Tweeters are starting to express their frustration at being misled by two Cape Town based reviewers, Lionel Lelyveld, Tweeting about restaurants as @IntertwEAT, and Michael Olivier, Tweeting as @FoodWineGuru about wines.
What the two Tweeters have in common is that neither reveal to the readers of their blogs/websites nor in their Tweets (nor to the Fine Music Radio FMR listeners) that they have received their meals for free in the case of Lelyveld, and that the wine reviews are part of an advertising package offered by Olivier, showing that both the reviewers have no ethics in misleading their Twitter Followers and blog readers, and radio listeners.
Michael Olivier has been around for a while, and appears to have needed a new source of income since he jumped or was pushed from Crush!, the digital food and wine magazine, which he helped launch, but made a mess of, not having any publishing nor digital design experience. Every wine and food product featured in the magazine was paid for by its producers. Olivier then already was described as someone who would not offer any coverage without payment. Given the many complaints about the poor navigability of the site, and the inability to read the featured brand names, fewer and fewer food and wine marketers chose to advertise in Crush! We are surprised at the amazing improvement in the look of Crush!, its improved navigability, its lack of hard-sell advertising, and its reduced clutter since Olivier has left the publication.
Olivier’s introduction to his website, ‘Michael Olivier Cape Town’s Wine & Food guru recommends the best wines he’s tasted, his best wineries, restaurants, olive oils and books to read’ , is misleading as most of his content is paid for by his advertisers! On his website Olivier has a section headed ‘Winery Partners‘, but he does not explain that he has signed up the more than 30 wine brands for a package costing R950 per month, as per his e-mail to prospective advertisers in October 2012 (his rates may have increased since then):
“We invite you to join Michael as a partner in his ventures.
The benefits of this partnership are:
1 Michael will dedicate a page to your farm and winery on his website.
2 He will broadcast one wine of your choice per month on the Afternoon Drive Show on Fine Music Radio 101.3FM from 16h00 to 18h00.
3 Michael is very active on social networking platforms and is able to broaden the reach of each wine he talks about by tweeting the wine to his 4,400+ Twitter followers;
4 We will feature each wine on his Facebook page as his #wineoftheday, where he includes your web address.
5 We will also feature each wine on his website under the heading “wine of the day”, have a look.
6 We will create a page for your restaurants in the restaurant section on his website for a once off fee of R150.
This package costs R950.00 per month. Should you be interested in the 1 minute slot only on FMR, the cost is R695 per wine. You can book as many slots per month as you need. At present, with the additional broadcasting tower in Hout Bay covering the Southern Peninsula on 94.7FM, the afternoon drive show is reaching about 120,000 listeners in the City, Northern and Southern suburbs and in the country. They are LSM 8 – 10, culturally oriented, and certainly wine drinkers!“
What is shocking is that Olivier misleads his advertisers, in quoting his Twitter follower details (in October he quoted the number as ‘4400+’, when he only had 4000 at that time). Now, seven months later, Olivier’s Twitter Follower number has grown to 32544 (as at 22/5), leading to the speculation that he has bought Followers to ‘impress’ his advertisers – a 28000 growth in Followers in such a short period of time is not believable! The FMR listenership is also overstated, having been claimed as 120000 listeners (in an undefined period – on the Expresso Show website he claims that his FMR programme is heard by 90000 listeners daily!), when the FMR website states that its listenership is only 55000 per week! His ‘Wine of the Day’ listings are only two paragraphs long, and carry a ‘Recommended’ stamp by him, but are of course the wines of his clients!
Olivier is known to be less than nice if one crosses his path, as we have experienced personally, so many wine producers pay him ‘blood money’, to prevent any negative retaliation from him should they refuse to sign up with him. Also, his clients know that he will only say positive things about their brands, which is unethical in itself, in that the wine brands are assisting Olivier in deceiving the readers of his Tweets and blog posts, and listeners to FMR! Clients who have fallen for his sales pitch include Boschendal, Chamonix, De Grendel, De Wetshof, Douglas Green, Glen Carlou, Glenelly, Groot Constantia, Haute Cabriére, House of Krone, Jordan Winery, Kaapzicht, Klein Constantia, La Bri, Landskroon, Môreson, Morgenhof, Mulderbosch, Perdeberg, Rustenberg, Simonsig, Solms-Delta, Spier, Vergelegen, Warwick, Waterkloof, Zevenwacht, and Zonnebloem, listed on his website as ‘Winery Partners‘! It is the absence of wine brands from the Winery Partners list that tells the real story, in that it is those brands with ethics that have not signed up with Olivier, and thereby reflect that they value their customers, and do not mislead them!
Lionel Lelyveld leapt onto the restaurant scene from nowhere, not having been heard of before, although he appears to have lived in Cape Town for a while already. His profiles on Google claim that he has an MA (hons) from Cambridge, his blog on Tygerburger refers to him as a ‘motoring journalist’, with only two blogposts, and his Linked in profile lists him as a ‘Journalist at blah’! His amateurish-looking website is called Tweetcritique: ‘TweetCritique is the world’s first company that enables service and product providers an instant view of how they are perceived by their consumers and customers. Through the growing trend of Twitter, TweetCritique has evolved a real-time international platform based on subjects that are pertinent and interactive’. It consists of three pillars – IntertwEAT for restaurant reviews, Tourtweetsa for accommodation reviews, and Autotweetsa for motor vehicle reviews. He writes about IntertwEAT: ‘Visiting Twitter reviewers visit restaurants from across South Africa and tweet about their experiences. @IntertwEAT followers will naturally be able to tweet about their own experiences. Followers will be able to directly interact with the owners and the owners will be able to respond and directly interact with their customers and potential customers’. This is misleading, as it is only Lelyveld who reviews the restaurants, and only in Cape Town and its environs to date, with no interaction from the restaurant owners ever having been seen, as claimed!
His pushy approach to restaurants on Twitter, requesting opportunities to review restaurants, not taking ‘no’ for an answer, embarrassing his targets if they did not reply immediately and allow him to eat at their restaurants, attracted attention and abhorrence, more and more Tweeters and restaurateurs commenting about Lelyveld’s lack of ethics, in not revealing that he has not paid for the meals he ‘reviews’. He has ‘reviewed’ Shimmy Beach Club, San Julian, Mano a Mano, JennaVIVA, Pirates Steakhouse & Pub, and Passage to India this month so far, as well as five Ernst Gouws & Co wines. Like Olivier, there is not one critical word written about the restaurants and wines, which is not credible! Speaking to some restaurants who have resisted Lelyveld, it appears that he has created anonymous Twitter accounts which he uses to disparage those restaurants which refuse to accept his demand for a free three course meal for two persons for his ‘review‘, a despicable practice! None of his reviews reveal that he did not pay for his meals.
There is no place for the unethical writing by Olivier and Lelyveld about wines and restaurants, respectively, and one hopes that wine estates and restaurants will stand strong and refuse to be bullied by these two dishonest operators in being forced into ‘reviews’ and write-ups!
POSTSCRIPT 23/5: Whilst writing this blogpost late last night, we found that Olivier had surprisingly closed down his @FoodWineGuru Twitter account, and opened another, as per his Tweet: ‘My foodwineguru Twitter account has been hacked. I am closing it down. Genuine followers will find me at @manmetdiepan‘! He now has 153 Twitter Followers! One wonders if his clients will be offered a discount!
POSTSCRIPT 23/5: I called FMR‘s media sales company JB Media Connections this morning, and checked the listenership numbers quoted by Olivier in his sales pitch. Christian von Dürckheim said that Olivier’s claimed listenership figures are definitely wrong, the 4pm – 6 pm slot achieving no more than 21000 listeners per week according to the advertising industry radio audience measurement RAMS, and not 90000/120000 per day as claimed by Olivier!
POSTSCRIPT 26/5: Michael Olivier’s Twitter Followers must be very confused. Despite numerous Tweets about closing down his original account, it remains active, and Olivier is Tweeting from it mainly, his Twitter activity having declined significantly since this blogpost was published earlier this week! He has not Tweeted from his new Twitter account for the past three days! It has been pointed out in a Comment to this blogpost that hacking cannot lead to a jump in Followers, and that it may be Olivier’s way of trying to explain his massive Follower increase, which is not credible.
POSTSCRIPT 6/6: We have received a lawyer’s letter, threatening legal action and a damages claim on behalf of Michael Olivier! We have also discovered that Michael Olivier is guilty of plagiarism!
POSTSCRIPT 8/6: A blog reader Jay has sent details of Lionel Lelyveld’s harassment of restaurants that would not offer him free meals for his ‘reviews’: ‘I had to do a bit of a search to find the info. First clone was @Restaurantfan49. Kayli Vee seemed to catch on to this and exposed him and so they closed this twitter account. You can see what happened here: https://twitter.com/KayliVee/status/294394280695451648. The second clone is @Travelandeat1. I see the account is still open but they stopped tweeting pretty much around the same time in January. There are probably more clones but I stopped following him so I’m not sure. The way he operates seriously goes against my grain and even though it shouldn’t, it really (really) bothers me. So I hope this little bit of info I’ve provided will help’.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I don’t disagree with your post at all Chris. Some dodgy dealings going on. I find it ironic though that Anne Myers is the first to comment. Not exactly a beacon of ethics.
Thank you for your support Anne.
Interesting last question, which I did not ask FMR. Olivier quotes R695 per mention of one brand in his show, but it is not an advertisement as such – the cost for that is R650 per 30 second ad.
It is interesting that I was attacked on Twitter yesterday for ‘slandering’ Olivier, but he has been the co-instigator of WhaleSpotter after we wrote a critique about Crush! Wonder how he will retaliate this time round! My reply to the feisty Tweeter (with all of 35 followers) was that one cannot ‘slander’ the truth!
Thank you Johan.
I am not sure what your comment about Anne refers to?
Oy! No doubt some vitriol is going to come your way, Chris (and probably my way too, for being positive towards your blog and you, as it has in the past :-)), but once again, thank you for exposing what the unsuspecting followers of online and social network recommendations need to know.
I have no doubt that whatever you write about whatever or whomever is based on facts as you clearly do your homework, you research your facts and you can – if threatened with action – produce evidence to support what you say. What a pro! You should be on the team of a highly respected print newspaper’s investigative
Your post once again shows that regrettably, online and social networks are perfect foils for posers, the insincere, the one-trick-ponies, those yearning for love, acceptance, praise and attention and alas and horridly, those keen to turn around the quick, easy and big buck! So unlike print … well, mostly.
Pity, but there you have it. It’s going to be interesting to see what endures or transpires in ten years time online and on social networks.
Keep up the good work!
PS: Do you think radio stations share in the revenue of celeb endorsement deals made by their DJs and other presenters for broadcast during their time slots?
I do not believe that Michael Olivier’s account was hacked! He bought the followers, it became too obvious and he had to find a way out! Simple. He lied to the wineries about the number of twitter followers he had and how many listeners his show had. Poor form. I hope these wineries cancel their contracts with him. One can but hope that they are readers of your blog Chris! I agree with Anne, a great piece of investigative journalism!
Thank you ‘Jake’
It was your encouragement and reminder that got me to finally put pen to paper, so to speak! Olivier must have seen your comments on my blog, and got a fright. On Twitter Harry Haddon challenged Olivier to not close the account and throw so many Followers away, as there are other ways of dealing with hacking, such as simply changing the password!
What is extremely odd is that Olivier has only Tweeted once today, and that is on his @FoodWineGuru account, which he has not yet closed down, despite his Tweets about it! He has not Tweeted on the @Manmetdiepan account today, despite a number of Tweeters communicating with him.
You slipped up by stating that my client DeWetshof had “fallen” for whatever you are accusing Michael of. In our business dealings I expressly ensured that Michael’s radio snippet for us included a statement that the insert had indeed been paid for by the client. Being an old school journalist, I know that Ethics is not a village in Latvia.
Thank you for the feedback Emile.
I cannot check the radio insert. However, the review on Michael’s website does not state that it was paid for by De Wetshof!
Chris, the agreement was a once-off and only for a radio slot. Website mention was not suggested or in any way part of the package.
We know that Michael will not review any wine brand without payment. How did De Wetshof land up on his Wine Partner list? They must have paid for it? Maybe a direct deal between the two parties?
No payment took place outside the once-off radio slot which I demanded be broadcast with the words emphasising the fact that the insert was paid for. This was early last year if memory serves me correctly. The last review we had from Michael was on the Thibault wine and this cost us one meal and a bottle of wine, as per normal press-launch practice.
Thanks for explaining again Emile.
Kein Jawohl (note spelling) however, as even a free bottle of De Wetshof wine (with a lunch) should be disclosed, if the writer is ethical!
I am shocked. I hope that this kind of misconduct will be communicated to industry role players and decision makers.
Thank you for your comment Leanne.
One hopes that PR companies will advise their clients to not sully their reputation by signing up with Olivier, and that the wine companies themselves will not support this unethical behaviour – fortunately the blogpost has had wide readership since it was published on Thursday! This must be why Olivier is lying so low!
I get it that as SA’s self appointed “Esther Rantzen” important points as above should be raised.I also get it that there is a big difference between buying “advertising” space and receiving an objective critique.Your piece certainly does raise the question of what good ethics are within the food, wine and tourism’s journalistic landscape. Stacking followers and misrepresenting ones reach within the market is surely important for the partakers of such a service to know. I do however have a remark as to the tone of your piece. To insinuate that the wineries you mention are naive by “falling” for such an offer is condescending and places the credibility of your opinion in doubt? These are serious wineries with serious players in the market. I am of opinion that instead of getting your point across, you have merely annoyed the very people you may be trying to make aware. The collective of wineries you mention, who willingly “fell” for Mr Olivier’s product, merely proves the credibility and regard he enjoys within the market. I agree with Mr Emile Joubert that as long as payment for comment is declared, the ethic is protected. Your piece has however opened a very important issue for debate and I respect your chutzpah for raising it.
Thank you for your comment and compliment George.
I am aware that some wineries are supporting Olivier against their better judgement, to avoid his backlash, which I wrote about in the blogpost. That Olivier should have such power over the wine estates is shocking in itself. I am not sure that he has as high a genuine following as you imply, many wine estates muttering about his persistent sales calls. I stand by my use of the word ‘falling for’, as the wine estates should have seen what Olivier wrote about others, and that he does not declare his financial interest in each of the ‘reviews’! They also should have checked the false FMR audience figures, which would have had alarm bells ringing!
As a PR consultant Emile Joubert knows that Olivier should have declared the free bottle of De Wetshof wine and launch lunch, but he is protecting his client’s interests by attacking this blogpost instead, being one of only a handful of PR consultancies that still invites Olivier to wine launches!
PS I had to Google ‘Esther Rantzen’ – I have never heard of the lady. I am not playing any role, and have been critical (and controversial) on this blog from its start four years ago, as Olivier experienced when he first launched Crush!
Re your gripe re the declaration of wines journalists receive at PR functions.
Please give me the name of any wine writer who makes this declaration? And please note that as a PR consultant I have no control over the editorial policy of any publication represented by the journalist attending my functions. Now, I am not attacking this blogpost in anyway. Just alerting you to the fact that you did not check your facts before publication.
Your response is greatly appreciated! Esther Rantzen was a famous British television personality. She presented a hugely successful consumer watchdog program called “Thats Life”. It had an audience of millions and made enormous strides in protecting ethics. I was merely being tongue in cheek.
I am not sure whether I agree with having to declare a bottle of wine and a lunch, as this is a standard practice with a launch. Such events are reported on publicly on Facebook, Twitter etc and is therefore common knowledge.
Mr Emile Joubert seems to be the only PR that is awake enough to respond and protect the interests of his client. A winery that happens to operate under the highest set of ethics I know in the trade. I must admit that the lack of response from the other wineries is very disappointing, especially after the negative tone with which they were addressed on your blog. I can only read into this that they do not see your public opinion as important enough to respond to. I’m confused as to your statement that Mr Joubert attacked your blog in order to defend his client. I can’t see where or how? It is this kind of response that sells the tone of your blog as immature and boorish. A consequence of trying to constantly stir controversy I suppose.
I do maintain the opinion that you make a good point, and you have achieved debate around it. That is a good thing! I do feel you need to be careful that the focus of your blog remains the issue and not the person. Personal attacks become comparable to “back pages” and loses relevance.
I stand by what I have written Emile.
I did check the FMR listenership stats and the Twitter Follower numbers, and recorded discrepancies about those. I did check Olivier’s ‘reviews’ and noted that he did not reveal the financial or gift relationship with the brands ‘reviewed’. There is no record on Olivier’s blog about the payment statement you insisted on for the radio mention of De Wetshof.
You do not check your facts Emile – if you were a regular reader of my blog, you will note that every gift received or free lunch is disclosed on this blog – as recently as the Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report 2013 blogpost, published two days ago!
I don’t agree George.
Ethics and honesty dictate that gifts must be declared (this is law in the USA already), even by bloggers. We are not aware of anyone else declaring their gifts, as we do in this blog.
I don’t do ‘negative tones’ – I write what I observe.
You ask a good question about the wineries lack of response. If you are in the wine business, you will know that Olivier is a man feared if one crosses swords with him, so you may find that a large number of the ‘winery partners’ are silent due to the ‘blood money’ they paid him, which I have mentioned a few times already, in the blogpost and in response to the Comments above.
The focus of the blogpost is the issue – I included two unethical writers, and all Commenters have chosen to focus on Olivier, rather than on the principle of deceit, and not referred to Lelyveld’s restaurant ‘reviews’ at all!
By the way, why are you using a false name?
Let us then agree to disagree? as for my name:
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet!” > William Sakespeare
At least it’s an admission that it’s not your real name! But that’s another subject for a future blogpost.
Chris, are you implying that Michael announced that his Twitter account was hacked because of this post? From what I’m gathering here it seems as if you’re attempting to make out like you exposed him for allegedly buying fake followers – and then out of an attempt to cover his tracks he decided to tell everyone he was hacked.
Please confirm, thanks.
Thank you for your question Nicky. I have noted your extreme interest in this blogpost and your defamatory abuse towards ourselves on Twitter! You clearly condone unethical ‘reviews’!
I do not imply, as you will learn when you read more of my blog. A reader had noted the big jump in Olivier’s Follower numbers in a Comment to another blogpost a few days earlier, and as Olivier reads everything we write, he was alerted to being found out in buying Followers. My blogpost was published just after his announcement of the ‘hacking’ of his account and its imminent closure. Hacking is simply solved via a change in password! He is still Tweeting on the @FoodWineGuru account, yet telling his Followers to use the new @manmetdiepan account – totally bizarre!
Can you declare your interest in Olivier please?
I work in the wine industry and asked the 9 wineries I had dealings with today about Michael Oliver, drawing attention to your blog. Two of these wineries had dealings with Michael in the past and said they found both him and his wife very pushy. Apparently he is now organizing a wine show in Cape Town and Johannesburg called Wine Riot, no doubt another way to fleece the industry.
Thanks for your feedback Leanne.
I read Michael’s Tweet about it last night – Darielle Robertson will be the organiser, and she is very good. One wonders where he gets the money for it, as her services are not cheap. It can only come from a title sponsorship, so it will be interesting to see which wine estate will be sucked into this!
I will publish your comment when you have removed all the libelous parts of it Nicky.
I was so pleased to read this post. I’m glad that someone with a platform like yours has finally outed @IntertwEAT.
I followed him for a short while but it was so blatant that these reviews had been (overly) sweetened and not a true reflection of the restaurants. After all he has to say thanks for the free meal.
I first became aware of this when he started using his anonymous clone twitter accounts to “nudge” those restaurants who were not so quick to offer him an invitation. Incredibly obvious.
I’m not sure if it’s all about the free meal or if he is getting something else out of this but I really hope more people become aware of his shady antics.
Thanks for the feedback Jay.
I have heard about those Tweets, but have not seen one myself – I would be grateful if you could e-mail one of those to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM a link to me.
Email on it’s way.