist, but well-fitted products. I like their treatment of garment workers. And I think their brand is strangely compatible with my own — if I can, in fact, refer to my academic persona as a brand (I think I probably can). Plus, they pay $10 every time someone clicks through and buys a product on their website. The ads change regularly, and a blogger can choose to take them down(or put them back up again) at any time. American Apparel won't disclose numbers, but they state that that their "partners," which include such big name blogs as Fashion Toast, Chicmuse, and Karla's Closet, range in average compensation from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand per month. 

The money, of course, is not the issue here. My blog is not likely to produce that large a number of click throughs, at least not at this point, and I'm not after extra income. But I haven't decided yet whether running the ad is an interesting research opportunity, i.e., a chance to see what happens to a blog when fashion brands get involved, or a liability, opening me up to charges of conflict of interest, or worse, compromising my academic integrity. Obviously, if I did run the ad, I would only do so if American Apparel agreed to let me fully disclose my experience with doing so and gave me absolute freedom to say whatever I wanted about American Apparel and its sponsorship of blogs on this blog and in all my future publications on the subject. That, of course, is the appeal of accepting the offer. I could see what happens when I advertise. Do I alienate readers? Draw more in? Do I elevate the visibility of the Urban Fieldnotes brand? Or run it through the mud. And does running an ad for a high profile but still relatively hip brand make the website more appealing to other advertisers?

The whole point of this project is to do an auto-ethnography of street style blogging. I do what bloggers do, face the issues they face, make the decisions they make,etc. And what aspect of blogging captures the conflicts and contradictions of bloggers' ambiguous position in the fashion industry better than that of advertising? This could potentially provide me an insider vantage point or at a least possible doorway into a world seldom visible to other scholars. 

What do you all think? I'd love to hear your thoughts before making my decision. 


  1. This is so interesting. The Sartorialist had an AA ad on his site for a few year and I have seen it on a couple other well known blogs. I had always just assumed it was a set monthly rate thing but it makes more sense that they pay by click through. I think you made the right decision to do it as this is undeniably a major part of street style/fashion blogging. It will be great to hear your experience with it. The ad looks good and it doesn't feel imposing. I think it works here because the style of clothes carried by AA is right along the lines of the style of the subjects you tend to photograph.

    I've been getting a lot of people asking me lately why I am not monetizing. As if I could and I'm not... I would love to be approached by advertisers. It just hasn't happened yet. I'll be sure to let you know if it does though.

    1. Thanks, Dana, for your kind and thoughtful comments. I'm always glad to hear what you're thinking. And please do let me know if you get approached by advertisers. I'd love to share experiences. AA has been my first real approach.


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