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Image: Vogue Runway

Runway show pay-for-play is coming to Vogue. The American fashion magazine is – as part of a new(ish) monetization tactic – giving brands the opportunity to pay a whopping $20,000 for inclusion in its runway image offerings section, as long as the brand/collection is approved. According to BoF, “At Vogue Runway, images are the limit for [this] pay-for-play coverage, said a source with knowledge of Vogue’s approach.” In other words, “Brands and designers cannot pay to have their collections reviewed or covered editorially elsewhere on the Runway vertical.”

BoF’s Chantal Fernandez writes that while “the option has been available for at least three seasons,” it is “unclear how many designers have taken Vogue up on its offer, as brands that pay to be featured are not demarcated in any way.” And it is here that we just might have an issue. It is well-established that influencers, celebrities, and brands are required – by law – to disclose clearly and conspicuously when they have been compensated in exchange for posting on social media (or if they are lent a product or gifted something that is posted on social media) or when a post comes about as a result of a connection that consumers might not otherwise be aware of.

Well, the same rules also apply to traditional media in connection with the publication of sponsored materials, whether that be in the form articles or just imagery, alone. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has stated in the past that the posting of image even without an explicit endorsement language, gives rise to a need for disclose.

Would the average consumer know that a certain brand’s runway images appear in Vogue Runway’s Spring/Summer 2019 couture section, for example, exclusively because a $20,000 deal took place behind the scenes? Almost certainly not, especially since for the bulk of its lifetime, the site posted runway imagery without requiring brands to pay. As such, Vogue would legally be required to include language, such as “Sponsored Content,” next to each and every set of images that are published on its site as a result of a paid-for partnership.

In other news, Vogue’s parent company Conde Nast announced that it will put all of its U.S. magazines behind a digital by the end of 2019. In a memo to Conde staff, exiting CEO Bob revealed the impending stagey and called the move the “next phase” of a strategy that started in 2014, with a paywall for The New Yorker, followed by limited access to Wired and Vanity Fair.

A rep for Conde Nast was not immediately available for comment.