Payola at Novartis: Theraflu App Got Rave Reviews From "Sponsored" Bloggers

Last Updated Feb 27, 2011 9:06 PM EST

When Novartis (NVS) released its first Android app a few weeks ago, a flu tracker called "Wheresflu," I wasn't impressed. The data on it was plainly contradictory and the thing had virtually no functionality after you inputted your zip code. But my conclusion that "It's a good thing this app is free, because it's terrible," was a lonely one. On dozens of mommy blogs, Wheresflu is getting rave reviews. That's because Novartis is compensating them to write those reviews.

On mommy blogs, Wheresflu has been welcomed as if it were the third edition of Angry Birds. Here's a sampling:

MomGenerations: Oh, yes moms -- this will make life so much easier!

What I love about it even more is that the WheresFlu app is from the makers of Theraflu. I trust Theraflu.

SimplyBeingMommy: what makes this app super cool is it uses your current location or zip code and it lets you know the current level for your area.

SippyCupMom: This app is fantastic! You can send the app to your friends and family via email and also a coupon for $2 off any TheraFlu product that you can send to yourself or family and friends via email.

ANutinaNutshell: The app also allows you to send yourself and your friends a $2.00 Theraflu coupon! And remember, it's FREE!

SeeryusMama: WheresFlu is perfect if you travel a lot. You'll have the heads up on locations you'll want to avoid and where it's okay to travel too, especially if you are traveling with your family. Right now, in the middle of Nebraska â€" it's all good. Whew!

You can see more of them here and here and here. Each of the posts carries a disclaimer:
This is a sponsored post through the Momtrends Blogger Outreach program for WheresFlu.
MomTrends is ostensibly an editorial site for moms but its "About" section reveals that it's more of a marketing shop. Founder Nicole Feliciano says:
... we offer brands the ability to partner with us in a variety of ways [including] [r]esearch advertising options for brands that meet our high standards.
Standards for brands may be high, but standards for blog posts are low. Amy'sFinerThings didn't even use the app:
I don't have a fancy-schmancy smart phone, but if I did, I'd think about downloading the free WheresFlu tracker app from the makers of Theraflu to keep up-to-date on the most active cold and flu reports around the country.
  • UPDATE: Feliciano responded: "Some may view sponsored posts as selling out. We don't. We think well-executed posts have a place in our community." See her full response here.
The campaign bears a striking resemblance to recent promotions from Abbott Labs (ABT)'s (a Similac app, which annoyed moms who believe an infant formula company should not be offering advice on breastfeeding); Bayer (BAY) (which persuaded MomCentral to carry editorial about its Mirena IUD); and the Corn Refiners Association (which promotes high fructose corn syrup).

Needless to say, this is NOT a sponsored post through the Momtrends Blogger Outreach program for WheresFlu.