Summit Communications and AFA Press

There’s been some very interesting activity this month in the comments thread

on an old post of mine

about Summit Communications. Since I don’t expect anybody to plough through

more than 12,000 words of comments, I thought I’d summarise the discussion here.

And it really is a discussion: people pretty much are who they say they are.

I’ve got a list of their names and IP addresses after the jump if you don’t

believe me. The only time an IP address is repeated is when Marcos Melo, who

is an employee of Alvaro Llaryora, posts from the same IP address as Llaryora.

Which makes perfect sense.

Nearly all of the activity comes from employees or former employees of Summit

Communications or its sister companies. I’m not sure how or why they all seem

to have found my blog entry at the same time, but I assume there’s been some

emailing going on. In any case, the basic Summit Communications modus operandi

definitely emerges from the discussion.

It turns out that Summit Communications is a vehicle set up by a parent company

called AFA Press for the express purpose of selling advertising supplements

in the New York Times. AFA has other, similar companies for other publications:

the one for the Observer in the UK, for instance, is called Images, Words; the

one for USA Today is called United World; the one for the Daily Telegraph in

the UK is called PM Communications, and so on. The true center of operations

for all these companies is Madrid, although they’re mostly incorporated in the

UK.

The owner of all these companies is an Argentine called Alberto Llaryora –

the father of one of my commenters, Alvaro Llaryora. (In Argentine Spanish,

both "ll" and "y" are pronounced as "zh", so think

"zharzhora".)

Why does Llaryora have so many offshore companies, each with a very different

name? (Apart from any money-laundering he may or may not be doing, of course.)

The impression one gets from reading the comments is that it’s very simple:

the people working for these companies are so sleazy and unprofessional that

the governments and companies in the countries buying the advertorials are unlikely

to ever want to work with them a second time. So Llaryora simply sends a team

from a company with a name untarnished in that country instead.

And there’s another reason: the AFA sales team makes no effort whatsoever to

distingish themselves from the publication that they’re going to print the advertorial

in. The fact that each subsidiary works only for a single publication allows

them to say that they are "the exclusive partner of the New York Times"

or somesuch.

In fact, the sales technique at AFA seems to depend on their pretending to

be from the New York Times / USA Today / whoever. The AFA team always

includes a "journalist" who goes around attempting to get interviews

with senior officials and executives in the country, for a report on that country

to be published in the newspaper in question. Obviously, the fact that the report

will be an advertorial is not mentioned, and neither is the fact that the "journalist"

not an employee of, let alone a journalist for, the newspaper.

Similarly, when the advertorial is being sold, it is always sold on the basis

that the number of readers of the advertorial is the same as the number of readers

of the newspaper in question. Most advertisers who want a bound-out supplement

in the Sunday New York Times, say, are well aware that the vast majority of

readers will simply throw that supplement away unread. But AFA sales people

present themselves as selling advertising (little display units within the advertorials)

against New York Times / USA Today editorial with its enormous circulation and

readership numbers.

AFA seems to specialize in employing young, hungry sales people with no previous

experience in the media business. One of them phoned me after being given a

job offer, wanting to find out what I knew about the company; another left a

comment on my blog. The person I talked to had only sales experience well outside

the media industry, but was being offered a job as a "journalist":

writing skills, of course, were unimportant, as the only thing that matters

is making sales. These kids can make a lot of money by lying to advertisers,

and no one ever discourages them from doing so – quite the opposite. They

justify their actions by saying that they’re working in corrupt countries, and

that if you want to make money in such countries you have to be part of that

corrupt system.

Generally, it would seem, the male "journalist" will go through the

motions of interviewing the minister/executive in question; at the end of the

interview, a very pretty female "director" will then approach the

interviewee to buy some advertising against the interview. (Of course, if the

advertising isn’t bought, then the interview won’t appear, but that’s never

mentioned.) In the case of government ministers, the "director" will

ask the minister for a letter giving his "support" to the publication,

and encouraging the companies in that country to cooperate with the reporter.

The minister thinks he’s simply opening doors for the "reporter" to

be able to do his interviews, but of course the "director" helpfully

explains to the executives that in order to cooperate as the minister wants

them to do, they will have to buy advertising.

The technique works so well that former AFA employees have gone on to set up

their own companies doing exactly the same thing: see Vega Media, Impact Media,

and Media Plus, which seems to have an especially low reputation. There’s a

whole sector of these companies, it turns out: Global Press, for instance, run

by Alberto Llaryora’s brother Rodolfo Llaryora, would seem to have the Washington

Post and Fortune Magazine locked up. There certainly seems to be de facto

exclusivity: only one company ever seems to produce advertorials for any given

publication. Does Summit Communications pay the New York Times extra for being

its only advertorial provider? How else can one explain the seeming absence

of any competition in the NYT?

I’m sure that the New York Times, alongside all the other highly-regarded publications

in bed with AFA Press, spends as little time as possible asking about the genesis

of the advertorials which it prints. Just as the millions of people who eat

at McDonald’s really don’t want to know the details of how their meal is made.

This is the real difference between these publications, on the one hand, and

Euromoney, on the other: Euromoney, when it sells supplements, does so under

its own name, and in the knowledge that if the client is unhappy he’ll never

buy another one. The NYT et al don’t sell supplements, they leave that to others,

who are happier to burn their clients because they’ll likely never return to

that country anyway.

I’d be very interested to learn whether New York Times journalists working

in third-world countries ever find themselves battling ministers or executives

who think they’ve dealt with the New York Times in the past, and who have very

bad memories of the whole encounter. Maybe every time they do, they should complain

to the advertising department about the stuff which is being done in the NYT’s

name. That, in turn, might drive AFA Press and its subsidiaries to higher standards

of conduct.

More likely, an increase in the media-savvyness of third world ministers and

executives will force Llaryora and his employees to be more transparent; from

reading the comments on my original post, that might be happening already. Instead

of misleadingly selling an ad against an interview in the New York Times –

something which anybody who knows the NYT knows can never be done – AFA

might start talking more about the usefulness of newspaper supplements in terms

of turning around the image of a tarnished country. Chances are, of course,

that if the people buying into these supplements knew how effective they really

were, they would never take part. But at least some of the sleaziness in the

industry would be minimised.

Commenters and IP addresses after the jump.

March 20 Stefan Geens 85.226.193.223
March 20 Lance Knobel 71.249.17.70
April 8 Ray Corbis 62.68.61.2
June 1 Thierry De Pins 87.217.13.44
July 6 flimsy 62.56.236.174
July 7 Mark 80.25.234.40
July 7 Hugh Janus 83.44.24.179
July 7 Veronica Fuentes 83.35.204.167
July 7 Stefan Geens 62.253.128.12
July 7 Renata (aka flimsy) 62.56.236.174
July 7 Southampton’s Number 7 195.167.131.33
July 7 Stefan Geens 62.253.128.12
July 7 Southampton’s Number 7 195.167.131.33
July 7 Stefan Geens 62.253.128.12
July 7 bihboon 81.192.191.75
July 7 Jorge Rosi 83.34.209.175
July 7 G. 69.194.13.47
July 9 Clemente Ordierez 81.52.161.74
July 10 Alvaro Llaryora 217.127.229.150
July 10 cause for concern 86.140.215.182
July 10 Marcos Melo 217.127.229.150
July 12 Valerie Favier 83.202.97.233
July 12 Southampton’s Number 7 195.167.131.33
July 12 Marcos Melo 217.127.229.150
July 12 Zeb 195.172.183.10
July 12 valerie favier 83.202.97.233
July 12 PomKa 62.135.101.197
July 12 RAQUEL PICORNELL 212.0.149.213
July 13 Benj (aka bihboon) 196.217.242.241
July 14 Flavio G 82.205.215.177
July 14 G 69.194.13.54
July 14 Romeo 200.31.172.4
July 16 Clemente Ordierez 83.53.158.219
July 17 thermidor 81.202.46.133
July 19 Moh 196.200.83.51
July 19 Benj (aka bihboon) 196.217.240.125
July 19 james 86.1.67.234
July 21 jj 212.80.189.229
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260 Responses to Summit Communications and AFA Press

  1. A professional Freelance Journalist says:

    I was approached by this company (AFA Press) to consider a role as an ‘International Journalist’, and all the ‘ingredients’ of travelling around the world and interviewing highly influential global leaders in developing economies (Africa, China, India etc.). This job is also advertised on the credible ‘www.journalism.co.uk’. I had my suspicions, and after reading this blog I was not going to apply either. However, I am going to carry out an investigation and see what its really like! If it is true that this is a sales job and nothing to do with journalism then we need to make sure that real journalists who are looking for a real career opportunity in journalism are not cheated. If it is a sales job, then it should not be advertised as a Journalist job. Period.

  2. AFA PRESS plagiarises says:

    I was contacted by AFA PRESS for a role as international journalist. They were looking for someone bilingual in Spanish/English. They asked for a test article(they provided me with an interview which I had to reconvert into a 4,000 word article). I did so. They informed me that “my application was not successful”. A month later I was contacted again for another interview. While navigating through their website (preparing the second interview) I came across MY TEST ARTICLE (yes, the one that did not get me the job that first time) published under SOMEONE ELSE’S name.
    I sued them, of course. The case is now on court.
    Just saying.

  3. Felix straight cat says:

    Felix 7 years later and your site still stirs debate amongst the fresh blood :-)!! AHAHA just get the job if you want one nothing will happen to you. You’re not saving the polar bear but you’re baby seal poaching either so make your own opinion.

  4. MElanie says:

    What about BCommit? Seems like the same style…

  5. dj says:

    hello,

    I used to work for MediaPlus, and to tell you the truth, it was one of the best experiences.
    Yes, it was hard, long hours work
    Yes, I was lonely from time to time
    Yes, you are not saving the world at all
    But you are selling ads, that’s what ads are….
    I am even thinking of doing it again…

  6. HR says:

    Sometimes I wonder how the HR Department in Media Plus and the Belgian office staff can sleep at night knowing they are part of one giant con and are only lying to themselves? I hear this Thieu Cuypers is one dodgy Dutchman.

    It’s gotten so bad the recruiters do not recruit for Media Plus per se, but rather for its sub-companies such as US Television or European Times or some other company. I got a job offer from this girl named Tara Koehler and it just felt wrong to accept.

    Gotta love a name called European Times. As someone mentioned above, European Times is so exclusive, really exclusive, that no one reads it.

  7. Afa-Ex says:

    I worked for Afa and it was the biggest scam of my life. They take advantage of young, driven, hungry and motivated individuals and try to sell them the world literally. Once you are shipped off to your first location, the real story sets in. You will be belittled by your Director (fake journalist) and work long pointless hours to produce a fake (garbage) editorial. No wonder the Afa name has been burned. They cheat, sabotage and take advantage of poor corrupt countries and people who cannot even speak English. You are trained to be professional liars-literally. I mean good for the people who can stick it out, because there is money to be made, but it’s the most unethical company I’ve ever experienced. If this company was based in the US, they would be buried and have a fucking steep of lawsuits against them. Karma is a bitch and Afa you will one day feel the burn.

  8. Maddison Mattingley says:

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  9. Lucia says:

    Thank you so much for this article and the comments!!! a real eye opening! I have been approached by this predators twice, first red flag, the total lack of ethics during their interviews from asking very annoying personal questions to make comments such as “we only hire pretty girls because they are the ones to do the sales”

    This people should be sued, no question ask…

  10. M&M says:

    Wow! this story, plus the first article, is enough for a series of investigative journalistic articles, an award winning documentary and a script for a movie a la “The last King of Scotland”. Unfortunately I couldn t find anything other than the Reuters blog entry and this one here http://minivannews.com/politics/advertorial-media-pirates-set-sale-for-maldives-13741
    Any other news articles that have dealt w/ these companies? Thx. Great work!

Comments are closed.