This morning the ASA made TripAdvisor strip its strapline of ‘honest travel reviews’ due to the ongoing debates around fraudulent posts and libellous wars between hotel managers and customers.
Theoretically, this should provide customers with uncertainty surrounding its credibility to rest. If TripAdvisor is to remain the valuable go-to site for tourists across the globe, it should have seriously reconsidered its strategy earlier. Despite its ‘advanced and highly effective fraud systems’, the site must begin to speak frankly to its users about the need to exercise the caution that runs hand-in-hand with user generated content and encourage impressionable readers to use the power of logic and judge reviews by quantity as well as by quality. After all, one glowingly positive review floating in a sea of negativity is easy to spot with the right training and a good old pinch of salt.
Its continued success in the market relies on honesty in its positioning, rather than its reviews. While TripAdvisor will never be 100 per cent accurate or guarded against fraud, what it can do is deliver a range of appraisals that guests, diners and adventurers really care about – opinions which go beyond chocolates on the pillow or the value of the chardonnay.
This landmark ruling by the ASA will force all curators of user-generated content to re-evaluate how their site is marketed. TripAdvisor and its contemporaries document the power of word of mouth and champion the voice of the people. What we have always known and what we must all remember; is that people – despite their refreshing candour – cannot always be trusted.