Is Sony Ericsson trying to buy off Cebu journalists?


What if politicians announce, during their press conferences, that they will be holding a “writing” contest and the journalist who publishes the “best article” about the press conference gets to win P5,000 in cash.

What do you call that? If you were a journalist or a blogger, what would you feel?

That, in effect, is what Sony Ericsson is doing in its media campaign to launch its new phones in Cebu.

It was a good thing I decided not to join the press junket organized to launch the latest Sony Ericsson models in Cebu. It was a curious event–curious in the sense that they decided to hold it in Sumilon Island, a slice of paradise in southern Cebu that’s hours away from the city. The launching was scheduled for the entire day last Saturday.

I asked a colleague why organizers decided to launch the phone models in such a remote area where the telecoms signal might even be spotty. I told him that if I were to launch a phone, I’d gather reporters and bloggers covering the telco and consumer electronics beat in a room, have them play with the units and have trained staff on standby to answer questions they may have about the new phone models.

He said it was just an excuse to take the journalists into a junket.

I rarely join press conferences and the prospect of spending my dayoff attending a press junket scheduled for at least 12 hours didn’t appeal to me. I’d rather be spending time with my wife and kids, blogging, or working on my web experiments.

I declined the invitation and asked a UP Cebu mass communications intern to attend. Now if Karla Bautista, who is scheduled for an internship in Sun.Star Cebu (including in my section), had started her duties with my section, I would have sent her and I would have readily exchanged hours playing with Drupal to join the junket. Just kidding, I’d take Drupal anytime.

Yesterday, the intern who attended the junket sent me an SMS saying she wanted to consult me over something about the “writing contest.” I was puzzled. I knew there was a “photo contest” gimmick as part of the games for journalists that have now become a staple of product launches. I didn’t know there was a “writing contest.”

It was clear that the intern was uncomfortable with the idea. She told me, and I could scarcely believe her at first, that the organizers said they will be holding a group writing contest and that the best article to be published about the event will win P5,000.

She also said the article must follow a theme about “sand, sea” or something. I told her that it’s not allowed, that it’s almost like Sony Ericsson is paying off journalists to write favorable articles.

It’s sad, really, because Sony Ericsson does not need to resort to such a gimmick. Heck I keep saying it in this blog and in my Sun.Star Cebu columns: I’m a rabid Sony Ericsson fan boy and I count at least two whom I’ve converted into the Sony Ericsson religion. I think the company’s products are great.

What is irritating is that this ill-advised gimmick creates a cloud of doubt on articles about Sony Ericsson in Cebu’s papers. I wrote a lot about the company’s products and, until yesterday, I knew I would be writing more about its products.

I don’t know whose idea it was to hold a “writing contest” but if organizers are concerned with the quality of write-ups they get from their phone launches, then they should go over their invitations list.

If you want articles to be written about the products you are launching then invite the people who are assigned to that particular beat. If you are launching a new cell phone model, invite reporters and columnists who actually write about cell phones.

And while you are going over your invitations list, maybe it’s time you expand it a bit. Invite bloggers who also cover that beat.

I told the UP intern not to write the article. I said I will be the one writing about Sony Ericsson in my next column. I’m thinking of writing about: “Reasons not to buy Sony Ericsson.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fanatic about their products but there are certain things I don’t like about these and I still haven’t written about these things.

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  1. Max,

    Very well said. You’re right. Photo contests are OK (Milo does them all the time during their Milo Olympics) but P5,000 for the best writeup? Hehe. Your comparison to a politician doing the same gimmick is perfect. As to whose idea that was? I’m sure it wasn’t Sony Ericsson directly. It was their ad agency or outsourced creative dept. company… all for the sake of publicity. This just shows how competitive the world is today and the extremes companies will do to be No.1

    Again, great post, Max!

  2. Hmm..this is really surprising. I just switched to a SE K800i over the past week and I’m already a fan.

    But this is quite disturbing.

  3. Hi John,
    I think the idea wasn’t Sony Ericsson’s, can’t confirm it, though.

    That’s a good phone. Tell me, does it work with Float’s Mobile Agent?

  4. I also came by this kind of junket over at boracay during my summer vacation ther, I was surprised that it was all happening right before my eyes.

  5. As a doctor, I almost always see this in pharma companies. Except for once-and that was a long time ago, I told myself I won’t swallow their marketing ploy just to have their products marketed. It’s outright biased and doctors like journalists should never use their careers to be influenced by money and gifts. I have an SE w610i and as far as I’m concerned, I like and will use SE products, but I protest with their new marketing strategy. Journalists who write reviews must disclose themselves if they have any financial connections with the products they review.

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