What really went down in the Samsung Mob!lers’ fiasco with Indian bloggers at IFA

Today we all woke up to a story of how Samsung flew a couple of bloggers from India to Berlin to “cover” IFA but were later threatened to either don Samsung’s uniform and work as a promoter at their booth or they would be left stranded in Berlin and their return tickets to India cancelled. One of the bloggers, Clinton Jeff, narrated this incident to me a couple of days ago and I told him to write a post about it. He has not written his post, yet.

In case you haven’t read what happened with CJ, here’s the story in brief. CJ and another blogger from India were invited to IFA by Samsung Global as a part of its Mob!lers program. The program had two options – bloggers could cover it as reporters or promoters. Reporters too had to don Samsung t-shirts for group photos and meetings. Promoters, meanwhile, were given uniforms and had to man Samsung’s experience zone at the press conference as well as its booth at IFA. Reporters were hosted by Samsung till September 1 while promoters were staying through IFA and leaving on September 6.

I’m told CJ was asked whether he wanted to go as a reporter or a promoter and he chose to go as a reporter. However, the confirmation mail from Samsung Mob!lers mentioned he would go there as a promoter. According to another tech journalist and close friend Karan Bajaj, CJ got in touch with the Indian representative, who told him it would involve certain small chores that would only take a few extra minutes every day. He didn’t clarify what the “chores” would be and neither did CJ care to confirm them. It was only when the Indian bloggers reached Berlin did they realize what being a promoter meant.

Both the bloggers disagreed to do what was required out of them as being promoters (that is don Samsung’s uniform and man their booths showing off devices to other members of the press). Tempers flared and calls were made to India, where CJ alleges the Indian representative threatened to cancel their hotel booking and flight back to India. Meanwhile, Samsung India tells me new tickets were booked for them for September 1 instead of September 6. CJ tells me the hotel reservation was not cancelled but they did not get any confirmation of their new return flight after the original tickets were immediately cancelled. However, another company came to the rescue of the two bloggers and lodged them into a hotel and booked return tickets for them.

This might sound as a really bad PR move for Samsung but I think there is more to it than meets the eye. According to a statement provided by Samsung India, “Samsung Mob!lers is a voluntary community of active Samsung mobile device users, who are offered the opportunity to participate in our marketing events across the world.
(Emphasis mine.)

In short, Mob!lers was never a program for the media or bloggers. It is meant for Samsung fans, who have been using Samsung phones and probably also write loads about Samsung. Such programs are not specific to Samsung and are hosted by most companies. So accepting an invitation from them in the first place is debatable.

There is also a sense of miscommunication between Samsung and the bloggers in question. Why would Samsung ask them to go as promoters and not reporters when they specifically asked for it. The bigger question, however, is why would the two bloggers agree to travel if they were asked to participate in some ‘extra chores’?

Disclosure: If a company pays for our travel and accommodation to cover an event, we always disclose it. We never promise any coverage or participate in any marketing activity in lieu. I have known both CJ and Karan Bajaj for a few years and they also happen to be close friends of mine.


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  • http://harryjerry.com Harry Jerry

    “In short, Mob!lers was never a program for the media or bloggers. ”

    1. They picked CJ and the other blogger from a ‘blogging contest’.

    2. There were two types of entries to the Mobiler program – Reporters and Promoters. If reporters don’t come under media or bloggers, then what the…??

    • http://www.bgr.in Rajat Agrawal

      The fact that one had to enter a contest in order to become a “reporter” for Samsung events in itself means you are not a “journalist” in a purist way. Samsung Mob!ler has been a marketing activity and their “reporters” do not fall under the term that describes journalists. It means people who “love” Samsung and want to write good things about the company.

      CJ and the other Indian blogger probably did not know what they were getting into. Samsung too failed to communicate properly what the two bloggers would have to do at IFA. Even as “reporters” they had to wear Samsung branded t-shirts.

      Marketing people in companies do not understand the difference between casual and professional bloggers, especially in the tech scene. But a professional blogger should know where to draw the line.

  • http://pricebaba.com Annkur

    Balanced view Rajat. Can’t disagree with anything you say. But the more I think about this topic, the more I get puzzled from the point of view of Journalistic integrity.

    Shouldn’t we be looking at WHO are these Mobilers?

    Samsung says “Samsung mobile device users”, but whom does Samsung make a Mobiler in India? Aren’t all of them (or most) bloggers? Run publications?

    Thx
    A

  • theslayer

    Rajat, the article has the desperateness of trying to appear balanced while subtly leaning towards the spirit of ‘what kind of an idiot takes up an offer like this without actually knowing what he’s getting into’.

    “You can either be a part of this and wear the uniform, or you’ll have to get your own tickets back home and handle your hotel stay from the moment this call ends” EMPHASIS on that please.

    While we have cheerful PR folk elsewhere bending over backwards to accommodate the media and their requests, regardless of what they’re writing, I find it hard to accept that this one would make a statement like that with the unflappable attitude of somebody who paid out of his own pocket for the air tickets.

    Don’t you think you should give the guys the slight leeway they deserve for not having a huge organization like Zee/ india.com backing them up? It shouldn’t come as too much a surprise that CJ grabbed the opportunity to cover the event at Berlin live. Unleashthephones.com was mighty refreshing with CJ’s coverage of the IFA compared to the rehashed press releases on bgr.in or thinkdigit.com His on site comparo of the Nokia 808 against the Galaxy Camera was material worthy of any professional tech journo. A delight, compared to say reading press releases from the IFA on every other Indian technology site.

    I appreciate that bgr.in is still one of the few tech website that takes an effort to write on stuff that others wouldn’t, big fan of the Vodafone articles. I’m miffed this time around that while you are trying to put across both sides of the story, you are missing out on the crux of the issue, being that of the attitude of that individual.