Samsung Flew Bloggers from India to Berlin, Then Threatened to Not Bring Them Back
Attending conventions as press can be a beleaguering experience. This is especially true if, say, someone has offered you a plane ticket, hotel accommodations, and then threatens to leave you there if you don’t comply with their wishes. This is apparently what happened to Clinton Jeff, of Unleash the Phones, and another unnamed blogger after they were brought to this year’s IFA conference in Berlin by Samsung.
It’s important to note that some skepticism is healthy. The Next Web even acknowledges that they’ve done their best to track down the facts in order to corroborate Jeff’s story, but many facets remain murky. There are a certain number of things that have definitely been confirmed.
What is definitely true is that Samsung recently launched their Mobilers program, stylized as Mob!lers, in India. Jeff and the other blogger were chosen as winners of a contest and given Mobilers perks. This potentially meant access to Samsung gear early — which would be invaluable to a blogger that didn’t have that opportunity before. This is where things start to get murky.
Jeff reportedly informed Samsung that they weren’t going to act like glorified brand ambassadors; they’d still be reporting independently even though they were part of the Mobilers program. This apparently did not translate well. Jeff and the other blogger were offered a plane ticket to Berlin and a paid hotel stay in order to attend the IFA conference. Samsung supposedly asked Jeff in the invitation email if he would like to attend as a reporter or promoter, and Jeff insisted that he’d only accept if he went as a reporter.
Then Samsung asked for his clothing measurements. When they arrived at the hotel, they received a Samsung shirt and were told to wear it for an orientation the following morning. When they arrived at this orientation, they then had to sign an NDA — or nondisclosure agreement — and were told that they were required to be in uniform, in Samsung booths, showing off Samsung gear for everyone else.
The two once more stated that they were only there to cover the event and had no intentions of being what amounted to a Samsung employee for the duration. After a few meetings, they allegedly received a call from Samsung that borders on illegal. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that they could either play the part and attend in uniform, or they’d have to sort out their own ticket and hotel expenses.
Samsung then called back and said that they’d be bringing the two back five days early, but only if they wore the shirt to the event and didn’t blog about the horrifying incident. With little to no way out of it, the two showed up with the Samsung shirt on. It didn’t end there, though. Another email arrived accusing them of not showing up. Suddenly, their lives were in limbo once more.
In the end, it was Nokia that swooped in to save the day. Samsung’s released a public statement on the matter that comes about as close to admitting fault as they can without actually doing so. The whole debacle goes to show that one technology giant’s fumble can be another technology giant’s touchdown. It also showcases just how sketchy all of these coverage offers can be. Though many might shrug and consider this the norm, there are many more prominent groups that refuse such offers outright due to what they consider ethical obligations.