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BlogHer Listens and Acts - Check out my WHO International Code Compliant Ads

Some companies pretend to listen, but 30+ years of inaction and public relations spin demonstrates that those words fall on deaf ears. Other companies actively solicit input and act on that input. While Nestle firmly fits in the former category, I'm happy tonight to announce that BlogHer has once again demonstrated that it falls into the latter category.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will be aware that I used to have BlogHer ads on my website and that I took them down on September 14, 2009 because of my inability to keep manipulative bottle ads from appearing on my site. While BlogHer would allow me to take down the ads that I found offensive, there was no way to guarantee that they wouldn't show up in the first place, which meant that often hundreds of people saw an ad before I could have it taken down. breastisbeautyDuring the period where my BlogHer ads were down, I replaced them with a series of breastfeeding pictures. I'm happy to say that while I worked things out with BlogHer, I was able to serve up 44,000 page views of breastfeeding imagery, helping to normalize breastfeeding and battle bottle imagery.

Today I'm happy to announce that the BlogHer ads are back on my site. I got an e-mail from the BlogHer ads team today explaning that they had created a new opt-out category for members of the BlogHer ad network that would allow us to ensure our blogs are compliant with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk substitutes. The new category that BlogHer ads members can opt-in to reads:

  • I do NOT want ads for infant formula, related companies, artificial nipples or pacifiers or bottles.

I would like to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to BlogHer for listening and acting on my concerns. They demonstrated once again what a classy organization they are. In an ideal world of course I'd love them to refuse all non-Code compliant ads period, but in absence of that this is a significant and important change that gives the great bloggers who are part of the network the power to make their blogs Code compliant. I am extremely thankful for that, as are many others.

I've had the opportunity to have conversations today with several bloggers who also feel strongly about this issue and am happy to report that the following bloggers have committed to changing their preferences to ensure they are Code compliant:

When responding to my e-mail on this issue, Dagmar from Dagmar's Momsense said:
As a mother and avid breastfeeding advocate who frequently writes about her experience with breastfeeding on her blog, I want to honor the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and don't want to promote infant formula and related products on my blog. While I do recognize that some mothers use bottles to feed their babies pumped breast milk, which is often the only option for working mothers, I have decided that I also won't promote the use of bottles. I want to thank Annie for her effort to bring attention to this issue.

I hope other bloggers will sign on to be Code compliant too. If you are going to make this important change to your BlogHer ads, please let me know in the comments and I'll add you to the list above.

Thank you to BlogHer for making this important change. Thank you to the other bloggers for opting-in to this important initiative. Thank you to my readers for your ongoing support.
« Follow-up questions for Nestle | Main | An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event »

Reader Comments (63)

Rock. On.

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Awesome - thank you! :)

I am a blogher ad blogger and had elected "no formula" ads. So happy to hear of this new change. Off to verify that I have that selected. Please add me to your list!

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMissy @ Marketing Mama

I just logged in and changed my preferences. Thanks so much for your work on this, Annie. And thanks to BlogHer for listening! :)

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

BlogHer rocks. I love it when things evolve in positive directions.

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

I've also just changed my BlogHer ads preferences. Fantastic!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTatiana

AWESOME! Off to change my preferences.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHaley-O (Cheaty)

@Tatiana: That's great news! Adding you to the list.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Great, really it is ~ but shouldn't this be the default option? Let people choose the option that says "I'd like to violate the WHO Code: sign me up!"

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

@Haley-O: Yay! Just added you to the list.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Candace: I agree and said as much in the post, but this is a great first step in the right direction and at least gives me control of my own blog back. Ideally, I would like all publishers to agree to comply with the Code since we certainly can't count on the manufacturers to do so.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I could NOT be more excited now that I've seen we not only can opt out of the formula ads but also ANIMAL PRODUCTS and PROCESSED FOOD, and DIET ADS, and anything anyone might remotely have a problem with.... I was contemplating quitting the network because I didn't want to advertise a lot of that stuff. Now I don't have to. Now there's not much left to advertise, I'm sure, but I'm a part of the blogher network for the community, not the money. So, it's all good. THANK YOU for inciting them to do this! I'm so happy!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHaley-O (Cheaty)

So happy to be able to opt-out, thank you BlogHer!

While yes, I am a working mom, and I have expressed and used bottles for a portion of my babies' feeds, I'm uncomfortable advertising for them because I have serious problems with our bottle culture; it shouldn't be the default. Thanks for your work, PhD!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAzucar

Cool! I corresponded with BlogHer recently about this and got the impression they were quite resistant to the idea at the time - but it sounds like group pressure has yielded results. A good decision.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlauredhel

This is fantastic!...now if only we could have the same happen to the news sites also...Was reading an artical regarding breastfeeding today and there were ads for formula on the left, right and top of the article! I wanted to turn off the computer it annoyed me hugely.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCJ

Very impressed! That is a great step. And it didn't take 30+ years, go figure.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter@Artemnesia

That is WONDERFUL. I don't run BlogHer ads myself but I know many who do!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandrea from the fishbowl

Awesome!! I don't advertise yet, but i'm SO happy to hear about all of those!! Looks like i'll be opting out of pretty much everything I can, haha. :D Hooray!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmeya

This is a little bit off topic but for Rosemary's first Christmas, my MIL gave an ornament that has a baby bear holding a bottle. I was really taken aback and disappointed because that ornament goes on the tree and should be saved and pulled out lovingly every year.

I made a comment about it to my husband. Even though Rosemary DID take bottles at daycare, I never gave her a bottle myself until she was well over 1 year old.

Bottle imagery is EVERYWHERE... I am therefore impressed that BlogHer took this step!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

I am becoming really impressed with Blogher's ability to listen to those it engages with & implement changes based on feedback or concerns.

You rock! You are my hero in every way! I don't have BlogHer (or any) ads on my website but I would love permission to use some of your breastfeeding images in my sidebar.

Because of reading some of your posts, and just being inspired by your blog, I tossed aside my breastfeeding cover (and my inhibitions) while on my vacation in cruise (and locally while around town) and have now been breastfeeding OPENLY without shame. It was your idea about how we have to NORMALIZE breastfeeding that really got to me. I'm happy to say that I haven't gotten a single negative comment or dirty look so far.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Wow. What else can be said?

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I had already opted to not advertise formula, and in theory I have no problems with bottles being used for expressed breastmilk, but really, that isn't who the bottle companies are targeting. I'm glad to now be WHO code compliant. Thanks so much for rallying to BlogHer. I was also impressed with their other categories, many of which I had already opted out of like diet and plastic surgery ads, among others.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim Rosas

Thank you for pointing this out.

I have gone back into my profile and selected the option you mentioned AND the one that explicitly says "I do NOT want ads for infant formula" (so, yes - FYI folks, this is in TWO places.) While in there, I honed down further what I do not want - processed foods and cosmetic surgery. For good measure.

I make so little money on ads anyway, why should I totally sell out? At this point, I am simply blogging to support my taco habit. That is all.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercagey

Man, that REALLY makes me want a nursing ornament for baby's first Christmas!!! I will have to seek that out and see if I can find one. LOL.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

That's a great idea, Sandy. I wish I had thought of that too - Count me in for permission on those pics to, please! Do let us know! :)

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

I am not yet a part of BlogHer's ad network, but after this I really want to be. I don't really have enough regular readers to make it worth their while though, even if they were accepting members at the moment. Oh well - I'm just stoked that they listened to the concerns and made the appropriate changes. Well, as close to appropriate as one can really expect at this point in time. Hopefully we can work on changing that expectation for the masses.
Way to go, Annie!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

THAT is SO AWESOME! Very, very cool, Annie.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVDog

Wow, that is awesome. Now, how do I get a Blogher ad on my blog(s)?

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

@Sandy + Erin W:

I don't own the rights to all of those pictures. The first two I had purchased (and can't grant permission to a third party to use them), the third one is public domain (Ontario government) and the last one is from flickr (you can use it too if you give credit as I did).

On the right I also have the Best for Babes campaign featured and I'm sure they would love more people linking to their campaign.

I probably could come up with a universally useable "Breastfeeding is Beautiful" sidebar if there is interest in it though. What do you think?

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@cagey: Adding your blog to the list!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Jessica: If you click on the link to BlogHer ads in my post, I think you can add yourself to a waiting list somewhere.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You are a force Annie! I have contemplated BlogHer ads and almost went for them a month or so ago, but then backed down for a number of reasons, this being one of them. I am now more likely to use them in the future because of this. Thanks to you and to BlogHer for listening!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie


So why not take on Google next? It never ceases to irritate me when one searches the terms "breastfeeding help" and the "sponsored result" takes you to a formula site. That should be illegal, plain and simple. And it happens on their AdSense ads as well. I remember seeing one on Tanya Lieberman's coalition site and telling her about it. She "knew it would happen" but couldn't do anything about it (aside from taking the ad down altogether).

It just doesn't seem right that they can do that. It is blatant false advertising. Imagine a vulnerable new mother, desperately searching for help online with a breastfeeding problem and she ends up on a formula site...

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Armbruster Bell

@Wendy: I agree. Google is AWFUL. That is why I would never consider having Google Ads on my site. I wrote about some of the horrible ads here: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/05/04/sabotage/" rel="nofollow">Sabotage.

But I don't see myself taking on Google. I think it would be a waste of my time. They have not demonstrated any real willingness to listen in the past. Perhaps if a good lawyer thought there was a case .... (hint hint Jake).

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I understand... I guess I will just keep "putting it out there" until I can find someone with the know-how and the means to take them on... so Jake, what do you think?? ;-)

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Armbruster Bell

I would use it if you created it! I think many people would use it, and you could link it back to your site.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Gosh, I love BlogHer, don't you?

Opted in as well. Kudos.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

@FireMom: Yay! So glad. Adding you to the list.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Sign me up! (rather how do I change my preferences-I'm new to BlogHer)

Thanks for pointing this out!

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

@Kelly: If you go into edit your settings and choose ad categories, you'll find it there. If you're having trouble, you can always put in a help desk request. Adding you to the list!

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Added you to the list! :)

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

annie, you rock and so does blogher. :) great job!

You totally rock!

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrenna

This is great, Annie.

I personally support a woman's right to nourish her children however she chooses (or doesn't choose - there are women who can't breastfed), but I don't support companies taking advantage of the space of choice or need to pursue their own profit, and especially - ESPECIALLY - not when their profit-pursuing efforts works against the cause of normalizing nursing. We need to see more boobs and fewer bottles.

So, consider me signed up!

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHer Bad Mother

I have refused (politely, of course) the formula and bottle-feeding ads since I began using BlogHerAds. Love what you're doing!!!

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpamela ~ the dayton time

Yay! As a labor and delivery nurse, I can't tell you how many times (in my short career) I've seen women choose formula without a second thought only because they've been told breastfeeding is "icky" and "weird". In our hospital, I'd say 65% of our patients leave planning to formula feed only. The others start breastfeeding, but I doubt no more than 10% stick with it. We have a great lactation consultant, but it's an uphill battle for her.

I believe that a woman has a right to choose how to feed her baby - and formula ended up being used a lot with my first child - but I also agree with Catherine that we need to promote the cause of normalizing breastfeeding. We would have higher rates of breastfeeding if we could better educate women about it. (Even the formula companies will admit "breast is best.")

I've made the change to my BlogHerAds, too.

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I'm impressed with your stance, Annie, and with your educational efforts. I wish this effort would also extend to magazines and other media. Here at Natural Life magazine, we have always included support of the WHO Code in our advertising guidelines. We've lost some advertising as a result, but it's good to be able to sleep at night.

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

Yay.good for BlogHer...I am now on that list.

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrunchy

@pamela: Have you signed up for the new category now?

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Crunchy: Adding you to the list! :)

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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