“Hey @AldiUK, how much is this setting you back?” asked the ever-watchful Sun Apology Twitter account, after the Super Soaraway Currant Bun had published what was not marked as a sponsored feature or advertorial, but sure as heck looked like one. “Vin-tastic! Aldi’s new French wine range starts at just £5… and the names will give you a giggle … There are 11 bottles in the new line, and some of them have VERY tongue-in-cheek names” was the headline. And this was being presented as News.
No, I'm not looking at you, but the ASA will be
The thought will enter for many hardened observers of those who inhabit the Baby Shard bunker that the article is no worse than any number of Sun articles on supposedly serious and mainstream subjects, but the point stands: this looks like blatant advertorial. And one look at the supporting “article” merely confirms the suspicion.
“ALDI has launched a brand new range of French wines - and prices start at just a fiver … The budget retailer’s £5.99 Berton Vineyards Botrytis Semillon from Australia won a top award last year, so it certainly knows its stuff when it comes to wine” gushes Hannah Ferrett’s spiel. And, sad to say, there is more. Rather a lot more.
“Earlier this year it launched a cut-price range for Spring, and the latest being added to the batch are 11 bottles from France … They are in the French Discoveries range, which are priced between £4.99 and £6.99 … Adding a bit of fun to the launch, which hit stores and online today, are the names … The wines fall into one of three categories: Pardon My French, The Forgotten One or Jean Claude Mas”. Stop right there.
Is this balanced by some critical analysis of the product? Is there a comparison with the kinds of French vino one might encounter at, say, Lidl, Asda or Tesco? Do we get anything about changes that the “discounters” - Aldi, Lidl and the rest - have brought to the supermarket sector in recent years? Do we stuff. It should be marked as branded content.
The ASA guidelines make that plain. But there is no sign in the article that it’s paid copy, although the Murdoch goons would be certifiable if they’d run it for nothing. So why engage in such blatant and desperate tactics? Simples. News UK’s twinkle-toed yet domestically combative CEO Rebekah Brooks has already told Business Insider.
“Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News UK, says the company must learn from Google and Facebook if it is to compete for the attentions of advertisers … [she said] the company needs to be more sophisticated to unlock revenue … ‘Advertisers want a much deeper engagement with their media partners now than ever before … We’re competing with some impressive competitors – Facebook and Google – in terms of how they sell their advertising to clients, so we’ve taken a leaf out of their book. We need a more holistic approach’”. For “Holistic”, read “blatant advertorial”.
This also reflects Press Gazette’s “Duopoly” campaign, “which aims to stop Facebook and Google destroying any more of the UK journalism industry”. Yes, someone else is better at scoring advertising revenue, while the press is losing it, so let’s claim they’re “destroying journalism”. Put those two together and you get the Sun’s Aldi wine “article”.
All of which goes to show that if someone is going to “destroy journalism”, nobody does that like the press themselves. After all, they’ve been doing it for long enough now.