Abbott Pays Bloggers For Positive Reviews of Its Similac App

Last Updated Mar 1, 2011 12:06 PM EST

Abbott Labs (ABT) compensated a bunch of mommy bloggers to give mostly positive reviews of its new iPhone app for Similac infant formula. There are two conflicts of interest going on in this marketing campaign: The legalized bribery of supposedly independent bloggers and Abbott's interest in seeing as little breastfeeding as possible.

According to Missy Berggren, who writes the Marketing Mama blog, the app is:
...designed to help new parents track baby's eating, sleeping and diaper changes. It gives parents the option of tracking breastfeeding or bottle-feeding ... including noting details such as which breast baby fed from last so you don't forget.
The problem with this is that if mom or baby slips from the app's schedule, they may feel nagged by the iPhone to get back on the teat, so to speak, and start worrying unnecessarily if that doesn't happen. The app suggests worried moms call Abbott's "feeding expert" helpline. But this helpine does not actually employ any lactation consultants, the healthcare experts who specialize in teaching moms to breastfeed. At the very bottom of the helpline's web page, Abbott admits:
If you have questions related to breastfeeding, a lactation consultant will be available to help you. Lactation consultants are provided by a third party.
There is a reason Abbott does not employ lactation consultants: They regard themselves as healthcare providers; the international infant formula marketing code of ethics bans the use of healthcare providers to sell formula; and continuing medical education credits cannot be earned by lactation consultants if a formula company is involved in providing the course's content.

Lactation consultants are biased against formula because breastfeeding is generally considered superior for infant nutrition than formula. Berggren added:
A formula company is not about supporting breastfeeding -- period. Let's just get that straight. They are about selling formula. Those diaper bags in the hospital filled with formula but including "breastfeeding support" materials with formula logos all over it? To sell formula. If it says "breastfeeding" on it but has a formula logo... you don't have to think very hard about what the goal is.

Yet the mommy bloggers have been gushing over the new app. Shake the Salt said:
What I Love: It's free. It makes recording information easy.... Since the Ped [pediatrician] is going to ask about baby eating, sleeping, and about his diapers; you can send it via email just prior to your appointment or to your own email to print out and take with you.
The Divine Miss Mommy said:
Whether you breast or bottle feed, the Baby Journal app makes it easy to track the details.
SippyCupMom said:
This App is amazing. You can track your baby's feeding, sleeping, diaper changes and growth right on your iPhone!
All three of those blogs disclosed they were compensated for writing those reviews by Collective Bias, a social media marketing agency whose name describes the kind of blog content it promotes.

In fact, there's a bit of a pattern emerging here. While moms may represent all that is good about human life, the mommy blogosphere is emerging as a dark pit of conflicts, corporate interests, and bogus personal journalism.

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