Center Parcs in Longford has opened its brand new €233 million midlands resort. As is often the case with big launches these days, the resort’s launch was accompanied by a small army of journalists and “influencers” getting exclusive access to report back to the public. There’s been some backlash on social media but while I’m sure my own invite to preview the resort got lost in the mail, I’m actually here to defend Center Parcs’ social media influenced launch.

The Perceived Problem of Impartiality

From what I can see online, many people are taking exception to the fact Center Parcs have handed out freebie access to the resort. I’m sure in some circumstances they’ve gone a step further and paid for many journalists and “influencer” types to attend the resort’s launch.

I can understand why many feel a free trip impeeds impartiality but at the same time, it’s unrealistic to expect journalists and even more so “influencers” to generate content from trips they only ever pay for themselves.

Social media “influencers” have gotten to where they are because people like how they create content. That doesn’t mean you need to like them or buy into what they’re doing, but someone, and by someone I mean quite a lot of people, do like what they do and want to hear what they think.

If a social media “influencer” starts to pang of unauthentic paid advertisements, it’s up to followers to stop engaging and unfollow. Once this happens, you can be sure they won’t be influencing anyone for much longer.

Declaring #Ad #Spon

I realise that in this scenario I am a journalistic content creator who receives free gadgets to review on a regular basis. However, I’m also someone who appreciates every set of eyeballs that reads content and as such ensure everything we write is authentic and genuine. With that in mind, we’ve carefully followed rules set out by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland when it comes to declaring when a post is sponsored.

Some are taking exception to this online regarding the Center Parcs launch too.

The funny thing here is that it’s quite likely all of the people attending this freebie weekend are not required to mark these posts as sponsored at all.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland website outlines when a bloggers content becomes a marketing or advertising communication as “where an advertiser makes a payment (directly or in kind) to the reviewer/blogger and where the advertiser has control over the content that is created”.

“And” is the important word here. By simply receiving a freebie, posts and content aren’t sponsored unless the provider retains editorial control. I’m going to use as the example here again. For me to buy everything we review, I’d be broke. Sometimes I will mention that a company “sent this over for review” just for transparency sake. Sometimes I get to keep the gadget, sometimes I don’t. To be totally honest, a free gadget doesn’t colour my opinions because there’s a stack of tech in my house that doesn’t get used. The novelty kind of wears off.

I have written sponsored content in the past. For example, we teamed up with Dulux and clearly marked our post and sponsored. Why? Because Dulux wanted to sign off on the content. I wouldn’t have complete editorial control and as such, I wanted us to be transparent.

Ok, So Why The Rant?

Well, I personally think this is all a bit of an overreaction. Center Parcs has spent €233 million in setting up this new venture so surely they should be allowed to promote it however they see fit? It’s a golden age for Longford which now trends 24/7 thanks to Love Island’s Maura and now #CenterParcsIreland.

The backlash seems to be more about people being annoyed that they weren’t invited along for the freebie. Wondering why someone with a social media account deserves a weekend away and why they don’t. I absolutely despise the term “influencer” because it means nothing. There are good content creators and there are terrible content creators. Some are in it for the reader’s benefit (that’s us, I promise) and others are just in it to get free rides. It’s up to us as consumers to ensure we evaluate content online before we use it to help us make decisions.

What do you think yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

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Founding Editor of Goosed, Martin is a massive tech fan, into movies and will talk about anything to anyone. - Find me on Mastodon