Pardon the inflammatory title, but that’s more or less the gist of Paul Nicholasi’s recent post “Geek Is Still a Dirty Word,” detailing his shabby treatment at the hands of Mattel’s public relations people over the last two Toy Fairs. Money quote:
More than anything, it saddens me that things like this kill my love of collecting toys. Why am I meant to feel like I am doing something wrong when I give free publicity to a company? More often then not, we even go so far as to buy the toys we’d like to cover, as it is quicker than trying to squeeze a free sample out of a multi million dollar outfit. Shouldn’t they be very happy we are so enthusiastic about their products? If they are forced by their bosses to squeeze 100 of us into a room all at once to shoot their toys, shouldn’t they be doing their best to assure that THAT experience is as comfortable, polite and smooth as it possibly can be? […] Why is it ok to treat me like this? Because I am with the “collector press” or the “nerd herd” as I’ve heard reps call us. I’m a geek, and my love of what they produce only makes me fodder for ridicule in their minds.
While I’ll admit I tend to be skeptical of geek communities’ tendency to immediately perceive ridicule from anyone outside their cliques, I’m not sure the “geek” thing is the true problem here. It might be part of it, but I think Mattel simply doesn’t give a shit about the smaller press outlets,* who happen to produce almost all of the collector-based toy coverage. It was far more important to give the royal treatment to retailers and, to a lesser extent, the reps of larger press outlets, if any (under this scenario, I chalk up ignoring the MTV rep more to incompetence and unprofessionalism than deliberate neglect).
Regardless of motive, there’s no question Mattel is doing itself a great disservice by treating collectors this way. They’ll never grow the Masters of the Universe brand into a massive multimedia franchise like Transformers or G.I. Joe if they don’t embrace the fandom. Why that lesson can’t sink in, from the executives on down, is baffling.
* Outside of a very small cadre of fan sites with close personal connections to Mattel staffers.