Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Importance of Respecting A Press Embargo - Or When Exclusive Really Means Exclusion

Per Wikipedia -

In journalism and public relations, a news embargo or press embargo is a request or requirement by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met. They are often used by businesses making a product announcement, by medical journals, and by government officials announcing policy initiatives; the media is given advance knowledge of details being held secret so that reports can be prepared to coincide with the announcement date and yet still meet press time. 

Okay, so we've gotten that out of the way ; )

As the new lead of Tempus Fugit mentioned, despite spending mere tens of thousands of CHF to airlift several more "well-heeled" members of the press to "double-secret" previews, there is always one itchy individual who feels that an embargo is more like a "suggestion" rather than a requirement. And that, among other reasons, accounts for some of the shit-show that was Saturday's retail fiasco with the MoonSwatch.

Was it a calculated move to leak in advance of the other "swells" who enjoyed first class (and deferential) treatment from the white gloved hands of Swatch and Omega? Sure. Would I consider them victims? Of course not. Was something like this happening inevitable? 

But I would rather light a candle than curse their collective darkness. Therefore I would prefer to focus on the people who truly got the fuzzy end of the lollipop on this one, the customers and the employees of the "Exclusive" Swatch Boutiques.

Now another unrequested bit of Henki lore -
Back in the mid 80s, a certain northern youth grew his hair out in a somewhat abortive mullet in the hopes of catching the eye of the young women in the vicinity who were fans of a band from Ireland. History will reflect that this Northern Youth, along with 3 of his buddies, piled into his 77 Oldsmobile Cutlass and waited all night outside of the Ticket Master location. Said ticket outlet was inconveniently located in the Woolworth's of the Midway Mall -

So after many hours of shuffling around in the February chill, not infrequent runs to the nearby gas station for cokes, and several bio breaks behind the Ponderosa Steak House dumpster, we were finally admitted into the inside of the mall and were able to purchase our tickets at 9:00 AM.

I was happy, and drove the 30 minutes home and slept the rest of that Saturday morning.
Unbeknownst to my friends and I, one of our teachers decided that the day after the concert would be the ideal time for him to give his final exam, because he would be taking his vacation a little early so that he and his family could have some extra time, and thus his exam was moved to the week after exam week. So three U2 tickets promptly changed hands for exactly face value  (Oberlin was not a hotspot for scalping), and the internet had yet to make a real debut. And I developed a certain antipathy for U2 and anything Bono adjacent.

And as I heard tales from my friends around the globe this past Saturday and Sunday, they shared similar tales of angst, irritation, and downright anger. And I thought, not unlike my high school teacher waiting until the week before to announce a schedule change for a final exam, maybe Swatch could have been a little better prepared for what would unfold.

And this is where I, and several of my former colleagues in the Fourth and Fifth Estate are likely to disagree. Was it an incredibly successful launch? YES! Did it break the internet (metaphorically, anyway)? Yes! Did it actually really cause a lot of frustration and leave a lot of people unhappy? Duh!

What the early jumper of the embargo did was effectively ensure that -

1. The Swatch Boutiques would get besieged by a LOT of unhappy people.

2. Potential customers would travel vast distances at great personal expense to get... well, Jack shit, and Jack had just left town.

3. A handful of outlets that had been used to getting spoon-fed all the best releases well in advance of the rest of the plebeians in the press corps would be coming back down to the level of, well, the rest of the press corps. Which in fact might prove to be useful, it's important sometimes to be reminded of where you came from ; )

A few final thoughts:
  • Swatch dropped the ball in terms of  logistics on this one. There is no nice way to say it. Some "Exclusive" Swatch Boutiques were so exclusive that they might as well have been excluded, with fewer than 100 pieces allocated to them. 
  • Secrecy is no excuse for making so few units in advance and not having a reasonable amount deployed. They say they were working on it for a year. That was ample time to get ready.  

Were they expecting the Keebler Elves to take a break from making cookies and come in and crank out MoonSwatches on the graveyard shift? It is clear that they wanted to make a big, messy splash just before Watches and Wonders (again - Duh!), and while they did make a splash, they also made a mess. And therefore, they will hopefully learn to communicate EVERYTHING first, not just the sexy bits. They should have let people know BEFOREHAND that it was not a limited edition, and that it would be available at a later date, at least for customers who were willing to wait. The last-minute scramble to explain this via Instagram posts did not really come out in official communication, and initially took on the hue of urban myth.

Let's be honest, that last bit would have made a HUGE difference. Imagine driving 9 hours, camping out all night, and just when you think it will all pay off... being told to take it on the heel and toe, no MoonSwatch for you Mr. and Ms. devoted fan.

Did Swatch inadvertently get damaged by the leak? Sure. Did they set the stage for this to happen? Sorry, but yes. And just as this Northern Youth learned back in the 80s, many of those disaffected Swatch fans "still haven't found what they're looking for".  

Sorry, too soon?

Let's hope that memories are short and loyal fans are forgiving. And in the meantime, I suggest we all try to think about something else. But for now, if the MoonSwatch decides to "walk away, walk away, walk", unlike monsieur Vox, I won't follow.

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