Oracle, SAP, and Half-truths/Lies in News Releases

October 20, 2006

I enjoyed this article too much not to comment on it. Evan Schuman, of eWeek fame, has a (not so) little retail technology blog called StorefrontBacktalk. In a recent compilation enewsletter, he linked back to an entry he wrote earlier called Oracle’s Accuracy Woes.

If you are looking for some background tidbits on the battle between Oracle and SAP, you’ll enjoy the article (although it’s from earlier this year).

What I enjoyed is how he so humorously exposed the truth about the types of news releases that fly from the corporate world (he says I.T., but it’s the same all over).

As any IT manager knows, news releases are self-serving documents whose entire raison d’être is to present a one-sided argument why the issuing vendor is a great place to give lots of money. Half-truths and misleading comments are not only popular in news releases, they’re damn near mandatory.

I laughed out loud. It is too true.

And then, as I thought about it, I just got plain sad.

In my work, that is one of the most frustrating things I have to deal with: Companies come to us and want us to take something trivial and make it news.

[warning: sarcasm starts here]
I’m sorry, but if you want some publicity, how about doing something meaningful or newsworthy? Create a decent product that really IS different. That really meets some unmet need. That truly offers some value.

How about if you actually DID develop a breakthrough? While I can create the appearance of a breakthrough for you, it will literally make me sick to do it. (NOTE: to be fair, some companies do actually have breakthroughs that are worth telling the world about.)

A Wall Street Journal from September 27, 2006, Some ‘Breakthroughs’ Deserve That Title–But Definitely Not All by Lee Gomes discussed this problem. Gomes wrote

But to what extent are we experiencing “breakthrough inflation,” in which the work an engineer would consider simply a good day in the lab becomes, in the hands of the PR department, an advance worhty of being shouted about from the rooftops?

That article, btw, dissects an Intel release as the basis for the discussion. Gomes also pointed out that 8,600 releases with the word “breakthrough” in the headline have been pushed out in the last couple years. Wow – must be a lot of innovation happening out there!

I’ll close with a funny example of this not-so-funny truth from Evan’s article:

Some years back, I remember a DEC manager who told reporters that a particular new OS hook they had created already had “a number of ISVs committed to using it.” When nothing turned up and the feature was abandoned, the manager conceded that no one had ever opted to support it. Asked about his news conference claim, the manager sheepishly smiled and said, “Zero’s a number.”

Once again, I wonder why I’m in marketing. . .



  1. John,
    Echoes my position exactly…
    Would be interested to see what you make of Jeff Nolan’s post http://jeffnolan.com/wp/2006/10/30/for-the-record/

  2. I think that SAP is doing the right thing in not responding. Oracle wants SAP to. Oracle wants to be on the offense for a change. As it is, SAP owns the market and continues to dominate. I feel it would raise Oracle’s brand more if SAP responded in a like manner while at the same time degrading the SAP brand. There’s a certain class to not responding (although I would sue them for any direct lies).

    So, I disagree with Jeff on that. Jeff did have it right, though, in saying that Oracle’s ads probably hurt them more than help.

  3. […] Just read Jason’s post. He is unhappy about software vendor mudslinging, and I agree with him.  I’ve suggested that the  software industry should remember-learn  some manners.  My marketing guru mate John would probably agree too. […]

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