Womenswear Daily is getting some heat for staff menswear reporter David Yi's Instagram account of an all expense paid weekend trip to the Maidstone East Hampton (the average room goes for $845 per night), thanks to P.R. firm The Social Co. Most sources are pointing out that Yi's meticulous Instagramming of the entire weekend with the Social Co.’s preferred hashtag, #MaidstoneVoyage, is likely a breach of journalistic ethics.
Of the situation, WWD told Gawker:
WWD has long-standing policies in place that ensure editorial integrity. David Yi was in attendance at the event in question, but as a guest of a personal friend and not in a reporting capacity. There were no free clothes or gifts distributed. While we feel that no conflict of interest existed in this situation, the appearance of it is just as serious. As a result, we will deal with the matter internally.
As for what Gawker's tipster had to say about the matter: “This habit of accepting extravagant gifts is an ongoing a rite of passage for a shit ton of fashion editors (still!)."
What most sources aren't mentioning is the hashtag and the potential problems that stem from it. As we saw last week with Cole Haan and its Pinterest contest, which encouraged participants to use a specific hash tag, if you are receiving compensation in exchange for an endorsement (which may take the form of a Tweet and Pin or FB post, etc.) or have a material connection with the brand you are endorsing and you don't disclose it, that is very likely a violation of the FTC Guidelines. So, here, judging by The Social Co.'s many tweets about the Maidstone weekend, we're guessing the two had some kind of deal. The question is, thus, by inviting bloggers and industry insiders to spend the night, eat, drink and maybe accept some girls (even though WWD denies any gifts were involved), and then having people tweet about it all (without disclosing that it was all sponsored), is The Maidstone and/or The Social Co. in violation of the FTC Guidelines? There's a chance that they are.
It seems WWD doesn't want a scandal, as a spokesperson told Gawker: "WWD asked David to delete Instagram imagery because of the appearance of a potential conflict of interest." No word on whether Yi is being fired.