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Here at Sharp Marketing, we have a lot of food blogger friends we work with in helping promote our clients’ brands and this story from Steve Hall at AdRants made me wonder what our group of folks might say about this. In August, ConAgra Foods, parent to the Marie Callender’s brand of frozen foods, invited food bloggers to a New York restaurant they were told was owned by TLC Ultimate Cake Off Host George Duran and where they would receive a special, four course meal.

But instead of a meal cooked by George Duran, the bloggers were served frozen lasagna from Marie Callender’s. Hidden cameras were in place to record their reactions. As it turned out, about 62 percent of the food bloggers actually liked the dish. But they were miffed and claimed they had been misled.

It’s not like this was any sort of new stunt. Folgers Coffee, Pizza Hut and Domino’s have done similar food replacement stunts. But somehow this time it all went awry. Several food bloggers including FoodMayhem and Mom Confessionals slammed the event. These “truth-seeking journalists,” a term the New York Times used to describe how these food bloggers see themselves, called the stunt a sham and complained about being served highly caloric, sodium-infused processed food.

The brand has apologized saying, “It was never our intention to put any bloggers or their guests in an uncomfortable position and for that we are sorry.” As well, ConAgra has offered to pay the bloggers any cab fare of baby-sitting expenses they may have incurred.

Knowing how serious food bloggers are about the food and establishments they write about it makes me wonder if ConAgra’s agency, Ketchum PR, should have known there could have been backlash and cautioned the brand there might be a response like this. Maybe they should have put their money where their mouth is.

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