Chef Reuben Riffel’s endorsement of Robertsons is a marketing con!


We have been asking for some time how Chef Reuben Riffel can reconcile the international restaurant trend to foraging and growing vegetables and herbs, and endorsing the Robertsons spice range. Now it has become clear that Chef Reuben is just putting his name to the brand for advertising purposes, given that he uses fresh herbs in his Reuben’s restaurants.  This is a serious blow to the credibility of Chef Reuben, his Reuben’s restaurants in Franschhoek, at the One&Only Cape Town and in Robertson, the Robertsons brand, as well as MasterChef South Africa, which is sponsored by the spice and herb brand.

At the Franschhoek Literary Festival ten days ago we asked Chef Reuben a question in this regard, and he had a well rehearsed answer to it, justifying his endorsement of Robertsons on the basis of not all herbs being available all year round, and that fresh herbs and his restaurants are not affordable for all.  The question must have irritated him badly, as he wrote a disparaging comment about it on his Facebook page later that day.  He must have realised that it would get him into terrible trouble, and he has since closed down his Facebook page. Robertsons’ response to the disparagement and damage to their brand is surprising:We were alarmed when we received this complaint and assure you that we have taken this very seriously. We would like to clarify that as a brand Robertsons does not condone the use of inappropriate language in any forum or in any social media channels. We have  however discussed this further with Reuben and believe this to be a personal matter with a deeper history and would suggest that you address it directly with him. Our team of lawyers have reviewed the complaint and advised that contractually there is no breech (sic) or transgression to our contract. Our contract and relationship with Reuben is limited to his chef expertise and his appearance in our advertising, it only governs his opinions in relation to our brand and does not extend to personal opinions on a private matter’. There is nothing ‘personal’ about asking a valid question about Chef Reuben’s endorsement of Robertsons, and the impact it has on his credibility as a chef, a question asked by many of his chef colleagues too. One wonders what ‘personal’ issues Chef Reuben could have been referring to. The endorsement, and the resultant lack of attention to and focus on his Reuben’s restaurants, has already cost Chef Reuben dearly, in that he did not make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant shortlist of twenty late last year, the first time in Reuben’s Franschhoek eight year history.  He achieved a miraculous Top Chef and Top Restaurant accolade in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards six months after opening, an unheard of achievement at the time.

It is the programme for ‘Cook Franschhoek’, to be held in the gourmet village from 15 – 17 June, that is the confirmation that Chef Reuben believes in and uses fresh herbs.  The write-up for his outrageously-priced R1500 sessions, information which must have been supplied to the organisers by him, refers to a ‘stroll to our secret vegetable garden to pick fresh vegetables and herbs (Reuben believes firmly that only the finest ingredients should be used for the best results)’, a clear confirmation that he believes that fresh is best! This is confirmed in his latest cookbook ‘Reuben Cooks Local’, which does not have a single recipe in it necessitating any Robertsons herbs or spices. When asked, Franschhoekers said they have no idea where the ‘secret‘ herb and vegetable garden is, which must be in walking distance from his restaurant. Someone jokingly saying it must be his Robertsons’ spice rack! Another local has guessed that it must be the garden of Klein Olifantshoek, across the road from his restaurant parking, but staff of the boutique hotel deny this. It is said that when Reuben’s Franschhoek moves to its new location close to Place Vendome later this year, they will develop a vegetable and herb garden there. Currently Chef Reuben sources his restaurant herbs and vegetables from Roubaix in Franschhoek.

Robertsons has had a bad time in choosing its marketing partners, not only in signing up Chef Reuben to endorse its brand, and in running Masterclass videos with Chef Reuben on the Robertsons’ website aligned to its sponsorship of MasterChef SA,  but also in having appointed controversial Sonia Cabano as its Social Media Manager when MasterChef South Africa started in March, and then having to terminate her services when she abused the Robertsons’ Twitter account to settle personal scores.

Celebrities and brand endorsers are not protected from social as well as legal norms in writing what they think about others on Social Media forums such as Facebook and Twitter.  Cabano went on a shocking Twitter rage last week, making it unlikely that any brand would wish to be associated with her in future.  She is a cookbook writer, and her racist, religious, political, and other views expressed on Twitter last week could cost her potential book purchasers and publishers. Chef Reuben seems disillusioned by Social Media, even though he was looking for trouble in writing his disparaging Facebook comment, and it appears that he has given up on Social Media, writing on Twitter a few days ago:To all real friends on twitter, fb. See you in the real world. Unfortunately people with bad agendas makes (sic) this less enjoyable’.

We have always held Chef Reuben and his Reuben’s Franschhoek in the highest regard, and recommended it to our guests for seven years.  Last year we had a particularly bad service experience at the restaurant, and an unsatisfactory response to our feedback from Chef Reuben, and decided to remove the restaurant from our portfolio of restaurant recommendations in Franschhoek.  It would be a shame if it were true that Chef Reuben has sold his soul, in endorsing brands such as Robertsons and SAA Business Class on the African and USA routes, in writing books, in doing live and TV demonstrations, all for the revenue, and no longer caring about his Reuben’s restaurants, as the Franschhoek locals and fellow chefs say. Celebrities become the focus of media scrutiny, and even parody, Chef Reuben’s Robertsons’ endorsement being the subject of Another Damned Food Blog last year.

Chef Reuben was praised for his humbleness despite his fame for many years, but as the cover of his cookbook shows, there is a change in attitude with a taste of arrogance, confirmed by those who are looking to do business with him.  We wish for the return of ‘old’ Chef Reuben in the Reuben’s kitchen(s) again! He also owes Robertsons and its customers honesty in his endorsement of their brand.

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: The Advertising Standards Authority is an advertising industry self-governing body, and its Code governs what advertisements may or may not say.  The Preamble in section I states:

“1.1 All advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

1.2 All advertisements should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the consumer.

1.3 All advertisements should conform to the principles of fair competition in business.

1.4 No advertisement should bring advertising into disrepute or reduce confidence in advertising as a service to industry and to the public”.

Expanding upon this, clause 2 in section II focuses on honesty in advertising:


Advertisements should not be so framed as to abuse the trust of the consumer or exploit his lack of experience or knowledge or his credulity”.

Testimonials are addressed specifically in clause 10:

10.1To be genuine

Advertisements should not contain or refer to any testimonial or endorsement unless it is genuine and related to the personal experience over a reasonable period of the person giving it. Testimonials or endorsements which are obsolete or otherwise no longer applicable (eg where there has been a significant change in formulation of the product concerned) should not be used.

10.2Conformance to the Code

Testimonials themselves should not contain any statement or implication contravening the provisions of this Code and should not be used in a manner likely to mislead”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: We accept Chef Reuben’s apology for the disparaging comment on his Facebook page, which he has reinstated (see the Comments to this blogpost).

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: In the Robertsons’ commercial in MasterChef SA last night, Chef Reuben is described on screen as ‘South Africa’s top chef’. As Chef Reuben did not even make the latest top 20 Eat Out Restaurant shortlist, this is a misleading advertising claim.

POSTSCRIPT 23/5: Elizabeth Pretorius, Communications Director: Africa for Unilever, has responded to our feedback and this blogpost as follows, not addressing the real issue: Unilever is committed to conducting its operations with honesty, integrity and with respect to human rights and as such we do not condone any actions to the contrary. We strive to provide our consumers branded products that meet their needs and aspirations, and Robertsons is one of the main brands in our stable, making herbs and spices available to the widest possible consumer base’.

POSTSCRIPT 29/6: The Wall Street Journal today published an interview with Chef Reuben, providing an interesting insight and confirming the essence of this blogpost!:

*   he first ate a restaurant at the age of 15

*   he would love to have Chef Heston Blumenthal (Fat Duck) cook for him at home

*   he loves making interesting sandwiches with unusual ingredient combinations

*   ‘making a great meal is one of the nicest gifts you can give’, referring to his home cooking for his wife and daughter

*   he would ‘struggle if I don’t have things like garlic and fresh chillies that I grow in my garden’. He admits to having spices in his cupboard at home, specifying ‘curry powder and garam masala‘, not quite the kind made by Robertsons.

*   when entertaining at home, contrary to the Robertsons TV commercial, Chef Reuben writes ‘I always try  and do steam pots. We have all sorts of raw ingredients and vegetables and a steaming pot of stock and you can cook your own food’.

*  He doesn’t work on Sundays, ‘being my family time‘.

POSTCRIPT 8/7: Chef Reuben’s ‘secret vegetable garden’ is at La Motte, where vegetable farmer Dan Kruger grows vegetables to order for a number of Franschhoek chefs, including Pierneef a La Motte’s Chris Erasmus, Haute Cabriere’s Ryan Shell, Ryan’s Kitchen’s Ryan Smith, Delaire Graff’s Christiaan Campbell, Dish restaurant’s Oliver Cattermole, Le Quartier Français’ Margot Janse, and Reuben’s Reuben Riffel.

POSTSCRIPT 11/7:  Chef Reuben seems to be written out of the Robertsons’ TV commercials, appearing in only one commercial out of the six flighted on MasterChef SA last night.  From Twitter and a comment on this blog we have read that Chef Reuben is now endorsing another Unilever brand, being Rama margarine, an absolute no-no for chefs to be seen to be using anything but butter.

POSTSCRIPT 13/7: What a surprise it was to be in the same tiny Nedbank in Franschhoek with Chef Reuben Riffel today, and an opportunity to connect again. He justified the Rama commercial on the fact that many consumers cannot eat at top restaurants, and cannot afford to use butter. He shared that he and his wife Maryke are leaving for the UK and France to eat at top restaurants on a two-week trip next week, and that a little baby Riffel will make its appearance early next year.

POSTSCRIPT 16/7: Sonia Cabano, recipe book writer and Tweeter for Chef Reuben Riffel, is bashing Chef Reuben’s new Rama commercial in which Rama is added to rice: ‘Putting cubes of Rama margarine in rice is not part of our food culture. I’m sorry, but it isn’t. It’s not only wrong, it’s bad for health’ she Tweeted this evening.

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Sunday Times today has clarified what everyone has wanted to know about Chef Reuben’s use of Robertsons’ spices, when interviewed at The Sunday Times Chef of the Year Awards earlier this week: ‘Celebrity chef Reuben Riffel, one of the judges of the competition, told me people constantly asked him whether or not he really uses the spices he endorses. He said he uses them at home but uses herbs at his restaurant’. If this is true, it would be misleading to feature Chef Reuben in a chef’s outfit in the Robertsons’ advertising!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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40 replies on “Chef Reuben Riffel’s endorsement of Robertsons is a marketing con!”

  1. Hi Chris

    I personally find this whole obsession with Reuben and his endorsement of Robertsons to border on the bizarre. I find petty, naive and ultimately discredits your blog.

    We all know that celebrities of whatever sort endorse products that they probably don’t use in their every day lives. Does Christiano Ronaldo use XYZ anti-dandruff shampoo? Probably not, but so far as I know is not filled with childish invective against such endorsements.

    The same standard ought to apply to Reuben. As one of the few ‘celebrity chefs’ in SA it is only natural that he is going to be solicited by commercial foodstuff producers as are chefs like Luke Dale Roberts and Bertus Basson (as an aside Michelle Roux consults to British Airways and I don’t recall him having been accused of ‘selling his soul’). Whilst one can obviously personally question their integrity in performing this practice, writing tedious blog pieces is, as I said, petty and naive. This blog is often a decent source of information, don’t cheapen it or you will end up blogging to an audience of one.

    Finally, the criticism of Robertsons per se is somewhat ironic given that every chef will make use of some form of powdered spice when making, for example, Indian curries. Dried oregano is often used in Italian food as a preference. Whether the Roberstons range is better or worse than Woolworths or your local oriental market is debatable, the point simply being that it is not self-evident that Roberstons is anathema to cooking!

    Disclaimer: Before I am accused of being a ‘Reuben (or Roberstons!) supporter’ I can assure you that I am not. I have found his restaurant to be good but not excellent and his cookbooks to be worth having but not indispensible.

  2. Hi Chris

    I must agree with Jason on his point of celebrity endorsements and actually thought Reuben’s answer to why he would endorse Robertson was fair.
    I can see why you would not recommend his restaurants anymore, but then I just wonder – why do you care if he were to damage is brand by this endorsement deal?
    And now you and Sonia – why is she brought in this now again? It is getting really boring. But this is your blog alas you can write whatever you please, but I just think these stories about Reuben and her do not uncover anything new, exciting, or noteworthy anymore. Pity.

    And on a last thought – I think if I had a bar or restaurant I would feel quite flattered to be written up on Another Damn Food Blog. I think they are brilliant and any restaurant owner who doesn’t take themselves too seriously would agree I think. Nothing to do with media scrutiny.



  3. Dear Jason

    Thank you for sharing your views.

    Let us separate consulting from endorsement. Chef Reuben is consulting to SAA Business Class, but does not appear in their advertisements as far as I know. The consulting message has only been communicated via media releases and he performed for them at Indaba in Durban. No problem with that. Chef Liam Tomlin too consults to British Airways, and this may/may not be carried in their advertising. Similarly with Chef Michel Roux (I am sure you meant this one?). Chef Luke Dale-Roberts developed a specific range of Christmas products for Woolworths (some of the leftovers still being for sale in the stores!)and appeared in the ads. In general this is acceptable, although one can wonder if he prepared the meals himself – of course he didn’t, but it could be a consumer expectation.

    When any celebrity puts his/her name to a brand, there must be honesty and truthfulness in the endorsement, and the Advertising Standards Authority Code is very clear on this (we have just added this as a postcript to the blogpost for you to read). I am shocked that you think that it is OK to be conned by the marketers and the advertising industry. Reuben cannot be seen to be endorsing the full range of Robertsons’ herbs and spices when he may only use one or two of the products in his kitchens. From the numerous comments that I have heard about Reuben’s endorsement of Robertsons, fellow chefs do not believe that Chef Reuben uses this entry level consumer brand in his restaurant kitchens, which could mean that the endorsement is in breach of the ASA Code. No chefs worth their salt (pardon the pun) would be using this spice and herb brand in their restaurant kitchens.


  4. Dear Annika

    Thank you for your point of view.

    My reply above to Jason about truthfulness of endorsements is for you as well.

    The blogpost stemmed initially from my interest in MasterChef SA, in which I saw the Robertsons’ commercials for the first time, as well as the Masterclass videos. As Chef Reuben was a highly regarded chef, and runs three restaurants, it is a natural topic to write about. The truthfulness aspect only arose this past weekend, when I saw the ‘Cook Franschhoek’ program, and the write up on the Reuben’s session on it, adding a new dimension.

    I cannot assume that everyone reading the blogpost today has read any other posts on my blog, and being German like you, I have written as complete a picture of Robertsons’ Social Media woes as far as I know them, for the sake of completeness. When we first wrote about Sonia Cabano and Chef Reuben and their link to Robertsons in March, we commented then already that Robertsons did not appear to be up to speed on the usage of Social Media in its marketing mix.

    I loved ‘Another Damned Food Blog’ too, and it’s a shame that they no longer appear. Whilst they were funny, they were extremely truthful, and the Reuben/Robertsons one endorses (pardon the pun) our blogpost.


  5. Dear Chris

    I think it is a case of splitting hairs to distinguish between Rueben on the one hand and Luke DR (for example)on the other.

    I speak under correction, but I do not believe that Reuben claims in the Robertsons advert (I own a PVR for a reason!) that he exclusively uses their product in his kitchen. If he did, that may well be dishonest and a case for the ASA to investigate. If not, it really amounts to advertising ‘puffery’ which is clearly a question of degree.

    Perhaps a more constructive avenue for your critique would be to lodge a complaint with the ASA and report on the outcome. I’m sure that would be more interesting angle for your readers and more uselful for the consumer whose interests to you seem to be trying to protect.



  6. Thank you for the suggestion Jason.

    I am a restaurant writer, not an activist. I would like to see how Robertsons reacts to this. This is about Chef Reuben’s credibility, and less so about Robertsons, but the two go hand in hand, so to speak.


  7. Sonia Cabano racist?Most absurd thing I have ever heard! I think this whole “obsession” with Ruben and Robortson’s has a nasty hidden agenda. No more for me thank you.

  8. Dear Richard

    You cannot be following Sonia Cabano on Twitter if you ask that question.

    You did mean Reuben and Robertsons, didn’t you? No agenda, no obsession. This is only the second blogpost on the topic in two months, out of about 60 blogposts written in this period.


  9. Chris

    funniest comment i have read from you in a while

    “I am a restaurant writer, not an activist”

    You are an activist and be proud to be one, you dont have to burn your bra or stomp outside parliment to be an activist.

    Have to agree with most of the writers, who cares if he endorses robertsons, people can chose to either eat in his places or buy his books, i chose not to do either, lets move on

  10. Whoa! Yes, just went to check and Sonia Cabano certainly got utterly unhinged on the 15th! Jessica Leandro has nothing on her.

  11. It’s called honesty Darren from Hout Bay!

    The first time that I experienced Reuben’s dishonesty was when he told me that he was not going to the One&Only Cape Town.


  12. Dear Brandon

    I have never seen an ad with Jenny Morris endorsing Royco. I trust her integrity. She is not a restaurant chef like Chef Reuben anyway – she runs a cookery school and does catering. I have never heard this talked about by chefs – only the Robertsons’ endorsement intrigues/amuses them.


  13. Chris, I wish you would go into politics. I would vote for you without a doubt! All valid points, well written and researched as usual.
    I have to say in addition that Reuben is back on Facebook and I felt almost bad for him as he did apologise, not sure if he apologised to you personally though, as the dreaded “teef” comment was directed to you.

    Here it is:

    hallo aan almal wat hierdie post gelees het, dit was n oomblik van frustrasie en onverskoonbaar. as enigiemand aanstoot geneem het as gevolg van dit dan vra ek omverskoning. Vrouens is baie hoog aangeskrewe in my lewe en ek keur enige onwelvoeglikke en afbrekende taal af om hulle te beskryf. Love you all.

  14. Well she does ads for Royco cook in sauces and I would bet money that there is no way she uses them when cooking – either at home or in her catering business/cookery school. She has also been teased about this by a caller on Cape Talk who asked her to recommend a good recipe for Chicken a la king – Jenny quickly established that the caller was referring to her endorsement of Royco

    Jenny also actively welcomes endorsement opportunities for high quality products – not a description I would attach to cook in sauce

  15. Wow Lolla, bearer of good news! Impressed with Reuben’s apology.

    I hope it was not done under pressure from Robertsons! They certainly had words with him.


  16. Dear Jay

    Thank you for your comment. I am happy to post it once you have cleaned it up.


  17. Really who the heck cares. What it boils down to is he any good a cook? and if you had to ask me after several tastings of his food, well I reckon he could safely endorse Aromat and Maggi as well. Both would give his food a leg up.
    Talk about overrated. That boy takes the waterblommetjie.

  18. Dear Marion

    I am happy to post your comment once you have removed the disparaging sections.


  19. Hi Chris,

    I’m not sure what this witch hunt is about, but it is clear that you have a hidden agenda. It’s sad because you are clearly using this blog to get back at people. So what if Rueben is using fresh herbs or Robertson’s?!

    Rueben has gained allot of respect and has worked hard to be where he is today, and I beleive he deserves it! He is kind person and everyone’s friend that contributes good into this world.

    I have met him once and I am glad to say that I walked away having a good meal and a great time with friends…


  20. No ‘witch hunt’, no ‘hidden agenda’ here Shaun. I called Reuben a friend too in the past.

    You cannot have read much of this blog, to make such allegations. We praise where praise is due, and criticise where relevant. We have motivated our stand on the misleading advertising which Robertsons is putting out with Chef Reuben’s blessing, contravening our country’s advertising code. Do you support consumers being misled?


  21. I enjoyed your write up as it is evident that you have put time and effort into researching the topic.

    However the depth of research insists something far more sinister. Is it maybe your personal issue with Reuben’s unbelievable success in recent years? I feel like this article is simply controversial for the sake of it.

    Reuben endorses Robertsons. Like any other advertisement or celebrity endorsement, he should use the product but is not limited to the product. That would mean Pat Lambie would have to wash his hair with only Clear for Men. Watch out Lambie, in case some of your “friends” come over and spot Pantene in your shower. Same goes for Ronaldo, sure he only uses off the shelf R30 shampoo. Imagine Chalize is caught using a perfume other than Dior. The list of rather childish examples could go on and on.

    This points out the very emptiness of this post on Reuben. Furthermore the article and research, for no other reason but to create controversy out of thin air has antagonised an otherwise nice person ( in terms of public image) and great chef into making a statement on a public social media site (facebook) he regretted and later apologised for. A trap he should have been smart enough not to fall into.

    I think Ruben is a great representative for the brand as he is a man of colour who has succeeded in a tough industry. He is South African, born and bred. He is a great role model for the majority of South Africans and most likely grew up with Robertsons spices as an active ingredient in his household. This is something you could not say for all of us, with our fancy herb gardens and Woolworths ingredients. Let’s not forget who Robertsons’ target market is at the end of the day. No mistake by Unilever here. They could not have chosen a better endorser.

    Justin Parkfelt
    UCT Business Science Marketing Student

  22. Dear Justin

    Thank you for your praise, and your comment.

    You also must be a new blog reader, to allege that I wrote the blogpost just for ‘the sake of it’, or seek controversy by writing a story ‘out of thin air’. I have written about the issue in other blogposts in the past two months, and you did not react to my allegations then. I have so much to write about, that I don’t need to choose any topic because I don’t have anything else to write about, or because I begrudge Chef Reuben his success. Did you not read that we supported Reuben’s Franschhoek for seven years since opening? Chef Reuben will confirm that we fought for tables to get our guests into his restaurant, in the days when he was still in the kitchen, the food was excellent, and the service reasonable. Sadly, that’s all changed.

    Surely UCT teaches you about responsible and honest marketing. No brand endorser can accept financial compensation if they do not use the brand. Contracts have been broken for this very action in the past.

    In Chef Reuben’s case the impression is created that he would predominantly use Robertsons’ spices in his restaurant kitchens. No chef wanting to be taken seriously from a gourmet perspective would admit to using Robertsons, nor actively promote the brand. Chef Reuben has traded financial reward for chef status, which is his fair right to do, but to state that he is ‘SA’s top chef’ in the Robertsons’ commercials is misleading in itself – he last held this title seven years ago!

    I believe that this is an interesting marketing case study, and Robertsons has not done well in its above-the-line and Social Media communication linked to its MasterChef SA sponsorship to date. I would love to hear what your Marketing lecturers have to say.


  23. Puffing/Puffery – Puffery as a legal term refers to promotional statements and claims that express subjective rather than objective views, which no “reasonable person” would take literally.[1] Puffery serves to “puff up” an exaggerated image of what is being described and is especially featured in testimonials.

  24. Thank you for your contribution Andrew.

    ‘Puffery’ hardly is the issue in this blogpost. It would mean that Chef Reuben is making a mockery of his endorsement of Robertsons. The last paragraph below makes this unacceptable anyway.

    The Advertising Standards Authority says the following about it:


    Value judgments, matters of opinion or subjective assessments are permissible provided that:

    it is clear what is being expressed is an opinion;

    there is no likelihood of the opinion or the way it is expressed, misleading consumers about any aspect of a product or service which is capable of being objectively assessed in the light of generally accepted standards.

    The guiding principle is that puffery is true when an expression of opinion, but false when viewed as an expression of fact”.


  25. Thank you Lolla, mine of information!

    The rest of the story is not available online.


  26. The reality is Reuben is applying the M3 strategy of income and let it be.Reuben go ahead and ignore these distractors you are the best and keep on creating.

  27. Dear Refilwe

    Thank you for your comment – can you explain ‘M3 strategy of income’ please?


  28. It is not about whether he is a good cook, or whether he is allowed to make money… it is about his commitment to the art of cooking and what he recommends to others. In his latest ad, he recommends that you melt RAMA MARGARINE on rice….RAMA!!!! I mean where is the integrity? It is akin to Beezy Baily recommending you buy art from Mr. Price Home because he really thinks that it is good. Come on Reuben, money is not everything.

  29. Anton
    Might I just mention that, sadly, the world of marketing and endorsements strictly speaking often has very little to do with the product and the endorser itself. As mentioned, the Clear anti-dandruff and Patrick Lambie / Christiano Ronaldo affair is a prime and current example.

    Advertisers and marketers take great strategic care in choosing which public figures to approach to endorse or sell a product. They (I’m referring specifically to proper agencies) make use of extensive statistic models to look at client base demographics, including factors like sex, age and race. For instance (and I’m only using this as an EXAMPLE, in no way am I suggesting this was the rationale behind choosing Reuben for this product) if research shows that Rama has a large consumer base that are middle-high income coloured population, choosing someone like Reuben will be more appropriate than, for example, using Jeannie D or Melissa Bam or Lucas Radebe etc.

    In a perfect, ideal world, advertisers will only use representatives that use the product daily, and (even better) the public will not be influenced by marketing or price and buy products based only on quality.

  30. Dear Erinyes

    It would be misleading to use an endorser/spokesperson for a brand if he/she does not use it, and would then contravene the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Conduct. You can see the relevant clauses in this blogpost.

    Surely you are not suggesting that it is OK for Chef Reuben and Unilever to mislead consumers?


  31. Chris

    No, I am not suggesting customers be mislead. There is enough of that going on every day, in a more serious form where there is blatant false advertising. As far as endorsements are concerned, the wording of such advertisements are often crucial as well as the context of the endorsement. For exammple, there would be a world of difference between Reuben’s restaurants endorsing Rama (now that would be funny) and him endorsing it on a personal level.

    This is where it gets sticky. Yes, he is a chef and is known for being one, so the association may be made, in the minds of those who see the ad, between product-Reuben-chef. This is probably the intent of the endorsement, an implied connection between quality cooking and a “quality product” (according to the advertisers who, remember, get paid to sell whatever product they need to).

    Now, as far as misleading the public goes: if the advertisement made any claims that are blatantly and irrefutably false, that’s misleading; however, if no clear-cut claims are made then there is no false advertising.

    As to your quote of the ASA clauses regarding endorsements, the phrase “related to the personal experience over a reasonable period” is what opens it up. If, for example, Reuben has fond memories of Rama while growing up, that could be sufficient to qualify for an endorsement. And no, just because he is now a grown man and a chef and cooks with butter and not Rama would not diminish his opinion of the product. As long as he, in his individual capacity, has an opinion that the product is one which he would put his name to, then no transgressions have been made.

    Of course, if he states in the ad that he (on a professional level) cooks with Rama and one goes to his restaurant and does not spot a tub of Rama anywhere, then that makes him liable to the clauses you quoted. Same goes for the Robertson’s spices. His endorsements are all in his personal capacity.

    Bottom line, Reuben’s restaurants don’t endorse the products. Reuben, the man, does. And short of stalking him when he buys groceries or breaking in to take a peek in his fridge to confirm whether there is a tub of Rama or not, it’s going to be very difficult for his endorsement to be discredited just because it seems unlikely.


  32. Dear Erinyes

    Reuben has already blown his credibility by accepting the Robertsons millions. Now he has blown his credibility with Rama completely!

    Reuben Riffel and Reuben’s restaurants are synonymous!


  33. Dear Chris

    I don’t argue that the man and the restaurant is synonymous. That’s exactly why he is chosen to endorse products. I was just trying to make a point that the industry we’re discussing (advertising and endorsements) isn’t nearly as clean-cut and transparent as it would like us to believe. That makes the matter more complex than it appears (i.e. simply whether Reuben enjoys Rama on his Sasko bread or not)

    Just curious, have you filed a complaint with the ASA? You seem well versed in these things. I must confess I am not that familiar with the ASA standards so I’ll reserve comment as to the technicalities. You seem to feel strongly about the subject though, which as far as I’m concerned is exactly what the ASA is there for. It is our right as the public to call out those who seem to want to pull the wool over our eyes. Therein I agree with you completely.

  34. I’ll keep to your last sentence and thank you for your support Erinyes.

    The ASA is predominantly used to fight competitive battles between corporates. However, it does set a standard for the advertising industry.


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