Friday, October 29, 2010

Part 20: TV Dreams

So this was it. My chance to take Freebie-Man to TV screens and finally get the exposure I needed to break through my final 58 products with ease.

But like all things there was a problem. The presenter had seen my shots of the Café Retro and Puma shoes, and was so impressed she wanted to come down to my flat and film everything I had got for free so far. Which would have been fine, had I not just bundled up her two biggest reasons for coming and stuck them in a van.

Sensing the possible benefits of the interview I did what anyone in my position would have done: I blagged it.

After receiving the call, I said I’d love to be on the news. It turned out the day before had been one of the biggest days for blogs globally (something insane like 6 million had been created in that one day - which when you think of that as my competition shows you how vital this interview was). Thus they wanted to see some local blogs, especially ones with unique hooks.

So I did the best I could, arranged everything I had received so far in a nice neat manner on my bed including all the toys, makeup, food and games, and waited for their call.

After keeping me waiting for half an hour (these showbiz types, always late) they finally arrived, camera crew in tow and proceeded to set up in my bedroom.

In preparation for the interview I had given my ‘persona’ a good work out, and dressed in the typical Freebie-Man style. Although I felt comfortable, deep down all I could think of was how much better my pile of free products could be. If I’d just had a few more days! A few more phone calls! If only….

Whilst setting up, you could tell the interviewer was looking for a scoop. She proceeded to ask if almost every item in my room was free;

“Nice TV, was it blagged?” “No”
“Was that blender free?” “No”
“Did you get this room for free?” “No”
And so on, until she came to realize that everything I had was sitting on the bed in front of her.
“So have you got the Café Retro here?”
“The what?”
“The Café Retro coffee machine. We saw it on your blog.”
“Oh that… no I um … gave it to my parents”

A long pause followed as our minds clicked away. Could she see through my lie? I could sense she was moments away from packing in the whole thing, turning around and finding something more interesting to cover. Who knows, perhaps if the story hadn’t been scheduled to go out that afternoon, maybe she
would have.

But she stayed, and sensing a new angle decided that after the interview she would go out and use my freebie grabbing advice to try and get something for free in a local town.

Prior to this I had done small interviews for the Express and Star and BBC Radio WM, but you could tell this was a different ball game. This interviewer was out for some gossip, and wanted to approach the topic from
every angle good and bad.

“So… how is this different from stealing?”
“I’m sorry?”
“How is freebie grabbing any different to walking in to a shop and taking something?”

Unsure if the interview would go out as filmed or with some questions cut, I figured I’d have to answer every question, in sequence, without pause.

“Uum well, the main difference is that with freebie grabbing you always get the companies consent. They always agree to give something, but with stealing you just take it”

Dodging a bullet I patted myself on the back until:

“So if you get stuff for free what’s to stop you from giving everything a good review?”

“Well in essence I cover a much wider spectrum of products so it really doesn’t matter if I offend a company with a bad review as there are plenty more out there. There is never a guarantee given of a good review in return for the freebie.”

“But have you ever been tempted?”

Answering questions like this for a good ten minutes, we came to the conclusion that I was neither a crook nor a conman, but you never quite know how things will look in the final show. I gave my goodbyes, passed on some advice and the presenter left.

So I sat by the TV waiting to see just how things would turn out.

Would I be made to look like a fool? Would it spur further product recalls and the end of my journey or spark a new journey?

In the end it was neither of these things. The interview went out that day and was entirely positive. Unfortunately they completely forget to mention the website address in the entire five minute segment. This meant no new visitors and no new freebies.

There was some sort of validation when the presenter decided to try her own hand at freebie grabbing. She went in to a small town, walked in to shops and asked, “What can we have for free”. On the show it seemed like she gave no sort of unique offer, or persona but digging deeper we soon see that her persona was that of “TV presenter/ reporter” whilst her unique offer was “give me something for free and be on TV”.

One of my favourite people on TV is Derren Brown, who I have always found to be a genius in convincing people to perform certain tasks. He employs the persona and unique offer better than anyone I have ever met. In one of his shows he managed to convince a bookie that he had picked the winning horse even though he had a losing ticket. Afterwards he explained to the camera that you should never underestimate the things
people will do when they have a TV camera in their face. In this show the bookie had wanted to not appear foolish on TV and had thus honoured the bet.

Likewise for the BBC News reporter, the shopkeepers had wanted to appear generous, get their face on TV and most importantly get their shop on TV. Thus they acted out of character, and let her get something for nothing.

The last TV example I’ll use is that of the Apprentice. Every year, candidates are set a challenge of getting a dozen or so products for as cheap a price as possible. Usually this involves a few quid being shaved off here and there, but mostly it’s down to haggling. These supposed businessmen/ women in the making rarely use either the TV crew, or their own unique offers to their benefit.

There is an exception. In one show a candidate was attempting to get two lobsters for a cheap price. He went in with the usual “can you knock a bit off” approach and it fell flat on its face. “Can’t you knock off even a penny?” and again the shop owner refused to budge.

Then the candidate hit upon the idea of promising to tell everyone he knew about the shop if he could get a free lobster. Realising the opportunity, and no doubt aware of the camera in his face, the shop owner accepted the offer. The candidate got a big pat on the back and the shop owner got more business.

Although we don’t all have a camera crew at our disposal, perhaps these ideas will help in your freebie grabbing formation? If nothing else they serve as useful proof that props can really help.

(Still) 42 Down 58 To Go

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Every product on this site has been received for free, and given to me by the product manufacturer or their associated PR organisation in return for a review.

I have no other personal or business association with these companies, and all reviews are written truthfully and based on my own experience. If I hate a product I will say so (and have done on many occasions!).