Tag Archives: Advertising Standards Authority

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 6 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   1Time is likely to start operating again as a low cost airline, having been placed into liquidation last year.

*   The City of Cape Town approved The Control of Undertakings that Sell Liquor to the Public By-law, and should be promulgated in the Provincial Government Gazette next month, and enforcable by February.  The by-law is less strict than its draft, allowing retailers to apply to extended their trading hours and to trade on Sundays.

*   Camps Bay has been named by Yowzit as the Best Beach in South Africa, followed by Ramsgate and Llandudno.

*   The Last Word Franschhoek has closed its doors until April for renovations, after having been badly flooded during the severe downpour last month.

*   Cape Town has been praised by the Islington Review for Camps Bay Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 31 July

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Kulula has won the right to maintain its advertising claim ‘The most South African Airways’ at the Advertising Standards Authority, which rejected SAA’s objection, reports Southern African Tourism Update!

*   Thirty-five Western Cape restaurants were awarded Diamond Awards for their top winelists at a function at the Vineyard Hotel today, with MasterChef SA Judge and Chef Benny Masekwameng as MC: La Colombe, Indochine at Delaire Graff, The Atlantic Grill, Bosman’s, JennaVIVA,  Dash, Karibu, Meloncino, Greek Fisherman, City Grill, Pierneef â La Motte, Rust en Vrede, Signal, Wild Fig, Continue reading →

MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo’s restaurant Aarya opens at Montecasino!

MasterChef SA season 1 winner Deena Naidoo has opened his restaurant Aarya at the Montecasino Hotel, the largest prize in the package he won for being South Africa’s top amateur chef, and valued by sponsor Tsogo Sun at R7 million for the two year period.  He renamed the MondoVino restaurant Aarya, giving it his daughter’s Sanskrit name meaning noble, honourable, dear, and favourable, and is a respectful way of addressing women, explained Chef Deena.

Chef Deena compiled a new menu, and has emphasised that it will not just be Indian cuisine: “Our menu draws from all the diverse South African cuisines. It will reflect the South African nation and what theMasterChef competition was all about, which was bringing people from diverse cultures and backgrounds together. Through this experience, I learnt so much about South Africa and our multicultural people. I’ve never been so proud to be South African. MasterChef was an amazing education and I aim to reflect my experiences in my menu.” Even though Chef Deena proved on MasterChef SA that he knows his spices, he does not want to be seen as the ‘curry king‘, he said.  The Aarya menu is ‘strongly spice and flavour-orientated’, and each dish highlights ‘core flavours and using ingredients in moderation’. He has included his butter chicken, which Chef Pete Goffe-Wood swooned about and finished the rest of on MasterChef SA, as well as his mystery basket dish of coriander-crusted lamb loin.  Starters include couscous salad, potted snoek with beer bread, pan-fried black mushrooms, with blueberry confit and melted chilli brie, peri-peri chicken livers, and Saldanha Bay mussels, reported the Sunday Times. Other main courses include pasta and pizza.  The dessert list includes deconstructed milk tart, strawberry and rhubarb crème brûlée, malva pudding, and cardamom panna cotta with gooseberry coulis.

While one can understand Chef Deena’s excitement about opening his first restaurant, and seeing the reward for his dedication and passion for cooking during the 18-programme MasterChef SA series, the media release posted on MediaUpdate gushes about his relationship with Tsogo Sun, one that did not start off well when Chef Deena was quoted by The Citizen as saying that the prize package and value was a con, denied by him subsequently. The newspaper persisted, and took the matter to the Advertising Standards Authority, but lost the case.  He only seems to talk via the hotel group’s PR department now, and it shows in the quotes attributed to him, not reflecting his gentle and humble way of speaking on TV: Aarya is the culmination of a harmonious two-year partnership that will offer the perfect combination of Tsogo Sun’s 40 years of experience in delivering top restaurant and food & beverage concepts to South Africans all over the country and my passion for food. It promises to be a wonderful experience for our diners, staff, and for myself. This is a partnership that offers me my dreams while allowing me to stay true to my first love – my family – and providing the backup and support of one of the country’s most experienced hospitality companies. It’s an extremely humbling experience”.

The newly refurbished restaurant has a wall of honour of the highlights of MasterChef SA, with photographs of Chef Deena’s fellow MasterChef SA contestants.  The media release does not state that Chef Deena will only be at the restaurant five days a month, having decided to continue his employment at Nedbank.  One hopes that Chef Deena has brushed up on his wine knowledge since MasterChef SA, on the South African Sommelier Association course, which was part of the prize sponsored by Nederburg.

Aarya, SunSquare, Montecasino.  Tel (011) 557-7007 www.montecasino.co.za

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

MasterChef SA Season 2 on the menu!

The popular MasterChef SA will return, with a second season of the reality TV series to be filmed, reports The Times. Details are scant at this stage, but it would appear as if the timing could be similar to that of season 1.

M-Net would not confirm whether the same three judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Andrew Atkinson, and Benny Masekwameng will be used again, and whether the location for the filming will be Nederburg again, the kitchen still being in place on the Paarl wine estate.  The company did say that auditions could take place towards the end of the year.

It would appear that the Advertising Standards Authority ruling in favour of M-Net, and against complainant The Citizen, for not having misled the Season 1 MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo in terms of the prize value, has given the broadcaster the confidence to continue with a second season.  Deena will open ‘his’ MondeVino-renamed Aayra restaurant at Montecasino in three weeks.  One wonders how successful it will be, opening more than three months after he was announced the winner, given the controversy that surrounded his initial criticism of the prize value, and given that he will only be present at the restaurant about six days a month.

The article does not mention the sponsors, and one wonders if Robertsons will find benefit from sponsoring the series again, given all the controversy surrounding the endorsement of the brand by Chef Reuben Riffel. Nederburg, Woolworths and Hyundai probably found value in their sponsorship of the series, and would be likely to be involved again.

POSTSCRIPT 12/10: On the ‘Gourmet Guys’ Blog today they have announced that the three judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Andrew Atkinson, and Benny Masekwameng have been signed up for Season 2 of MasterChef SA.

POSTSCRIPT 15/10: The Gourmet Guys’ Blog has announced the details of the MasterChef SA Season 2 auditions: at Montecasino in Johannesburg on 27 October; at Suncoast in Durban on 4 November; and at the Cullinan Inn in Cape Town on 10 November.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Woolworths: Social Media case study on how to build and break customer relationships!

Woolworths is a leading retailer, that attracts a shopper profile at the LSM 7 – 9 level, and has always stood for quality.  Its CEO Ian Moir has had a bad year to date, having experienced the negative power of Social Media three times this year already, the latest furore no doubt given him the biggest headache. There is no doubt that the furore that its employment advertising has created will become an important case study in Social Media Marketing, and will guide many other corporates in how to deal with negative sentiment expressed in Tweets, on Blogs, and in Facebook comments.

My attention to the issue was first attracted when I read a Tweet by Woolworths’ Digital Editor, highly regarded Sam Wilson, who previously was the editor of Food24, Parent24, and Women24, writing as follows: ‘Guys, I am white. I am currently interviewing white people. This @WOOLWORTHS_SA white racism thing because we comply with BEE? Weird’. It came across as a Tweet expressing her displeasure at her employer’s employment policy, and it only made sense when the story broke about Woolworth’s recruitment advertisements specifying population group requirements for the positions it was advertising. The story was launched last week on Facebook and thereafter on the blog of Justin Harrison, who calls himself an ‘Internet entrepreneurial pioneer’ on his Blog, but who has not been heard of by most local social media folk, maybe because he operates from Durban.  It got so bad on Woolworths’ Facebook page that it removed the comments containing ‘hate speech’. Last Thursday Woolworths posted a note on its Facebook wall, announcing that it was closing it down due to the overwhelmingly negative and unbelievably harsh vitriol posted, a move supported by more than 2500 likes (out of 204000 ‘likers’):

Woolies fans,

Disabling our wall was not a decision we took lightly and not one we’re particularly happy about. But when your page becomes little more than a platform for a well-orchestrated campaign of hate speech, we owe it to our customers not to subject them to such vitriol in our own house.

We have, in a variety of channels, repeatedly refuted the claims being made against us. We have also allowed thousands of comments on our Facebook page, debating the pro’s and con’s of Employment Equity as a national debate… deleting only overt hate speech and comments inciting violence.

However we’ve always put our customers first… and many, many customers have asked us to stop hosting this vitriol. We will re-open our page as soon as we think we can resume reasonable discussion”.

Yesterday the wall was re-opened, and new negative comments have been posted on the Facebook page, where most of the debate appears to be concentrated, with little mention of the issue on Twitter.  Interesting is the vast number of (mainly negative) comments about the Woolworths debacle on a new Facebook page called AAA Anti-Affirmative Action, with close to 3500 likes, reported on by The South African Newspaper published in London, which referred to Woolworths’ and SAA’s employment policy problems. The newspaper also reported in the same article that the ‘National Chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, Andrew Phillips called upon both the Federal Labor government and the Opposition to unanimously support the introduction of sanctions upon South Africa’.   The sanctions are motivated by Mr Phillips, whom most Australians who posted comments about this story say they have never heard of, on the grounds of the government not having created an ‘equal opportunity’ society in this country.

Earlier this year Woolworths was embroiled in a Social Media war about its vintage soft drink range bearing a close resemblance to Frankie’s, which Woolworths was forced to remove from its shelves after the Advertising Standards Authority found that the retailer’s ‘Good Old Fashioned’ pay-off line was too similar to that of Frankies. Initially Woolworths denied copying any aspects of Frankies’ drinks.  In a third incident, Woolworths was criticised for launching Halaal hot cross buns over Easter, which caused a furore too. The sponsorship by the retailer of MasterChef SA was said to erase the damage which the two earlier Social Media disasters had caused, but Woolworths did not come out of the reality TV series unscathed, its Woolworths Pantry guest food blogger recipes causing controversy initially.

Woolworths reaction to the employment advertising furore, which has led to a call by trade union Solidarity for customers to boycott Woolworths, and which was echoed in the thousands of Facebook comments, smacks of old world corporate disaster management PR spin, rather than being Social Media driven:

*  Posted its employment policy, in accordance with the Employment Equity Act, which applies to all companies with 50+ employees, on its Facebook page on the same day:

Over the past few days, we’ve been accused of racist employment practices. We’d like to state the facts:

Like all South African companies, Woolworths has a role to play in transformation. For this reason, SOME positions (where there is under-representation) are designated for EE groups.
• The designated groups are Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, women and people with disability.
• As per the Emplo
yment Equity Act of 1998, Woolworths is expected, like all SA companies with more than 50 employees, to plan our workforce by race, gender and disability.

• Our workforce is diverse and includes people of all races (Black, White, Coloured, Indian), gender and disability.

We appreciate the value diversity brings to our business and the need to contribute to levelling the playing fields for certain groups of South Africa’s population”.

*   Sent a personalised e-mail entitled ‘The difference between Rumour and Fact’ to its cardholders, with a similar content, and an sms to those customers who are not on e-mail.
*   Placed an advertisement in the Sunday Times, Rapport and City Press on Sunday, with a similar message.
*   Wrote an expanded version of the content as a letter to the ‘Readers’ Forum’ of Business Report, an odd platform to use to address his ‘Dear Woolworths customer‘, when it was possibly the shareholders he was trying to placate, given the knock that the Woolworths share price has taken in the past week (the letter is the same as the one sent to its customers by e-mail)!
*   Received public media support from Labour Minister  Mildred Oliphant for its ‘unwavering effort to genuinely address transformation in the workplace through the implementation of employment equity’.

In our opinion, the response by Woolworths has been very corporate, very reserved, very defensive, and not in keeping with Social Media marketing principles of engagement and two-way communication, a similar reaction it delivered in the Frankies affair.  One wonders how one Facebook post and subsequent blogpost by Harrison could have unleashed such a storm, his message obviously touching a raw South African nerve amongst the shoppers that make up the bulk of Woolworths’ target market.   Surprising was the blogpost written on the 2oceansvibe blog, which lambasted Harrison for using the Woolworths issue as a means to gain more Followers on Twitter and other Social Media platforms, and writing in detail how Harrison had allegedly bought Followers some years ago. This led to a strong outburst of comments against 2oceansvibe, accusing it of being linked to Woolworths and/or Woolworths’ digital media agency Quirk, defending the Woolworths brand (denied by owner Seth Rotherham), and criticising 2Oceansvibe for pointing a finger at a Social Media player when it itself had been criticised for selling advertising for its radio station on the basis of highly inflated listenership fingers, forcing Rotherham to deny the allegations contained in the close to 200 comments received to the blogpost!

The Woolworths’ website does not explain its BEE employment policy, nor does it contain the public statements made in the media by its CEO in its Careers section or elsewhere on the website.  It clearly has been edited, as its introduction page invites one to click onto a link to see the career opportunities, but when does so, no jobs are listed. Now one is invited to call the retailer to check out its employment opportunities!   Woolworths should use its website proactively to communicate with its staff, potential staff, and customers!

Seemingly sensible advice to Woolworths comes from Harrison: ‘Woolworths is clearly in a spin over how to deal with this issue and they would do well to learn from SAA’s mistake. Issue a public apology and revert back to the hiring policies to be fully inclusive and based purely on experience and ability‘.

For Woolworths specifically, a platform such as Twitter should be used for engagement.  The retailer has become very poor at acknowledging any feedback about in-store problems, expressed by its Tweeting customers.  There is no apology if there is communication, and there is no follow up to communicate with the customer telephonically after the Tweet, as Pick ‘n Pay has become reasonably good at.  A company that once had the Social Media lead has become reactive and defensive, and has lost its standing due to the Social Media wars, rather than walking tall and engaging with its customers in a credible and warm manner. This is a surprise, as its Head of Online Nikki Cockcroft has an impressive background, including CEO of Primedia Online, 365 Digital, and Prezence Digital before she started at Woolworths just over a year ago, and given Sam Wilson’s experience in engaging with a similar target audience at Media24 previously.

Woolworths needs to go back to basics to better understand how to maintain customer relationships via Social Media.  Successfully building up a large army of Twitter Followers and Facebook Likers is no guarantee that the same seemingly loyal customer audience will not turn against the retailer if it is not in touch enough with its customers, and offends them, as the past ten days has shown!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

MasterChef SA bomb bursts about Deena Naidoo’s Tsogo Sun MondeVino Restaurant prize!

It was too good to be true. MasterChef SA came to a Grande Finale end earlier this week, and despite questions about the MondoVino restaurant being part of the R 8 million prize package not being answered satisfactorily, everyone accepted M-Net’s word that the winner of MasterChef SA would receive the restaurant.  Ironically the screening of the Finale, with the 18 Finalists present, was held at MondoVino restaurant at the Montecasino Palazzo Hotel on Tuesday evening.  At the ceremony, MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo received the ceremonial whisk to represent his prize of winning the restaurant from Graham Wood, MD of Tsogo Sun – Hotels.

Yesterday an explosive article appeared in The Citizen, disputing the prize and its value of R 7 million out of the R8 million package (the balance being R 250000 in cash from Robertsons, a car from Hyundai, a trip to Tuscany from Woolworths, and a course on winetasting by the Sommeliers’ Association of South Africa with a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve). The article quoted Deena expressing his dissatisfaction with the prize value, saying that he only received a two year usage of the restaurant, and in fact will only be present at it ‘about five times a month’, according to the contract he signed with restaurant owners Tsogo Sun. The restaurant is to be renamed Aarya, after Deena’s daughter, and is currently being refurbished, for re-opening in November.  Deena will add his ‘own flair to the menu and the restaurant would be a reflection of South Africa’, the newspaper reported.

In all the comments made on our blog and on Twitter about Deena, his humility and passion for cooking were praised.  Uncharacteristic therefore was the quote which The Citizen attributed to him in their article: ‘I am not an R8 million man. The perception that I am sitting with that money is unfair and it is time for the public to know this.  I don’t want people to to look at it as if I am this guy sitting with all this cash’. It was also made known that Deena has no intention of moving to Johannesburg, from his home in Durban, saying that despite winning the MasterChef SA title, his family comes first.  He explained that the restaurant’s replacement value is R7 million, and this is how the R8 million prize package was quantified.

M-Net spokesperson Ingrid Engelbrecht denied that they had created a false perception that the MasterChef SA winner would receive his or her own restaurant, countering that Tsogo Sun had made ‘various, flexible options’ available for the winner, depending on where the winner lived, and their personal circumstances. We questioned the feasibility of the restaurant prize for non-Johannesburg residents, and received a similar reply from Ms Engelbrecht in April already:‘Regarding the restaurant prize, Southern Sun is happy to tailor-make the options in order to meet the needs of the winner and to ensure that all parties are happy going forward with this amazing prize. They will take into account factors such as the contestant not being from Johannesburg, having a family and any other obligations, and will assist to whatever degree is necessary’. Ms Engelbrecht is quoted in The Citizen article as saying that the winner of MasterChef SA won the position of Head Chef for a two year period, with a value of R 7 million.  Deena is to receive a percentage of the restaurant’s profits, but will not own its title deed.

Yesterday afternoon we received the media statement from Priya Naidoo, Tsogo Sun’s General Manager: Communication, refuting the explosive article in The Citizen. We publish it in its entirety, and leave it to the reader to decide what’s cooking at the MasterChef SA MondoVino Restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg:

‘M-Net and Tsogo Sun refute claims made by the Citizen newspaper today that MasterChef South Africa winner Deena Naidoo is disappointed with his prize package, and that he will not be getting his own restaurant. This is factually incorrect.  The total restaurant prize included (amongst other things) the full-time running and rebranding of the floor space. This arrangement was rent free, for two years. However, M-Net and Tsogo Sun structured the sponsorship to permit the MasterChef winner to choose between various options of participation in the restaurant, knowing that the winner might not be able to take up such a fantastic prize. Deena elected a joint venture operation where he will share in the restaurant profits and partake in the rebranding and relaunch of the restaurant. This will run for two years. This decision was based on the fact that Deena, his wife and children are unable to relocate to Johannesburg at this time.

“I consider myself privileged and am extremely grateful to have won this prize. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Naidoo. “At no point have I ever been disappointed with the arrangement I have with M-Net and Tsogo Sun. In fact, they have been extremely accommodating and flexible and are allowing me the chance to run this restaurant whilst keeping my current job in Durban. Tsogo Sun appreciates that my family comes first. I couldn’t be more excited to embark on this journey with them.” M-Net and Tsogo Sun explained the terms and options available to the Top 2 contestants while the series was still being filmed, and all parties were fully aware of what they would be entering into, should they win the prize, which consists of: R250 000 in cash, a brand new car, a trip to Italy and an Italian cooking course, a year’s free supply of wine and a sommelier course, as well as the Tsogo Sun restaurant opportunity.  Naidoo adds, “I never expected to have R8 million in my bank account and any reports that suggest this are simply untrue. I wanted to clear up the misconception that this might be the case, and in the process, it was asserted that I’ve been let down by M-Net and Tsogo Sun. This is inaccurate.”  Naidoo will embark on his restaurant adventure in November’.

The Citizen has written a follow-up story, confirming the accuracy of their article: ‘We reaffirm the accuracy and veracity of the story and would like to express our disappointment with M-Net and Naidoo’s reaction’. The newspaper stated that Deena had provided the information to their journalist, and that she had followed up with him to make sure that he was happy with the quotes attributed to him.

The Cape Argus wrote on Tuesday that ‘the bulk of the R8m prize comprises the anticipated profits from “owning” the restaurant’, quoting Ms Engelbrecht.

A Direct Message to Deena yesterday afternoon via Twitter, requesting guidance as to which story to believe, has not been replied to.  Deena stopped Tweeting altogether after The Citizen article appeared yesterday morning. Whatever the outcome of this furore, the reputation of MasterChef SA, Tsogo Sun, M-Net, the chef judges, and its affiliated sponsors has been severely damaged by The Citizen article.  If Deena did speak to the media, this will have been a major wake-up call to him to deal with the media with kid gloves!

POSTSCRIPT 28/7: Deena Naidoo started Tweeting in the early hours of this morning again, ReTweeting a link to an iol.co.za article.  In the article he discusses the short-term future with his new restaurant: While Mondevino has a strong Italian focus, Naidoo says, when he takes over, that will change. ‘Expect a menu of dishes ranging from pap and tomato gravy to milk tart and even my butter chicken.’ While Durban-born Naidoo said he would have liked to open a restaurant in his home town, this won’t be the case.  “The location was earmarked for various logistical reasons. It is in a vibrant area with huge potential and, as industry leaders, I understand and trust in Tsogo Sun’s reasoning.”  Even though a move to Joburg looks inevitable, he has no plans to uproot his family just yet.  “I’m only thinking about the next three months for now and I will continue working (for Nedbank) and we will continue to stay in Durban,” he said’.

POSTSCRIPT 29/7: Deena Naidoo is quoted in the same iol.co.za article that the MondoVino restaurant will come under his ‘expert hands from November’, which seems inaccurate given that he has never run a restaurant before, and will not be at MondeVino more than 5 times a month.

POSTSCRIPT 29/7: In the Sunday Times today the newspaper reports that Deena Naidoo has not made himself available to the media for clarification of this media furore, as we too have discovered, still awaiting his reply, implying that Deena is now under the strict media control of M-Net’s PR department, one of the prices he will have to pay for having won MasterChef SA.  The newspaper adds that Deena will receive a three month ‘business training’ programme, to teach him Financial, HR and Restaurant management.  An odd sentence, to explain why he would only be at the restaurant five times a month, is: ‘Also, if I start running the place, I will lose the passion that brought me into this competition, and that is to cook‘!  In contrast to media reports earlier this week, Deena is said to have indicated that he will not make drastic changes to the restaurant ‘just to show people that I am there‘!

POSTSCRIPT 30/7: There is another side to Deena Naidoo coming to the fore – from his gentlemanly and humble personality projected on MasterChef SA, he showed defiance when he Tweeted yesterday in reply to a question about cutting corners with the apples in his dessert he prepared in the Finale as follows: ‘instinct told me to do that hate following recipes‘!

POSTSCRIPT 31/7: Channel24 reported today that The Citizen has lodged a complaint with the Broadcast Complaints Commission of South Africa against Talk Radio 702 for describing its MasterChef SA report last week as ‘misleading’ and for M-Net’s Ingrid Engelbrecht calling it ‘very inaccurate‘.  The complaint is based on the code’s requirements that facts must be truthfully presented, that opposing points of view must be presented, and that a right of reply must be offered. The newspaper says that the radio coverage about the newspaper’s report did not meet any of these requirements.

POSTSCRIPT 2/8: Caryn Gootkin, blogger and media writer, has used her legal background to analyse the MasterChef SA prize package, and found various descriptions by M-Net about its MondoVino restaurant prize. The broadcaster’s PR department refused to make the contestant contract available, which we were refused as well.  She introduces the article by saying that the ‘ingredients for a disaster were there from the start‘!  She believes the issue could contravene the Advertising Standards Authority code on trust.

POSTSCRIPT 22/8: Channel 24 reported today that an anonymous person has lodged a complaint of ‘misleading advertising‘ against M-Net for its alleged misrepresentation of the MasterChef SA MondoVino prize at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  The ASA has confirmed that the complaint has been lodged, but has not revealed the identity of the complainant.  It is awaiting the response from M-Net’s legal team.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

TripAdvisor gets poor rating on its customer rating authenticity!

TripAdvisor is increasingly coming under pressure from KwikChex, a reputation management company representing major hotels in the United Kingdom and the USA.  Not only has the company threatened to take TripAdvisor to court over its unauthenticated ‘customer reviews’, taken TripAdvisor to the Advertising Standards Authority in the United Kingdom and successfully been able to get its overstated advertising claims removed, but now it has introduced a system whereby hospitality establishment rating systems are rated on customer feedback authenticity, giving Trip Advisor a paltry 2 stars, reports Tnooz!

On TripAdvisor ‘reviewers’ rate restaurants and accommodation establishments on a five point scale.  The KwikChex rating evaluates the customer authenticity, a rating system earning 5 stars if the customer’s real name (and not an anonymous name as on TripAdvisor) is revealed, and verifying that a booking was made at the establishment.  A one star rating reflects that the system has no means of checking the authenticity of the content, one of the biggest complaints against TripAdvisor, given that reviews can be written by owners and their friends and family, or at the opposite end, by competitors, ex-suppliers, and ex-staff.  A rating of 2 out of 5 for TripAdvisor by KwikChex therefore is the second worst rating that the rating website could achieve, sharing the rating with Yelp.  Booking.com achieved a 5 star rating from KwikChex.

KwikChex has also made a submission to the USA Securities and Exchange Commission about its concerns about TripAdvisor’s ability, or lack of, to authenticate reviews on its site, and it has made a submission to the European Court of Human Rights, in that ‘individuals are unable to defend themselves against defamation and harassment online’, when personal attacks against named individual staff members are made in TripAdvisor reviews.

Even though no South African hotels are unlikely to subscribe to KwikChex, the accommodation and restaurant industry worldwide should be grateful for the dogged determination of this company to make TripAdvisor a much more credible source of travel information.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Woolworths loses ‘vintage soda’ battle against Frankie’s, withdraws range!

In a classic ‘David versus Goliath’ battle, KwaZulu-Natal Frankie’s Olde Soft Drink Company won against Woolworths when the luxury retailer was ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to withdraw the claim ‘Good Old Fashioned’, finding it to have been copied from Frankie’s.  The battle was originally waged on Social Media networks, with sentiment massively against Woolworths, to such an extent that the ASA ruling yesterday has led Woolworths to announce the withdrawal of its vintage soda range, an excellent victory for Frankie’s.

For the first time Woolworths, always priding itself on its quality of customer care, products and service, was on the receiving end of consumer power expressed via Social Media, with a Facebook ‘Petition to Woolies to stop faking Frankies’ page created with 911 ‘likers’, and hundreds of comments posted on the Woolworths Facebook page (with close to 150000 ‘likers’), urging Woolworths to withdraw the products and to admit that it had copied Frankie’s product concept.  A ‘Woolworse’ website was created, in reaction to the Woolworths Frankie’s battle, but the owner of the site felt that Frankie’s may itself have copied pack design, flavour names, as well as branding from international brands.  Woolworths was adamant until yesterday that it was ‘very clear that we did not copy other brands’, said its Managing Director for Foods Zyda Rylands.  Never has the retailer seen such a consumer backlash.

Yesterday Woolworths CEO Ian Moir posted on the company’s Facebook page the following statement after the ASA ruling was announced: “The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled today that we remove the phrase ‘Good Old Fashioned’ from the labels of our vintage soda range. We are disappointed by this decision as we believed that no one could own this descriptor. However, we have always been clear that we would abide by the ASA decision. Whilst we maintain that we have not copied the Frankie’s range, it is clear that public sentiment is against us. Customer opinion is much more important to us than the right or wrong of this issue, and the trust of our customers is far more valuable to us than a product range. With this in mind, and despite only having been asked to remove the ‘Good Old Fashioned’ phrase from our labels, we have taken the decision to withdraw this product from our shelves. But mostly, I want to apologise for disappointing you, our customers”! The statement is far more consumer-orientated than its denials in the weeks leading up to the ASA ruling, and one would have thought that Woolworths would have a Communications department and a PR consultancy that could have guided it through this communication debacle.

The Frankie’s saga became public news in December when it was reported for the first time, and news of the Frankie’s versus Woolworths battle spread like wildfire on Social Media, mainly on Facebook and Twitter. Frankie’s is a small company started five years ago, and used the descriptor ‘Good Old Fashioned Soft Drinks’ from its inception. The company has only twelve employees and produces about 10000 litres of soda daily, reports Moneyweb.  It manufactures Homemade Ginger Beer, Olde Style Root Beer, Original Cream Soda, Cloudy Lemonade, and Cinnamon Cola.  Frankie’s owner Mike Schmidt communicated with Woolworths in May last year already, to alert the retailer that the slogan was that used by Frankie’s, yet Woolworths continued its use of the slogan.  Frankie’s therefore approached the ASA, lodging a complaint about the brand confusion which the Woolworths range was causing. Overnight Frankie’s achieved brand awareness and trial which it would never have been able to afford to buy via marketing!

The ASA stated in its ruling that it was not asked to make a finding about the copying of flavour names, labels, bottle shapes, or the ‘vintage’ flavour range, original complaints which Frankie’s expressed publicly. Despite being represented by well-known trademark attorneys Adams & Adams, who argued that claims ‘old fashioned’ and ‘good old fashioned’ do not exclusively belong to any trade mark owner, the Woolworths vintage soda range was found to contravene clause 9 of Section II of the Code of Advertising Practice relating to imitation, having ‘deliberately and intentionally copied the phrase’. Woolworths was instructed to withdraw its packaging immediately, but the Code does allow all companies facing an ASA ruling three months to complete the withdrawal of its packaging.  It may not be used again in its current format, the ASA dictated. Woolworths must also withdraw its communication of the product range across its full marketing communication range.

A meeting which has been scheduled between Frankie’s and Woolworths for 16 February now seems superfluous, given Woolworths’ announcement to withdraw its product range, which is what Frankie’s had been hoping for prior to yesterday’s ruling:“We are hoping Woolworths will do the right thing. The court of public opinion is clearly against them and I believe they now have the opportunity to recover from this by removing the product”. Before Woolworths announced its decision to withdraw its vintage soda range, Frankie’s media release welcomed the ASA ruling, adding “We have won the battle, but not the war”. Woolworths clearly listened to its opponent, and Frankie’s has emerged as the victor in a war that clearly went against Woolworths!  Frankie’s concluded that “Although this is undoubtedly a major victory for Frankie’s, it is also a victory for the small businesses who are scared to challenge the major retailers”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

TripAdvisor slammed by UK advertising standards body for ‘misleading’ reviews!

TripAdvisor is hated by hospitality players if they receive poor reviews, and loved by those that perform well. Many in the industry are not bothered by its reviews, despite the negative impact that they can have, because they lack trustworthiness. Now the British Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against the UK TripAdvisor website for its misleading claims that the reviews are ‘trustworthy’, a welcome ruling for all establishments in the hospitality industry worldwide!

The Tripadvisor claims of ‘reviews you can trust’, ‘from real travellers’, ‘trusted advice from real travellers’ were found by the Advertising Standards Authority to be ‘misleading because the company could not prove reviews were genuine or from real travellers’. In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority stated that the TripAdvisor claims ‘implied to consumers that all review content would be genuine and that users might not be able to detect and separate non-genuine content‘.  TripAdvisor has made the copy changes on its site, it says, and hit back at the Authority, calling it ‘out of touch with real people’ and ‘The ASA ruling flies in the face of common sense, and is out of touch with the millions of real people who use and trust consumer review sites like ours every day’. The company also stated that it stands by its‘independently endorsed review integrity process. The ASA upheld the complaints on the basis that we could not provide 100% certainty that every single review on the site was written by a real traveller and could be trusted. No system, verified or not, could provide this‘.

The TripAdvisor complaint was lodged by two hotels and UK reputation management company Kwikchex, a company which is becoming a thorn in TripAdvisor’s side, in threatening a class action on behalf of 120 British and American hotels against the review website for its ‘defamatory statements’, partly precipitated by the annual TripAdvisor ‘Dirtiest Hotels’ list, based on its reviewers’ comments re cleanliness.  TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer is quoted on Tnooz as saying that the company will no longer publish this list, in part due to the class action threat, one would suspect, as well as stating that the company wants to ‘stay more on the positive side’.  TripAdvisor will be publishing more ‘best of’ lists this year, he said.

TripAdvisor hotel complainants argue that the reviews are ‘untrue and damaging to their business or legally unsubstantiated’.  Kwikchex is demanding that all defamatory statements about hotels and their staff be removed, or else face the class action.  TripAdvisor does allow hotel business management to reply to reviews, but has very strict guidelines of not allowing disparaging comments related to the reviewers, not mentioning the guests’ names (reviewers write anonymously), and often refusing to post the hotel reply, in our experience.  The company is also seeking information about TripAdvisor’s algorithm for the rating system for hotels ranked in a city.  One is well aware of hotels and restaurants writing their own positive reviews, and therefore the rankings are not trustworthy either.  TripAdvisor does flag suspicious self-written reviews on its site, and does admonish the establishments.

Kwikchex says its communication with TripAdvisor has become more ‘fruitful’.

In our experience guest have written reviews about guest houses that they have not stayed in, have written exaggerated ‘reviews’ about their stay, are personally disparaging, do not acknowledge service recovery and refunds given, are used as a blackmail tool in return for refunds, and generally smack of vindictiveness for mainly uncommunicated problems during the stay. Each establishment should have an opportunity to fix a defect, given that it is done so on the same day.  It will be interesting to observe how KwikChex drives the future of TripAdvisor, as more hotels join the company and place pressure on this bully review site!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Organic food certification will benefit consumers!

Irresponsible claims of products being ‘organic’ should be eliminated if the National Draft Policy for Organic Production is passed in Parliament next year.  The Draft Policy is currently open to input from government departments and other stakeholders, and an ‘organic standard’ is being developed with the SA Bureau of Standards, reports the Sunday Times.

We have written previously about the false claims that restaurateur Giorgio Nava made about all the meat at Carne coming from his Karoo farm and being organic, and that there currently is no organic certification body in South Africa, leaving the consumer vulnerable to inappropriate claims.  Nava has since removed these claims from his menu and website.  Only the Consumer Protection Act and the Advertising Standards Authority currently protect consumers against false organic claims.

To obtain organic certification, farmers will have to be audited and certified annually, to vouch for the ‘integrity’ of the production process.  For its health benefits alone, organic farming and its certification should be encouraged and supported, but it would appear that it is a bureaucratic process and an expensive exercise to obtain organic certification, costing up to R 20000 per year.  Organic certification agencies will be set up to handle the certification.

To get around the expense of organic certification, smaller organic producers will seek to obtain group organic certification under one certificate, the proposed participatory guarantee system being in line with international practice.  The ‘co-operative’ of organic farmers would need to introduce an internal quality management system on their farms, for such a system.  Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths use third-party certification agencies, applying international certification standards.

Organic food is healthier, in containing higher levels of anti-oxidants, Vitamins A and C, and unsaturated fats, says Professor Raymond Auerbach of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.  “Organic agriculture offers a real alternative to the way that we produce our foods, the way we mitigate and adapt to climate change, and it is a more sustainable way of operation, because an organic farmer is not dependent on fossil-fuel inputs such as expensive fertilisers and pesticides”, Professor Auerbach said.  He is hopeful that the new Draft Policy will see more organic farming training by the government.

Whilst more expensive, organic foods are increasingly purchased by health conscious, ethically concerned upper-end consumers, and the impending introduction of organic certification is welcomed.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage