It all started this morning when a close friend Nimish Dubey tagged me on Facebook with a link to The Next Web’s story on how Samsung took two Indian bloggers to IFA, Berlin and then threatened to leave them there without return tickets and hotel. Out of the two bloggers in IFA, one was a close friend – Clinton Jeff or CJ as he is called by most.
The story depicted how Samsung Global took Clinton and another blogger who wishes not to be named, to IFA under their Mob!lers program. Once there a lot of things were suddenly thrown on them including wearing a uniform and standing on the Samsung booth to promote the new gadgets. Now for the view from a reporter, this is absolutely insane and not expected. That is what Clinton also felt and hence came the story on The Next Web that can be read here – Say Hello To Samsung’s Fanboy Factory
I got in touch with Clinton over email and asked him to send me all the details that he has so that I can understand what is going on. In the meantime I also contacted Samsung India to get their side of the story. Clinton send me a long writeup in terms of what happened, how it happened and how Nokia swooped in at the end taking care of him and the other blogger’s stay and return tickets.
The crux of it was that Clinton and the other blogger were selected under the Mob!lers program to be taken to IFA and were asked that they would like to be reporters or promoters. Clinton chose to report the event. The Samsung India representative said he would take care of it and told Clinton to relax. However, a few days later the bloggers got a mail mentioning would be going as promoters. Clinton called up Samsung India representative who said that it would just include a few extra chores that would not take too much time. Clinton assumed he was telling the truth and agreed to go as a promoter.
Now this is where Clinton is at fault – Clinton agreed to go as a promoter without understanding what it meant. A fellow blogger Amit Bhawani clarified on his blog the difference between a reporter and promoter under the Mob!lers program.
The program has two options : Reporters & Promoters
Reporters : If you are invited to an event as a Reporter, you will always be invited to the Product Launch event / Unpacked Event and would be asked to wear their Mob!lers Tshirt for the Group Photos and for the Meetings which were happening at the same hotel where we were staying. This was informed prior to the events itself about which you can find below. At the Unpacked event you would get the Partner Pass to get the entry and you also get a 3G SIM Card during the trip to cover the event and stay connected with everyone.
Promoters : You are in short going to work with Samsung during the IFA for a short period and would be handling the booths by showcasing the devices to the visitors. You would be given all the perks along with a Uniform to wear which is compulsory and if you are not fine with this you can always report back to the agency and opt to not join at the event. You would also gett a subsidy/daily allowance for expenses which is not confirmed but is around high xxx Euros for spending during the event. You would get access to the devices a day in prior to the actual event and would be given detailed information / presentations around those products and you will also be taught on the packing of the devices and related stuff.
More details can be read here : Amit Bhawani’s blog
Samsung India took the matter and provided me various details regarding the program as well as an official statement which is posted below. The point was that people at Samsung Global were told that the Indian bloggers were promoters and that is how they treated them. Whereas the Indian bloggers were told that its just an additional promotional program that would take a few minutes everyday. This is where the miscommunication happened, which is a fault of the Samsung India representative who was coordinating the whole thing. In this situation, either the Samsung India person was not clear on the role of promoters in the program and assumed that it would just add a few more things to the reporters program that these two Indian bloggers can adjust with or he just chose to lie and felt that once reached, the bloggers would not be able to opt out of it.
However, Clinton should have tried to get the details out instead of just assuming it to be something like a reporter plus program.
Clarifying on the threat of stranding them in Berlin, Clinton’s writeup states that they were told on phone that if they are not taking part in the promoter’s program then their tickets would be moved up to the 1st, which is what the reporter’s program entitles them to. However, the threat on the phone that goes as “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”. This is something that we do not expected out of the person representing Samsung India’s events and I hope Samsung takes some step towards this person.
At the time of writing this blog post, Samsung has sent an official statement -
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. At these events, all activities they undertake are on a voluntary basis. No activities are forced upon them.
We regret there was a misunderstanding between the Samsung Mob!lers coordinators and the relevant blogger, as we understand he was not sufficiently briefed on the nature of Samsung Mob!lers’ activities at IFA 2012. We have been attempting to get in touch with him.
We respect the independence of bloggers to publish their own stories.
Clearly a case of miscommunication, the whole event was blown out of proportion all over the social media. The whole ordeal with Clinton would have been a major pain for him to deal with there, especially with no help from Samsung India representative.
However, the story has two sides – going through both of them shows that the bloggers as well as Samsung India representative are at fault.