Once upon a time, I taught high school. I liked teaching. What I didn’t like were the parent-teacher interviews. I think it’s fair to say being polite is expected in civilized society. Even the most obnoxious internet troll would probably give you a tip of the hat if prompted in public. Being brutally honest feels uncomfortable, or at least it does for me. Whenever I had to deliver hard truths as a teacher, I always sprinkled them with sugar:
“If Johnny expects to pass this semester, he’ll need to put more time and effort into his work. What he doesn’t need to put more time and effort into is that beautiful smile of his.”
Native advertising has been around, in one form or another, for decades. It’s when an ad takes the shape of its host, like a gecko blending in with its surroundings. You see it online all the time. The idea is to dupe people into thinking they’re reading an article and not an ad. People, for the most part, trust articles because they think the writer is adhering to a set of journalistic standards. According to a 2017 study, 8 out of 10 people can’t tell the difference between a native ad and an article. When it comes to whisky, identifying the not-so-independent independent reviewers can be tricky. Stores have bought my work in the past, but I never allowed them to dictate content. I wrote what I wrote. They could either buy it or not buy it. A short time ago, I received some samples. No obligation. Yeah right. Just like there’s no obligation when your wife comes home sporting a brand new outfit, does a happy twirl in front of you, and says, “Do you like it?”
A neighbour knocks on your front door. She’s holding a tray of what appears to be delicious-looking cookies. After exchanging pleasantries, she says, “I made way too much, no allergies right?” Not only is she sharing her food with you, but she’s willing to disclose the ingredients used in the event they may pose a potential health risk. The cookies are horrible. It’s as though she made them while blindfolded. A few days later, you see her at a nearby park:
“Thanks so much for the cookies, they were great.”
“Super. I’ll make sure to bring some over the next time I make a batch.”
Things, however, start to get blurry when a distillery knocks on your front door bearing gifts. They’re not there to be neighbourly. They’re trying to sell something and would like your help. What to do? You could accept the samples and make it known to your readers? Sure, but as soon as you do that, you become sponsored content. A native ad. Knowing me, I’d feel compelled to say something nice (even if they tasted like my neighbour’s cookies). Distilleries see me and people like me as just another way to get the word out. Talking about their whisky means I won’t be talking about someone else’s.
I bet you’re thinking this is where I’m going to get all righteous and castigate everyone who accepts samples. Nope. In a way, I feel honoured a distillery thought I was worthy enough to exploit. There are literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands of whisky sites out there. Do you really think they’re gonna take the time to ladle out a healthy portion of whisky to someone whose stuff only gets read by friends and family?
“Nice job son. Proud of ya! xxoo”
“Can you make it over for dinner this Sunday? Haven’t seen you in ages.”
“You’re embarrassing me ma, just call.”
“You never pick up. The only time I get an answer from you is when I write a comment on your whisky page.”
If, for whatever reason, I someday decide to write a review for a sample, it’ll probably look like this:
I’d like to thank the good people at GlenScotch for sending me this sample. I can assure you their generosity will in no way impact my review of what’ll probably be an amazing whisky.
GlenScotch 25 Grand Select Masters Reserve Select
The nose reminds me of the GlenScotch dunnage warehouse. Earthy and fragrant. It’s one of the many things you’ll get to explore if you go on their distillery tour. Some vanilla. Tours run Monday through Friday from 10 AM - 4 PM. A touch of honey. For more information, please contact Sandy at the distillery.
The mouthfeel is nicer than GlenScotch’s new and improved web store. They’ve now made ordering your favourite GlenScotch a breeze! Not sure what GlenScotch to get that special someone? Just answer a few simple questions, and their “Whisky Finder” will take care of the rest!
Long-lasting. GlenScotch polo shirts use nothing but the finest, most long-lasting fabrics. They come in a variety of sizes, and are perfect for every occasion: sailing, strolling on the beach, or just enjoying a dram of delicious GlenScotch 25 with friends.