Would you like to be considered for the AMD advocacy program? This question greeted AMD fans who were asked to confirm their attendance at AMD Technograffiti which took place March 7th in Austin, Texas the night before SXSW Interactive Festival began.
What is the AMD Advocacy Program? This was answered by Robert, a self-identified AMD Radeon marketing guy at Reddit Hardware forums.
It certainly sounds innocent. However, we have watched AMD start down the slippery slope of Stealth Marketing to tech site forums using their own employees to shill for them without disclosing that they are employed by AMD. We covered this in our blog: AMD, Intel, Kingston, and Nvidia & Social Media. However, let’s now look closely at what AMD says about their Advocate program.
Q. What is the AMD Advocate program on the signup?
A. Members of the program will occasionally get the chance to take home an AMD product in exchange for giving the product some airtime on their blog, Twitter, or whatever. Essentially, we want to make reviewers out of ordinary people who will get a chance to spend some time with a CPU or a graphics card and the like. Honestly and openly share your thoughts, start a conversation, get people talking. That’s all we ask.
The people who are asked to sign up are already fans, attending AMD’s Technograffiti event. Here they are offered an AMD product in exchange for blogging about it, using twitter, or talking about it on other social media such as on a tech forum. We don’t see any requirement that these fans make clear to their readers that the hardware is in exchange for their advocacy. Let’s look at the dictionary definition of “advocate”:
Definition of ADVOCATE1: one that pleads the cause of another; specifically : one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court2: one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal3: one that supports or promotes the interests of another
Examples of ADVOCATE
- a passionate advocate of civil rights
- She works as a consumer advocate.
- He has paid respectful attention to the home schooling movement by meeting with its advocates and endorsing their cause.
Essentially we see that AMD is moving beyond a “Focus Group” to an “Advocacy Program” where their fans are targeted with offers of free hardware to advocate AMD products. Unless the very strictest standards of transparancy and disclosure are enforced – something that AMD has failed to do with their own employees posting on tech site forums without disclosure – there is too much room for abuse.
Worst of all, this may backfire on AMD because it now casts doubts on anyone that is talking about their products. How does anyone know that any forum advice given about AMD hardware is not coming from those fans who receive free AMD hardware? They may now feel even more impelled to advocate for AMD – especially with the anonymity that a tech forum allows. This is not a good situation for the tech community and it is not good for AMD as it undermines trust, and especially trust in AMD. We ask that AMD please reconsider what damage their Advocacy program may do to our communities and to them.
A corporate image is priceless. We genuinely like AMD and their products and we have always evaluated and treated them fairly. We continue to invite their representatives to respond and we will be glad to publish it here.
We started out at ABT without relations to any company, and together with our members we have built it into a great site by hard work and by honest detailed reviews. We will not be beholden to any company just because we review their products. We encourage manufacturers representatives – AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcomm, Intel, Samsung, Kingston, LG, Sony, etc. – to ethically and professionally participate and all of them are invited to have their products openly reviewed, evaluated, reported on by ABT fairly.
Our ABT forums are also open to the best tech discussions found anywhere. We invite you to join our free and growing active community.
UPDATED March 11, 2013 at 9:15 PM PDT
We got a response from AMD as we had sent a link to Chris Hook in AMD Graphics this morning. Here is the complete email:
First let me introduce myself: My name is Robert, and I’m the product marketing manager for enthusiast graphics at AMD: desktop gaming GPUs, AMD CrossFire, and AMD Eyefinity.
I was reading around the Internet and saw that you’d posted an article regarding a comment I made in a Reddit thread concerning the AMD Advocacy Program. It seems I didn’t adequately capture what I intended, so I hope I can make myself more clear on email. J
The Advocacy Program is an extension of AMD’s preexisting New Product Review Program (NPRP), which sends hardware samples to established websites (like ABT) for the purposes of independent third-party analysis. We hope to make these same inroads with new communication channels, like bloggers, YouTube reviewers and Twitter users, all of whom provide a unique and knowledgeable perspective that could add to the audience of independent reviewers already looking at our products in traditional press outlets. There are dozens of users with extremely large networks, an interest in technology, and no mechanism by which they might have access to open and honestly review a product in the same way that you might be able to as an established journalist.
We demand complete transparency in disclosing product sources, which is an FCC requirement in the US, the jurisdiction of our corporation. That is the same standard to which we hold all reviewers, advocacy program or otherwise.
More personally, I have a zero-tolerance policy for shilling as a 10-year forum moderation vet at another hardware review site. I’ve disclosed my affiliation there. I also disclosed my affiliation on the Reddit thread, as you saw. And I haunt the Overclock.net forums where again my affiliation is public. And on Twitter, where my affiliation is again disclosed. The same is also true for Google+, and Facebook, and any other location in which I might make product recommendations.
I expect the same from everyone in our marketing departments, and so does our legal team. J
Thanks for your time,
Product Marketing Manager
AMD Radeon™ Graphics
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