Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Vicks VapoRub: What not to do in a PR campaign

with 3 comments

On Friday, a large box arrived in our office, addressed to a Reuters Health stringer. It contained:

  • A Vicks VapoRub Snuggie (I’m pictured in it to the right)
  • Chicken soup mix
  • A scented candle
  • Green tea packets
  • Tissues
  • Vicks-branded slippers

This was all part of an effort to promote Vicks’ “Feel Better Friend!” application on Facebook. Goofy and questionable, but so are a lot of packages we get for consumer products.

But as the TV pitchman would say, wait, there’s more. (And in case you were wondering, no, there’s no embargo angle here. I just couldn’t figure out a way to write a long post with a headline and pictures on my Tumblr.)

There was also:

  • a seven-inch digital photo frame
  • A Sony “bloggie Touch”
  • A $100 SpaFinder gift card
  • A $100 BestBuy gift card 

That’s right. Vicks had sent us something like $400 in gift cards and electronics. Here’s the whole spread (click on the image to see a larger version, then come back for the naming and shaming part of this post):

Product samples are one thing, if they’re of minimal value and a reporter needs them to write about a new release — although I should note that it’s still preferable to have journalism outlets pay for the products, and there was no actual VapoRub in the package. Plus, people whose friends sent them the Facebook campaign link would only get a virtual gift, not even a real one.

But this is just ridiculous. Does the PR agency that came up with this — DeVries Public Relations — think that ethical reporters will accept all of these gifts? Does Vicks’ parent company, Procter and Gamble?

I’m not sure how sending this much of value to a reporter supposedly covering a story fits into ethics guidelines from the Public Relations Society of America or the International Association of Business Communicators. When I send this package back to DeVries, I’ll include a copy of this post so they can think a little bit more about the campaign.

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. They should send that stuff to a shelter for homeless women, not to reporters. Imagine if all that money were spent to make homeless women feel a little better about themselves.


    October 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm

  2. That just ain’t right. Vicks, P&G, Sony, Best Buy, etc should all know better.

    John R Platt (@johnrplatt)

    October 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

  3. I think this is a good look for you.


    David Levine

    October 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm

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