woensdag 25 juli 2012

Singaporeans do things differently: Blogs and sponsorships

Recently, Singapore's favourite blogging personality Xiaxue moved with her husband to a new apartment and had it renovated. Even though every description of her contains some combination of the words "unashamed" and "sponsoring", I was still taken aback when she detailed in a blog post which items she still needed to be sponsored for (among them: air conditioning, temporary housing while renovating went on and movers). Later blog posts show that she managed to find sponsors for most of those (but not for the aircon, I believe).

Then I noticed that she's hardly the only blogger to take advantage of the advertising clout a big audience brings with it.

Another petite female powerblogger, Thy Dowager, has kindly agreed to be the spokesperson and Singaporean guinea pig for a Korean plastic surgery company (you can follow her journey on her blog and her facebook, and, of course, Instagram - @thydowager).

Satirical blogger Mr Brown, known for his anti-establishment jokes and critical outlook, had his living room transformed by sponsored LED lighting (it is not quite clear if this was a freebie or not - which in itself is cause for concern).

Cheekiemonkies, my go-to resource for all things child-related in Singapore, surprised me hugely the other day with pictures of cows and windmills. The family had been invited to the Netherlands for a week by a global, but Dutchland based dairy brand.

Marketing man Alvin goes into the specifics of his audience in quite some detail on his site Alvinology. Since I started reading his blog some months ago, I noticed that every single one of his posts is in some ways sponsored - either by inviting Alvin to special presentations, or giving out plane tickets, or some other form of freebie.

I myself, with my meager readership and tendency to post stuff in Dutch when the mood strikes, have received An Offer of sponsorship. (Thank you delivery service foodpanda!*) And of course I took advantage of the bloggers' presentation of the new Coca Cola Olympic themed glasses (a new one with your McDonald's meal every week, so go out and collect!) to meet my first Famous Singaporean. And I took home a full set of aforementioned glasses, so now we can invite twelve people to our house at any one time and offer them drinks in proper grown-up glass glasses, which is a 100% improvement compared to before.

Of course, not all bloggers are created equal. Dentist-cum-blogger Yours Toothfully took issue with Thy Dowager's sponsorship by a "high profile hair care institution" and asked: What is your reputation worth?

"Aren’t they afraid their reputation may be tarnished? Hell, no. They’re more afraid that another hair care institution named after a southern province in China might poach their customers and kill them off. So what if they have eminent TCM practitioners onboard? They still need Peggy Heng [Thy Dowager, K.] to bring in the customers."

Many well-read US blogs publish their views or even policies on advertising on their blogs. Usually, a blogger either refuses all sponsorship so as not to compromise their integrity, or they will only review products they enjoy using and would have, in all probability, bought or purchased anyway.

I have not found such a policy or view on any of the Singaporean blogs I read (although Xiaxue at one point exasperatedly pointed out that since she buys so many of her clothes from one particular brand, she does not understand why they don't simply sponsor her). Even marketing man Alvin restricts himself to "shamelessly plug[ging] myself a bit here". But he only plugs himself to advertisers, not to his readers.

Another thing I have not found yet on Singaporean blogs: a negative review of a sponsored item or product.

As a journalist, I would not have accepted the Coca Cola glasses. Or, if I had, I would have left them for general use at the office. I once won an iPod Shuffle during an assignment. I gave it back.

I have however, as a journalist, been to countless conferences and dinners and press presentations without having had to hand over any money. The understanding is that a journalist will write about these events or products. The understanding also is that however much the journalist is pampered, he or she will still write an honest opinion, praising and criticizing where necessary (which is not always in equal parts!).

Before my One Big Junket, a first class return flight to New York, including a stay in a designer hotel, the chief editor grilled me on my knowledge of the industry and prepped me with critical questions, so I wouldn't be overawed and taken in and ending up writing a praise piece out of thankfulness. That is not what readers expect of a journalist.

Or of a blogger, if you ask me.

But maybe that attitude is exactly why we have no such blog sponsorships in the Netherlands. Bloggers in the Netherlands write and publish to build their brands and market themselves. They make money by assignments outside of the blog-o-sphere. In Singapore, the blog-o-sphere itself can be a money-spinning machine.

And I got some really nice glasses, a lovely evening and the chance to satisfy my craving for chicken nuggets. (Thank you pregnancy gods! That was a timely intervention.)

So, if any liquorice company would like to sponsor me (I'm looking at you here Panda and Autodrop), feel free to contact me. I have a lot to say about the mint-filled Panda log liquorice, which, incidentally, is not yet available in Singapore. Speaking of mint - Lipton, I could do you a rave review of Minty Morocco tea for a year's worth of bags. It's a steal, really.

*This shout out is for free, simply because I was so tickled to be asked.

7 opmerkingen:

  1. this was such a captivating post because it's something I have grappled with as well. I really feel that integrity when you write shouldn't be compromised. I want to not do any sponsored posts unless it's something I love already - like Moleskins. I feel that no matter what I say somehow once you've met with the sponsors your post would be compromised somehow and I think for invited events you get special treatment so I suspect it's not the same for someone who just visits a restaurant say - randomly?

    I do however like the idea of getting freelance writing jobs through the blog. The blog is then just a platform that may nor may not lead to other things?

    But yeah sponsorship is sweet but at the same time seems like a shackle...I've been resisting so far but if I'm offered a lifetime supply of moleskin I don't see myself saying no ;-p

    1. A lot of blogs I read keep themselves to the standard you describe: they don't endorse anything unless the writer already loved it or they refuse to be compensated in any way for their troubles (i.e. a free meal at a restaurant). This is the high moral ground, but also makes it harder to come by new experiences. And it's a standard almost no publication holds itself to anymore.

      It is a very difficult, grey and murky area. Most restaurant critics for example will pay for the meal in the restaurant, but get reimbursed by their publication. A movie critic on the other hand gets to see the movies before release for free (and without "audience experience", which changes the setting enormously and can influence the review as they will generally acknowledge). As a sometime book critic I loved the perk that books would be sent to me for free in exchange for reviewing. It was also the only perk, as I did the reviewing for free anyway.

      I think in hindsight I should not have accepted the glasses. But I think attending certain special events is part and parcel of the publicity business and it's up to bloggers and journalists to keep an open mind and post honest opinions.

      I think journalists, with their jaded and cynical reputations, have an easier time of it. Also, they are usually backed by a publication that wants to prevent any whiff of favouritism. For bloggers it's much harder as they are just one person and almost nobody likes confrontation and conflict, which I think is why many bloggers choose to only review the products they feel good about. But then that is not quite objective either and makes it seem as if we live in a perfect world.

      So, on balance, I would say: treat blogging as work. If part of your work is reviewing movies, fine, accept a free movie ticket. But as soon as you feel your opinion compromised because of a freebie (such as a free meal at a restaurant where they know your face and you don't want to hurt anybody's feelings), don't do it. And generally, don't accept gifts that do not serve the purpose of the article (i.e. my example of a year's supply of tea bags. For a review, I'd only need a couple.)

      I'd better go and write a sponsor policy for my blog. Those living in glass houses, and all that :)

      Thanks for the reply! This is the kind of interaction and thought exchange I was hoping to get out of blogging!

  2. Hey your post is really informational it will surely help us in future. thanks for sharing..))

  3. Thanks for the sharing such information. we will pass it on to our readers. This is a great reading. Thanking you


  4. "Another thing I have not found yet on Singaporean blogs: a negative review of a sponsored item or product."

    I used to be on the list of makeup/skincare sponsorship where I would receive some products every couple of months, sometimes even a few products. My last review was "not very positive", but I explained that it was my honest opinion of the product. Needless to say, I was dropped from the list. *shrugs*

  5. I have to admit, skincare and makeup are not the kind of things I follow closely! Good on you for being honest, and too bad that the company does not understand how that makes the value of your reviews in the eyes of readers go through the roof. They should have send you the best of their products, the stuff they're really proud of, and if you then had written a good review every single reader would have known you meant it.

    And good for calling me out :) I'll have to get out of my comfort zone!

  6. Hi There!

    Sorry to put this in a comment box, but I really couldn't find a way to contact you. :) I read your posts and think it is really interesting that very few expat bloggers have been asked to be part of local "sponsorships" and reviews...thought it would be lovely to have you on board, if you feel like trying out a local slimming company that marries technology and chinese methods of living healthy (TCM), do contact me. Otherwise, contact me anyways, would love to touch base on other opportunities too!

    I'm Vivien Goh from Zephyhdom, We are a one stop talent source and have recently started managing bloggers too. Would you be interested in being listed in our list of bloggers and receive opportunities for sponsorship, paid and unpaid reviews for a spectrum of products?

    Right now, we have a client, Slimming 101 who will be launching a Blogger's Slimming Challenge in September. Selections will be on 18th of August and all you need to do is simply email me a full length and a close-up photo of you, stating your age and blog address.

    Would you be interested in being part of it?

    5 Bloggers will be selected and will receive
    - A Spot Slimming Package worth $1600
    - Publicity for your blog
    - Chance to win a package worth $2888 if you emerge as the final winner.

    What do you need to do if you are selected?

    - Come for the press conference on 24th Aug 2014 at either 3pm-4pm or 4pm-5pm.
    - Enjoy 4 sessions of slimming in September 2014 with our therapists and TCM doctor will also assess and give you advice on what foods to eat and which to avoid.
    - Blog about your experience during each session. ( 4 sessions in total )
    - Tweet about your blog post
    - Update your fb Status about your blog post / experience.
    - Make a short youtube video about your experience.
    - Post a photo on instagram if you have an account.
    - Sell / Giveaway vouchers to your readers in a contest
    - Get votes from your friends in October, after your treatment in September.

    Find out more about Slimming101 here:

    Find out more about Zephyhdom here:

    Hope to hear from you!