Samsung has denied a report that it paid people to pose as fans at the launch event for its new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge phones in Shanghai, China.
The Paper, a Shanghai-based news company, claimed that up to half of the 1,000 attendees were sourced by a recruiter and paid 30 yuan (US$4.80) for an hour of their time. The Chinese report — summarized in English by Want China Times — suggested that Samsung’s Beijing office vetted an initial 20 paid fans, but that number was later upped to 400-500.
Samsung called the report “totally groundless and bogus” in a statement issued this morning on its blog.
“Our findings have indicated that under no circumstances has anyone been hired or given money to attend the event. In fact, the more than 1,100 attendees, including consumers and industry officials, have all been formally invited to the Shanghai Culture Square where the event took place,” the company said.
Samsung said that The Paper “corroborated our findings and soon retracted the erroneous story.” The Korean company said it is trying to understand where the story came from.
This isn’t the first time that Samsung has been hit by allegations of paid-for affection. Back in 2013, Samsung was fined for paying students in Taiwan to post criticism of HTC’s smartphones online — though it blamed an external agency for the program. An agency of an agency took responsibility for another blundering initiative that saw developers offered money to promote Samsung on Stack Overflow, a community for app developers.
In this latest case, Samsung has hit back with a strong denial, but the incident nonetheless highlights the shadowy goings-on that often take place around promoting big companies. There is certainly a culture of ‘recruiting’ fans for events in China — often such agencies operate separately or a few degrees removed from the organizer, other times they don’t.
Fake fans have been in the news of late. A report from The Guardian detailed how the Russian government pays online writers to pen a range of assignments for ‘the good of the country’, including glowing reviews of devices from domestic phone-maker Yota.