A Lifestyle, Grooming & Technology Blog

Back in September of last year, the ASA issued this document called 'An Influencer's Guide to Making Clear that Ads are Ads'. It's only become a thing on social media over the past month or so because a number of high profile celebrities were called out for lack of disclosure but it's a case of better late than never as there is much uncertainty out there around influencer content and how exactly it should be represented to readers.

Today, I'm going to do a bit of an deep-dive into what these changes mean for us bloggers and influencers, what we need to be aware of and how we can ensure we're following them, as well as going a little into the background of why these guidelines have been put in place. I hope this is useful and if you have any other questions or concerns - please do let me know in the comments.

So it's all about making it absolutely clear to readers if a brand is driving content, either through payment or gifting or both. It also covers the usage of affiliate links, where the brand knows if a sale has come to them via an influencer and will pay said influencer a commission (typically 3-5%) through a third party, if the customer keeps that item.

Up until this, almost all bloggers would have used the word AD to indicate that a piece of content was being paid for. If an item had been gifted however, the guidelines were not clear about using the word AD. Nor was it clear in the case of affiliate links. It was always just good practice and fair disclosure to indicate gifting and affiliate links and most bloggers did this using words at the foot of the post or in the body of the text.

The guidelines aim to create a clear and consistent approach so it is clear when influencers are working with brands and on what basis. This means that consumers will know what to look for and will be informed right off the bat if they're consuming content that is a brand promotion or sponsorship. As many of us like to incorporate brand content seamlessly into non-branded content so it feels authentic to us, this makes it even more important to be clear on when consumers are being advertised to.

So what should you do? Well step one is to update or create a disclosure page for your blog, which allows you the space to explain the guidelines and how you will be complying with them. I personally also link this at the bottom of my posts that contain gifted items or contain paid-for content - it just directs people to more information without having to put paragraphs of text under each post! Even my own disclosure page needs work - I want to make everything clear and cover off any concerns or questions readers may have, but I'm not sure if my desire to address everything makes it messy and difficult to digest... It's definitely something I plan on revisiting regularly to ensure it's as clear and concise as possible.

Welcome back to my Vinyl Arrivals series! It's been a while but I've picked up some new records lately so wanted to share my thoughts on them. Most of them are from Amazon, as are 99% of the purchases in my life, which means they're all brand new but I really want to get into the habit of buying them second hand from places like Ebay or Depop. Somehow they just sound better once they've been played loads,  you really get that awesome vinyl crackle.

I also got a new record player for my birthday not long ago, which has inspired me to start shopping again (oops). The sound is great as it came with bluetooth speakers which have a much warmer tone than the stereo set that were in my previous set up. Ok let's get into what I've picked up over the past few weeks..

Eric Clapton - Unplugged (1992)

I'm a massive fan of acoustic blues and it doesn't get much more authentic than this album from Eric Clapton. Recorded in front of a live audience, it's a super stripped back sample of some of his greatest  songs. It's also on 180g meaning the sound is even richer than on previous recordings. My favourites are Layla and Tears in Heaven.

John Mayer - The Search For Everything (2017)

What can I say about John Mayer? He's the reason I got into playing guitar and his songs always feel like they're so personal and speak to you on so many levels. This album is so different, and in many ways shows his maturity from early pop-rock into full on soulful melodic blues. It's impossible for me to pick a favourite track from this album, but if you're unsure on whether to give it a listen then just go for it. A must for any blues collector in my mind.

(AD - GIFTED) - This is a sponsored post. The Red Lion were kind enough to gift the meal, however all opinions shared within this post are my own.

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend the press night for the re-opening of The Red Lion, located in Stoke Green just a stones throw from Slough. It re-opened on Saturday 9th Feb with a stunning revamped dining and bar area.

When we arrived we were greeted by the team and taken over to the bar area, where we were invited to create our own gin cocktails. Not a bad start to the evening! We got to choose from all kinds of toppings and ingredients and it was super interesting getting tips from the bar staff on creating the perfect drink.

Once we picked up our drinks, we had a quick mooch around the newly refurbished restaurant before heading into the main dining area to take our seats. There were so many cosy nooks and air chairs located all around in front of roaring fires. It was super stylish but also comfortable enough to bring the family for a Sunday roast. 

Where do I start with the food? The menu was incredibly vast, I was worried that the huge selection would lead to a reduction in quality. You know those places that do a few dishes but really well? It was hard to imagine how they could deliver so much and do it all well. But I was thrilled to be proven wrong when the food made it's way out! There was even an extensive Vegan menu, which we didn't sample but was once again filled with delicious sounding starters and mains.

For my main course I went with the roasted Lamb, served with aubergine, roasted sweet peppers, potato dauphinoise, and red wine Jus (£21.95). Check out the pic below. I had to hurry because I couldn't wait to get stuck into it..

I ordered the meat medium rare and it was prepared to absolute perfection; the meat was served on the bone and was perfectly tender and was complimented beautifully with a hint of mint, which gave the dish that traditional Sunday roast taste.

My girlfriend went with the Salmon fillet on Chorizo mash, tenderstem broccoli and Bouillabaisse sauce (£15.50). I was reliably informed that it was just as delicious as it looks! 

Despite being incredibly full already, we managed to find some room (as always) for a quick peek at the desserts menu. Again, I couldn't believe how vast the menu was. There were so many choices it was almost impossible to choose between them! I went for the Mango, Berry and Coconut Meringue Mess and it was super sweet but delicious. It was their take on the classic Eton mess with a twist and really worked. 

Honestly I really couldn't fault the service at The Red Lion. Not a single mistake was made. The staff were extremely attentive, but not overbearing. We had a fantastic waitress who was able to explain the menu to us and answer any questions we had. The food came out really quickly and we ended up being extremely jealous of what other guests had chosen as it all looked so tasty.

Are you in the Berkshire area and looking for a great date night spot or Sunday roast? Why not try the newly refurbished Red Lion. You won't regret it, I know i'll certainly be taking a trip back there very soon.

Looking for more local restaurants to visit? Check out my review of The Warren, Wokingham here

This time of year is always HUGE for new video game releases! With Christmas fast approaching, game publishers are always keen to get their latest and greatest in the hands of gamers around the world as soon as possible, with a lot of us having a Christmas wishlist full of the latest releases.

I've picked up a couple of new games over the past few weeks, one of which is surely a no brainer for Game Of The Year. Even if you're not a huge video game addict like myself, you've surely heard of this one. So here's a quick look at what I've been playing recently...

Red Dead Redemption 2

I could probably write an entire post about my admiration for this game. I took a day off work to play it when it came out a few weeks ago and literally played it non stop for the first weekend I had it. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the original Red Dead that came out almost 10 years ago now for the Xbox 360, and oh man have Rockstar Games been working their magic during that time to make this game a true masterpiece.

You can spend the first chapter marveling at the snow effects and drawing rude pictures by walking about but at some point you have to hit the story which involves riding on horse a bit (you have to hold a button to follow while they give you the story) , shoot a bit and then go back to camp. Repeat this a few times and you're on to chapter 2 where the game opens up into. Well more of the same, just less snow.

Now there are issues, just look at the endless YouTube rants and discussion to see that! Too slow paced, clunky controls, the character is slow, not as good as the first. Some of these comments are true but only to a point! Yes, it is a first slow but that’s story and character building. Anyone used to the current crop of twitch shooters and the hand holding and your character possessing the superhuman abilities of the Assassin’s Creed games will find Arthur lumbering. Controls can be fiddly but patience and a little time in the controls will help. But the key thing here is Arthur feels, well, real! He’s heavy and human and feels like flesh and bone and he fits his world perfectly.

The world itself is vast, being substantially larger than the original (even though it features the top half of the first game, anyway). It varies from alligator-invested swamps to open plains, from an industrialised city to farming commutnies, from mountain peaks to snow-carpeted wilderness; in terms of location, this game simply has it all. And the story takes you to a large amount of the map in an organic way, which is not only relevant to the story, but also gives you a chance to explore different areas out of your own leisure. The light effects are beautiful, especially when the dying light of sundown dapples through the arms of trees. The sound effects add to the immersive world too, with crisp sound quality that makes it again seem more than a video game. Rockstar’s attention to detail is the greatest achievement in video game history as of so far. Even rockstar themselves may not be able to surpass what they have achieved with this game. I play on an Xbox one X and on a 4K TV, and in Native 4K, this game is beyond stunning. Many times (more than I dare to admit), I was staring out into the game’s world in awe. I was simply left with pure wonder at how a game could look, feel and sound so real.

NPCs will carry on with whatever they’re doing or saying whether you’re there to witness it or not. Encounters happen frequently, meaning long horse journeys to and from locations are not mundane or lacking excitement. Rival gangs will ambush you or be up to no good within your proximity. Citizens will ask for your help or try to rob you. So much can happen that you almost can never predict when something will; that’s what keeps it fresh after countless hours of play.

You can pick up Red Dead Redemption 2 on Amazon here 

Overwatch - Game of The Year Edition

Overwatch has now been out for well over a year but I recently decided to pick up the Game of The Year Edition as it came with some cool extras including free loot boxes and an exclusive character skin. This is online only, so you will need an Xbox Live subscription to play. If you don't know what Overwatch is about it is basically a Team vs Team of various game types, and is usually more fun with friends. If you love competitive gameplay you'll enjoy this. It often does start to bore me after awhile due to its repetition, so I will often end up after 2-3hrs sticking in a RPG or something. You will find that you will get better as you play more, and you will start to learn what chararcters suit you most {I personally prefer Soldier, Tracer, Sombra, Hanzo and Widowmaker}, but for a casual gamer you will die, rage and sigh but cheer and feel a great accomplishment when you get your first kill, then your ten and so forth. Obviously not all players play fair, some games will test your patience.

There's a huge amount of variety on offer when it comes to heroes and the unique abilities that they bring to game play. You'll certainly find your favourites but all of them have some cool abilities that can counter those of other heroes. It's super competitive but if you're a casual gamer just looking for something that you can pick up and play then no fear as there's plenty of unranked modes that enable you to hone your skills before taking on some seriously high level players in the ranked match making. If you are up for a challenge then the leveling system on offer here is super rewarding, and offers periodic cosmetic items that can help you show off your level, but importantly never impacts the core gameplay by giving you overpowered weapons or characters. Everything on offer is purely cosmetic. 

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