You’ll recall my Reviewing Samples series from a few months back, where I interviewed various toy reviewers about the practice of reviewing samples sent by toy companies (apologies for that terrible repetitive sentence). In the process of that series, I contacted a few toy company press reps to see if they were interested in answering some questions from the other side of things. One recently got back to me with the following answers.
For obvious professional reasons, the subject of the interview wishes to remain anonymous. Suffice to say, this person works for a major toy company and has been responsible for distributing free samples to reviewers in the past. –PG
1.) When your company provides samples to a toy reviewer, what are your expectations regarding the review (i.e., positive, objective, fair, etc.)?
I certainly want the review to be fair, but you need to focus on the positive as well as the negative — you can’t just run down every single thing you think is wrong with it without ever mentioning a a good point. (And no, wrapping up a list of negatives with “It’s still a good purchase” does not make everything okay — it makes me wonder what in the hell you liked about it, because you certainly never mentioned it.) If you can’t say anything nice about the product at all, let me know, and we’ll kill the review. You can complain as much as you like about a toy you buy, but to utterly eviscerate a toy I sent you for free is not cool. Just say “I can’t review this. It sucks.” Done.
2.) Do you provide samples only to those reviewers who you think will provide a good review?
I provide samples to anyone who asks, as long as they’ve actually done some reviews before and I can get the product they want. If they have no reviews up on their site, I usually tell them to get back to me when they can send me some representative links. Maybe if I knew a reviewer constantly trashed our stuff, I wouldn’t send him something, but that hasn’t happened yet.
3.) Do you pick and choose which items you offer as review samples, or do you tend to offer review samples of everything you produce? If the former, are you more likely to offer review samples of less popular brands?
I only send product when requested — I will not send someone everything we make and wait to see what they review. And I don’t reserve review product in advance, I request them as requests come in. So if a popular toy sells out, I can’t get you review samples anyway. Retailer exclusives are often hard to get a hold of, as well — we don’t always keep many of those. And while I’d like to support those releases, I also don’t want to be responsible for a bad review of one of them to go out, so it’s probably best that we don’t have the product. So yeah, the product I get is usually not the most popular stuff we make.
4.) Do you feel that your company, or toy companies in general, are under some pressure to provide review samples as the makers of movies,videogames, music albums etc. often do, or is it less about marketing and more about, say, building good relationships with the collecting community?
More about building good relationships; if they need content, I give it to them, be it pictures or text or product to shoot/examine. It seems like most toy reviewers still buy the toys they review, be it for bias purposes or because they want to get a sense of the perceived value vs. actual price paid. But I am happy to provide our products to sites that cover us regularly. If I send product to another site, it’s because I know they’d cover us more if we sent them something.