SBD/April 4, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

White House Objects To Samsung's Commercial Use Of Ortiz-Obama Selfie

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Ortiz (l) said his selfie with the President was spontaneous and his idea alone
Samsung drew a "rebuke from the White House Thursday for use of a widely distributed cellphone photo that Red Sox slugger David Ortiz snapped this week of himself with President Obama," according to Matt Viser of the BOSTON GLOBE. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the President "does not wish to be portrayed as an endorser for the electronics firm, which had employed Ortiz as a social media ambassador." Carney "declined to say whether White House lawyers had been in touch with Samsung about halting its use of the photo." Samsung encouraged Ortiz to "take photos with his Galaxy Note 3 phone during his White House visit." Ortiz on Thursday said that the selfie "was his idea alone." He added, "I wasn’t trying to do anything. It just happened in that moment. It was a fun thing. I signed that deal with Samsung a few months ago. They didn’t know what would happen. Nobody did." Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy in a statement said, "We didn’t see it coming, and it was unrelated to the club’s good relationship with Samsung" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/4). Carney said, "As a rule the White House objects to attempts to use the president's likeness for commercial purposes. And we certainly object in this case." Samsung on Thursday "declined to comment on the White House's position or whether the selfie was part of a commercial arrangement" with Ortiz (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/4).

TRYING TOO HARD: CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla said of the photo, "It sounds like the deal was, ‘All right, Ortiz, go see what you can get. If you get a selfie with the President, we will run with it.’ But I am not certain the President was aware what was going on.” The Wall Street Journal’s Dennis Berman: “The interesting thing is that Samsung pretty much helped Ellen (DeGeneres) plan out her little Oscars selfie. They are one of the biggest spenders overall in all U.S. media for advertising. They are trying every gimmick they can.” CNBC’s Jon Fortt: “This falls under the category of trying too hard. You want to know that famous people, your friends, are using a piece of technology just because it is great, not because they are paid to attack the President, and -- guerrilla marketing-style -- get a selfie. What does a selfie tell me about the quality of the camera? … I think maybe they need to take a different tactic.” Fortt added, “At this point, they are just snapping selfies all over the place and there is diminishing, marginal returns” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 4/3). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "It is a strain of credulity after what Samsung and Ellen DeGeneres did at the Oscars to think that this was not a staged moment. ... We live in America, and they've now commercialized the White House with this thing" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/3).

A TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING: A BOSTON GLOBE editorial states in the "brave new world of viral advertising, Samsung’s quick promotion" with Ortiz "may have been brilliant." But in using the White House and the presidency "as the backdrop for a marketing ploy, it was also incredibly crass." Samsung seems to have "escaped a serious backlash this time, but companies should think twice before using national political institutions for advertising" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/4).
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