On Friday, 17 September, Vodacom’s PR called me to invite me for a phone that was being launched at midnight, 21/22 September.
The lady who called said she cannot reveal what phone is being launched and all she can say is that it is “highly anticipated”.
So I received a written invite which said at the end, “Kindly note that as a VIP media guest, you just need to tell security at the gate your name and they will show you to the designated parking area to the left of Vodaworld.”
On Tuesday night, I got to Vodaworld just after 10pm, and was directed to the VIP “tent”, which was somewhat disappointing. Honestly, I expected better, or something indoors; instead of standing out in the cold. After chatting and having drinks, it was apparent people couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Eventually VIP guests started looking at their watches, waiting for midnight, for the “big unveiling” – because that’s what you’d expect from a midnight launch of a phone whose name could not be revealed.
Meanwhile, the actual party that everyone who “retweeted Vodacom” to gain entry to, took place in the parking lot, in front of the VIP tent. If you ask me, it looked like a rent-a-crowd. Why would anyone dance away in the cold, knowing they weren’t there for an iPhone 4, do it with such enthusiasm?
Close to midnight, the Vodacom PR ladies asked us to make our way inside Vodaworld, because that’s where “everything was taking place”. This was at 23:57.
We (media), get inside and the PR ladies have no idea WHERE we’re meant to be. The looked at each other confused, saying they don’t know what is happening. Really? And you call yourself PR? Wow.
At 00:00, stores within Vodaworld opened their doors to the public/consumers (those select few who actually got a call back) who preordered the iPhone 4. I added my name to the list immediately when it was open for everyone to do so but did I get a call back? No. Not even an SMS (just one, the day after the launch, to say something about it being sold out on its debut).
While the media were left hanging and wondering what is happening, I left at 0:08. The rent-a-crowd was still partying for a phone they probably couldn’t afford (and even if they did, is now ‘sold out’).
My question is why did Vodacom invite the media? Did they think it would be amusing to invite us when we could have been asleep at that hour, just to say sorry, we don’t know what’s happening?
I find it contemptible the way we were treated.
Vodacom, do you expect to be taken seriously the next time?
If that is how you treat “VIP media”, I’d rather NOT be on any list of yours.