Even Samsung’s ‘Brand Advocates’ Prefer iPhones

Ethics are a little different in China.

samsung s6

One of the hot topics in the industry at the moment concerns brand advocates/influencers and the ethics surrounding the work they do: should brands disclose the fact that they pay unofficial everyday spokespeople to promote their products?

Another, completely different issue arose in China last week, however: seems that even Samsung’s fans prefer Apple.

China Times reported that Samsung gave 500 “fans” some pocket change to attend a press event for the release of the new Samsung S6 Edge last Friday:

“The recruiter said Samsung’s requirements for these people were that they be younger than 30 and look like students. The people were paid 30 yuan (US$4.80) per person after they spent more than an hour at the event while the recruiter earned 20 yuan (US$3.20) from every person he recruited.”

These paid attendees ended up comprising a near-majority of the crowd on hand to witness the new product. Here’s the big catch: according to China Times, more than half of the people taking pictures of the new S6 Edge did so using their iPhones.


Samsung apparently offers “secret gifts for attendees,” who are instructed to tell reporters that they’re attending because they’re “interested in the smartphone brand’s new model.”

The company has also begun using popular messaging service WeChat (now owned by Facebook) to recruit “professional fans,” who must “post their picture, register their name and phone number and like the fan page of Samsung Galaxy on Baidu’s online forum Baidu Tieba.”

This isn’t the first time the tech giant has found itself in hot water: in 2013, it was fined $340,000 for paying two marketing firms to write negative reviews for chief competitor HTC.

We’d like to think this sort of blatant ethical violation wouldn’t fly in the US, but we have our doubts.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.