In an effort to clean the bribe-tainted Nikon blogola mess, Michael Kempner, CEO of Nikon's agency the MWW Group, has now personally put the program in the spin cycle.
Late last week, Kempner released a statement: "Blog Relationship Building: My Point of View." What follows is a line-by-line response to Kempner's spin. Here we show his self-serving rationalizations for what they are: PR at its worst and most ridiculous.
... And the irony of all ironies, we show that Kempner is absolutely right. Unburdened by ethics, payola ABSOLUTELY is all about building relationships.
Spin versus Real Straight Talk
KEMPNER: “We invited 50 bloggers interested in taking great pictures to try out a new camera sold by our client.”
CHAPEL: No. You gave out an actual (taxable) benefit strategically for the purposes of influence to induce sales. It’s payola by definition.
Bribe: Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person's views or conduct.
Blogola: The bribing of Web bloggers, to promote product coverage and various other related social-media "conversations".
Campaign: An operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose: an advertising campaign for a new product.
KEMPNER: “The structure of the program is almost identical to how new products are introduced to print and broadcast journalists.”
CHAPEL: No. The program is well outside the ethical guidelines set by most if not all major media today. The very reason you are doing this now with bloggers is because you'd never get away with it with mainstream media.
KEMPNER: “The rules of this sampling initiative: 1) Invite select bloggers to try out a new camera for a set period of time; 2) Bloggers who accept participation are loaned the product for a set period of time; 3) At the end of that time period the product must be returned to the company or purchased by the blogger at an editorial discount; 4) Should the product be purchased, all monies are donated to a related charity; 5) Should the blogger choose to talk about the product and its performance on their blog, or any other forum, they must also reference the sampling program, specifically that they were loaned the product, so as to guarantee transparency. Simple. Clear. Clean.”
CHAPEL: No. Kempner and the MWW Group: 1) Invited a "friends of" list of bloggers with whom they could count on reciprocity. In the words of bribe recipient Joe Jaffe, "Yes there is a degree of reciprocity, why the hell wouldn’t we want to pay for it, why wouldn't we want to give something back if someone does something nice for us?”; 2) They purposefully misuse the word "loan." A "loan" for trial purposes is short term specifically set up to cover a predetermined test. This is six months open-ended that can be converted into a year. Bottom line: This gift is a taxable benefit. 3) With regard to the users then being able to purchase the unit at a "discount," indeed, the time is such that the item will have significantly depreciated, i.e. the asset value spent. 4) With regard to giving any residual value to a charity, nonsense. There will be little if any value left; and 5) An endorsement under these circumstances, however supposedly "transparent," is still... blogola.
Kemper's "simple, clear and clean” is in reality self serving, cloudy and slippery. It's PR at its worst.
KEMPNER: "Does a sampling program carry with it an expectation of coverage, and in the extreme, an expectation of favorable coverage? Are bloggers selling out if they participate in such programs? In my opinion the answer to all those questions is 'NO.'"
CHAPEL: Mr. Kempner, who are you trying to fool? If you didn't recommend that your client do this to inspire and leverage favorable coverage in support of product sales objectives, then why on earth did you recommend it? What business are you in?
And that's the key here. Nikon's monthly fees cloud Kempner's judgment, ethical and otherwise.
KEMPNER: "Sampling programs such as ours are based on a desire for coverage, discussion, testimonials and good word-of-mouth recommendations, not an expectation of coverage. Nowhere was coverage mandated. More importantly, nowhere was favorable coverage mandated."
CHAPEL: Spin, spin, spin. Again to quote one of your more vocal program participants, Joe Jaffe, "Yes there is a degree of reciprocity, why the hell wouldn’t we want to pay for it, why wouldn't we want to give something back if someone does something nice for us?”
Mr. Kempner knows that. Payola is not "mandated." It is the result of an inherent expectation of quid pro quo.
KEMPNER: To presume otherwise is an insult to bloggers and their integrity... and frankly it's a juvenile, poorly reasoned argument cloaked in false ethics.
CHAPEL: No. To otherwise bribe bloggers is an insult to their integrity and the integrity of the market. Kempner's spin is the poorly reasoned argument cloaked in false ethics. That's what spin is. Again, see definitions above.
Frankly, it's amazing that we have to go round and round with this. The issues are pretty simple for anyone with character and a conscience. But unfortunately, in Kempner's spin cycle, we lose our balance. Up is down and down is up. Spin, spin, spin.
This just in... The former Director of Internet Communications for the White House has joined Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. David Almacy has been appointed to the position of VP of the Digital Strategies Group for WE North America.
Big loss for WH; What a total coup for WE!
At the White House, Almacy served as the primary spokesperson and contact for Internet communications. As head of the White House Web site, among his accomplishments was spearheading a comprehensive redesign earlier this year. Under his direction advanced features such as RSS news feed subscriptions, Weekly E-mail Updates, audio Podcasts and On Demand video, were broadly deployed.
Before joining the White House communications staff in early 2005, Almacy was a senior advisor to the deputy secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education, where he provided guidance on policy, communications and congressional relations. In addition, he was a consultant with an interactive media agency in Washington specializing in government and political digital strategies, and spent five years representing C-SPAN’s communications and marketing efforts including traditional, online and youth-marketing programs.
As Vice President, Almacy will be responsible for client service and team development. He will report to Jim Olson, head of the agency’s Digital Strategies Group. Almacy joins a global team and will work closely with his counterparts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) to develop new digital products and services.
About Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide is a multiservice global public relations agency. Founded in 1983 and independently owned, the agency was named PRWeek’s Large Agency of the Year for 2004, and was named Best Agency to Work For in 2004 and Best Large Agency to Work For in 2006 by the Holmes Report. The agency has nearly 700 employees, 16 offices around the world and six global practices — Technology, Healthcare, Public Affairs, Corporate Communications, Consumer Marketing and Digital Strategies. More information can be found at http://www.WaggenerEdstrom.com.
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