October 2015 – ALDI in Australia and Freedom of the Press

AldiThe German supermarket chain is very active in almost 20 countries on three continents, including Australia. Down here they are operating a bit less than 400 stores and there are more to be opened soon.

A handful of these outlets are following a different concept. These new trial stores located in QLD, NSW, ACT and VIC, offer improved lighting, larger layouts and an expanded offering of fresh food including extending produce ranges, in-house bakeries and premium brands.

A good story for the business segment for one of our clients, a German TV-channel. Hence we got in touch with Aldi’s PR-agency asking for an interview with one of Aldi’s spokespersons and the permission to film in one of their stores. Only one day later we got a reply telling us that they will try to arrange something for us.

Seven days on we got a mail and a call from Aldi’s customer service. A nice lady on the phone told us that the permission to film in one of the stores is totally at the discretion of the store manager. Almost at the same time we received a mail from the PR-agency telling us that they “are not actively coordinating media inquiries of this nature at present“. What a sentence… Anyway, we did not want them to coordinate anything, we just wanted the permission to film in a store.

Little later we went to one of these new trial stores. As this definitely wasn’t anything like “investigative journalism” we didn’t take a camera or any other recording equipment. In the store we asked one of the ladies with an Aldi-logo on her shirt to ask the store manager to have a brief chat with us and gave her our business card.

“No problem”, was the answer and only minutes later she came back telling us to wait a few minutes as the manager was busy at the moment. Nothing happened for the next 20 Minutes. Then again the lady approached us telling us, that it might take a little more time as the manager still has to make a couple of phone calls.

After 40 minutes I had an incoming text message on my cellphone (screenshot).

Aldi-smsThe main sentence was “…we ask that you please leave the premises.” As if they have something to hide. We certainly left. Standing outside we immediately called the sender of the message. She explained that Aldi is not interested in media coverage as there would not be “PR-effect” on the Australian market. We certainly never had the intention to produce a promo-video for Aldi.

Well, to make a long story short we told her that we certainly had the intention to follow up with the story and to mention Aldi’s non-cooperation. And that’s exactly what we did.

At the very end of our conversations she came up with a final surprise: Having in mind that there was no cooperation at all and maybe totally misunderstanding what “Freedom of the Press” is all about, the PR-lady asked us to provide a copy of our report…