herald

Sunday 28 May 2017

I'm fine with celebs earning a bit on the side, as long as they are honest about it

Entrepreneur Marissa Carter
Entrepreneur Marissa Carter

When is an ad not an ad? It's a question that's back in the news, courtesy of comments made by businesswoman Marissa Carter, who criticised bloggers last week for lacking any integrity and writing positive reviews of products simply because they're paid to do so.

The online community hit back with gusto, saying they would never write a good review in return for money - an observation most sensible people will take with a fistful of salt.

Now we have the Aer Lingus affair, a scandal I will henceforth refer to as "Departure-gate".

Dispute

Kathryn Thomas was paid to launch Aer Lingus' new loyalty card at an event in Dublin last week, a fact over which there is no dispute.

"Departure-gate" centres on a tweet she later posted: "AerClub is Aer Lingus' fab new loyalty programme. Why is it fab? Because it's free!"

In so doing, Kathryn would seem to have broken the guidelines laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI), which has been seeking to clamp down on online professionals endorsing products, ostensibly because they like them, when they are in fact being paid to do so.

The ASAI's guidelines could not be clearer, stating that: "Where celebrities are sponsored by brands or paid directly to promote products, it must be clear that their posts are marketing communications."

However, before this des-cends into the traditional print versus online media argument, consider the following.

The same Sunday newspaper that broke the story, and implicitly criticised Kathryn for her lack of transparency, gave over several pages of gushing "edit- orial" about homes that have recently come on the market.

Nowhere, however, is the word "advertisement" found anywhere near these stories.

Similarly, travel journalists have a long history of writing fawning, uncritical articles about whatever destination they've been flown to, with every writer worth his salt knowing that if you criticise the resort, it's the last junket you'll ever go on.

We are, to quote the famous words of Michael Corleone, all part of the same hypocrisy.

Charming

If newspaper readers or Twitter followers can't work out for themselves that money has changed hands in order for someone to write rapturous prose about a banal beauty offering, customer incentive plan or "charming" cottage, then more fool them.

If celebrities can get the free use of a car, or trouser €5,000 for a day's work, why would they turn it down?

Everyone needs to earn a living, and we should have no pro blem with people who help to sell products as long as they are up-front about it.

The only issue we should have is with journalists and bloggers who pretend to gush over something for no other reason than they like it, and deny that they ever get something in return.

We're not that gullible.

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