Supermarkets budget big for advertising - but reporting of a gaffe by Walmart-owned Asda this week suggests that they can wield influence to ensure the news is all good too, writes CI’s digital editor Vik Iyer.
Asda’s head of communications Sian Jarvis got herself into trouble during an interview when she acknowledged two thirds of Asda checkouts were ‘guilt tills’ - or to put it simply, they are tills filled up with unhealthy confectionary.
The term is often used within the industry – but nonetheless for campaigners who question the supermarkets’ desire to improve nutrition and healthiness it was a great story – a major issue in the UK this week, with supermarkets announcing an agreement on the use of traffic light food labelling.
CI tweeted the Daily Telegraph’s version of the story on October 24 – but just a few hours later it had mysteriously vanished.
Later a new story on Asda appeared, which was far more positive for the retail giant.
So I got curious and googled ‘Daily Telegraph Asda’. What popped up first was a negative story about both Asda and Tesco’s own brand bottled water coming from the mains supply.
But the next few stories read more like press releases. They included the launch of an Asda credit card, new shop openings and brand revamps.
Yet a search on ‘BBC Asda’ revealed the supermarket had been involved in a high profile employment tribunal and milk protests.
It should be said there were also stories about job creation and a product launch.
When we look at how the Telegraph covers other supermarkets, the results are more interesting still.
Of the top six Google results, the Telegraph’s coverage of Sainburys produced three negative stories, including claims that it is in the hall of shame (strong stuff?) over supplier payments plus coverage of the Sunday trading debate.
And Tesco doesn’t fare too well either. Its fine for hiring foreign workers illegally, profit problems and the possibility of it leaving the US all figure highly in the search results.
Now you might say Tesco’s had a bad time. But from those search results, Asda was the only chain who got product launches into the news pages of the Telegraph.
We can’t say for sure what influence supermarkets have over the news agenda (or, specifically, the nature of the relationship between Asda and the Daily Telegraph), but the signs do point to consumers getting incomplete information about what they buy.
What we can say, is the disappearance of that Asda gaffe story helped the retail giant avoid paying the price for a slip which reaffirms the need for tough guidelines to keep us healthy all over the world.