Monthly Archives: February 2012

“People like weekends!” says company promoting weekend promotion

February 29th, 2012

Chasing a PR story back to its original source can sometimes be something of a treasure hunt, as the motivations and angles behind the stories reveal themselves more the more you dig. Take, for example, this from Friday’s Daily Express, about what makes us feel happy on a Friday:

IT’S 5.18PM AND THE WEEKEND STARTS HERE

THE weekend officially starts at 5.18pm on a Friday. That is the ­precise moment when the feel-good factor of having two days off work kicks in.

At this exact time, according to a survey, employees put the worries of the working week behind them and start looking forward to their plans for Saturday and Sunday.

A quarter of people questioned told researchers they immediately felt happy when they shut down their computer on a Friday afternoon, while for a fifth it was when they picked up their children at the school gates.

Now, you might be as surprised as I was to discover the company who paid for this article to appear in the newspapers as if it was genuine news (which it isn’t):

For one in six, sitting down to watch their favourite soap opera with a glass of wine indicated the start of the weekend, according to research by frozen food makers Ross Burgers.

Ross Burgers say people look forward to the weekend? That was a new one on me, so I did a little digging and things became clearer, starting with this promotion:

Ross Burgers is also launching ‘Fun Time Friday’, helping mums celebrate the start of the weekend. To learn more about ‘Fun Time Friday’ and find hints and tips on how to make the most of your spare time with the kids, follow Ross Burgers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rossburgers and Twitter @RossBurgers

Things are now a little clearer – Ross Burgers want to become synonymous with fun weekends, hence their new ‘Fun Time Friday’ promotion, which explains why they’d seeding press releases into the news which encouraged people to think about what they look forward to on a Friday, and to link that with the Ross Burgers brand name. This also explains why the main website for Ross Burgers is at the URL http://burgerfun.co.uk/, I guess.

The ‘Fun Time Friday’ promotion actually comes across as quite a confused strategy from Ross Burgers (and their PR firm Tangerine PR), oddly enough – it seems to be trying to fit into their ‘Real Ross Mums’ campaign, which themes their Twitter account and spouts out the kind of celebrity chatter associated usually with the Daily Mail sidebar:

Genuinely bizarre, but that didn’t stop the Daily Express lapping up their press release with relish. Relish. ‘Cos they do burgers, you see?

“Men spend ages in the bathroom!” says bathroom product

February 28th, 2012

Never underestimate the power of a good, old-fashioned bait-and-switch. For example, take this story from the Daily Mail last week:

Smartphones replace newspapers as choice of reading material… for men in the toilet

Taking the newspaper to the toilet has long been a proud male preserve.

But now the tech age has affected even this most established of masculine habits.

Instead, Jim Royle types are swapping their tabloids and broadsheets for a smartphone. 

New research shows that men are far more likely to be scrolling through their phone screens than browsing the paper. 

Now one in two men regularly takes their mobile phone into the toilet to surf the internet, compared to just a third who take a newspaper.

So, who might be behind this story? A smartphone manufacturer? A new time-wasting app? Andrex? Nope.

Head and Shoulders – the shampoo made by Proctor and Gamble.

Why would a shampoo have any interest in men’s reading habits on the toilet, you might wonder? The answer is simple enough – they don’t, really, but it makes for a nice headline. Looking at the other stats and stories in the article, it’s clear what the real focus of the poll was:

The new survey, carried out by shampoo brand Head & Shoulders, found that men spend longer in the bathroom than women – 19 minutes compared to 18 minutes on a typical week day.

More than twice as many men as women take two or more showers a day – 19 per cent compared to nine per cent – and men are much more likely than women to regard a loofah and nail scissors as a bathroom essentials.

Geordie men are the cleanest when it comes to bathroom habits, spending 26 minutes in the shower on a typical morning, while men from the north-west spend least time at just 16 minutes.

At weekends, men in London indulge themselves with showers averaging an incredible 31 minutes.

But our motivations for washing are more complex than they might seem – women are more likely to feel showering makes them feel more attractive, while men say a shower makes them feel more productive.

So, what we have is a survey primarily based around shower habits with plenty of datamining to flesh out the bones – showing, for example, the areas where men are ‘cleanest’ because they spend longest in the shower, when common sense dictates that someone had to come top of that list.

However, to not only bury the client behind the survey but also to grab a few extra headlines, there’s a random question about toilet habits thrown in, which is the main hook the press release was based around. Had the toilet angle proven fruitless in the datamining, the PR firm working for Head and Shoulders (called Ketchum) clearly had a back-up plan, in the form of a trusted celebrity angle:

As an escape from the daily routine, one in five men thinks about singer Cheryl Cole in the shower, while women are most likely to think about Hollywood star Johnny Depp while washing. Scottish and Northern Irish women are particularly keen on Gary Barlow.

So there we have it – a classic bait and switch, and a great example of a press release masquerading as news.

“People don’t understand the benefit of benefit-free treatment!” says seller of benefit-free treatment

February 27th, 2012

Local papers last week were keen to dispel the myths around acupuncture, given that many people are apparently unaware of the health benefits of the needle-based therapy. Which is almost certainly because there are no health benefits of the needle-based therapy. 

The Thame Gazette is one such local paper, which went with the story:

Do you miss the whole point of acupuncture?

WITH Acupuncture Awareness Week just around the corner one Thame specialist is keen to help dispel some of the myths and misconceptions.

A recent survey by OnePoll revealed that many people still do not understand the possible benefits the health treatment offers.

The poll was commissioned by OnePoll, for the British Acupuncture Council, who want you to think that there are health benefits to acupuncture and if you don’t know what those health benefits are, you should ask during Acupuncture Awareness Week

“Engaged Man should be able to live like a bloke!” says company specialising in stag do events

February 24th, 2012

You really do have to feel sorry for the poor, poor man who was voted ‘Britain’s Most Under The Thumb Bloke’ this week. The award is said to make up the ‘big three’ of the awards season, along with the BAFTAS and the Oscars. 

Not really, of course – it’s pure PR nonsense. Still, it didn’t stop the Daily Mail buying it, and buying it at length:

‘I’m truly under the thumb’: Is this Britain’s most henpecked man?

He watches girly box-sets, wears boots because his partner saw them on TOWIE, and he always sits down to go to the loo so his other half doesn’t have to lift the toilet seat up – meet Britain’s most ‘under the thumb’ bloke.

Henpecked Mike Jeffries, 25, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, always has to sit down when he goes to the toilet so his controlling other half Joanna Felicitas, 23, doesn’t have to put the seat down later.

Mr Jeffries admits his fiancee, who he proposed to in 2009, carries out regular spot checks during his trips to the loo – and even phones him if he takes too long.

Aaaand so it goes on, with claim after claim about how under the thumb this poor chap is said to be. But what’s behind this story?

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the following in the story:

After a six-week hunt for the most henpecked man in the country, organisers at lads mag Zoo and Brighton based The Stag Company were in no doubt that Mr Jeffries should beat thousands of entries to land the dubious title.

So the awards are given by The Stag Company, whose site interviewed Mark after Valentine’s day, in handing over the award. In case you’re wondering, The Stag Company are:

…the online home of the stag do, The Stag Company, who have been sending the groom-to-be on tailor-made stag weekends for the past decade. 

And what prize did Mike get along with his title?

Once we’ve crowned our winner we’ll whisk them off on the most gruelling of manly weekends, the Newcastle stag do with 5 of your mates, as well as sending your iron lady to Bristol for a spa weekend 300 miles away

The story starts to get clearer – The Stag Company launch a search for the most outrageous stories, offering a decent-sounding prize to the couple with the most outrageous stories, and eventually find a couple with a very outrageous story. It might well be that everything Mike said about his girlfriend Joanna is true. Or it might well be that they embellished and exaggerated in order to win the prize, and The Stag Company were happy enough for this to happen as it gives them a better story to sell to the Daily Mail.

It’s not easy to check the veracity of Mike Jeffries’ story, remotely. His job as a football coach checks out, for example. However, I did find that Joanna Felicitas – described in the story as his controlling girlfriend – has form for winning competitions, apparently having won a competition from Splash FM in 2011 to go to Barbados:

My guess would be that Mike is not quite so extremely under the thumb as he’s made out to be, but that he and Joanna are canny enough to spot a way to win a competition when they see one – and good luck to them if that’s the case. 

Whether the stories Mark and Joanna tell are all true, or are exaggerated to win a competition, what’s undoubtedly true is that the whole competition – and the article in the Daily Mail – exists only to let you know that if you’re looking for a stripper-laden stag do, there’s a company who can do that for you.

“James Bond is great” says opportunistic insurance firm

February 23rd, 2012

Sometimes, linking a news article to what you sell isn’t important – simply getting your name out in the press is goal enough for a PR article. Like this, from last Saturday:

Why Daniel’s trunks are no match for Ursula’s white bikini: From Oddjob’s deadly bowler to Blofeld’s sinister cat… Bond fans reveal the 50 memories that left them shaken and stirred

They are the quintessential moments that make James Bond such a very special agent.

Fans of the 007 movies all treasure their own favourite memories that encapsulate their hero, whether it’s Little Nellie, Bond’s one-man autogyro from You Only Live Twice, or our suave spy dressed to kill in his dinner suit.

And now, to mark 50 years of the film franchise, a survey of movie-goers has revealed their 50 essential Bond memories.

Who funded the survey?

The survey of 1,000 fans was carried out by insurance firm esure. The company’s Nikki Sellers said: ‘Bond is famous for the actors who play him, the villains and, of course, the girls.

Insurance firm esure clearly know that sometimes, just being mentioned alongside something well-loved is enough to incrementally increase perception of your brand. While nobody will overtly read this article and decide to choose esure as their insurance company, aligning the esure brand with the Bond brand is enough to add a little drip of extra warmth to the way people feel about esure – over time, this subtle effect will spur people to look favourably on esure as a brand.

Or, at least, it works when you aren’t made explicitly aware that it’s what they’re doing…

“Sat navs can be annoying!” agree car insurers and mountain rescuers

February 22nd, 2012

The humble sat nav has taken something of a beating of late. First we had the Daily Mail, who blamed the navigation device for damaging cars on Thursday (they blamed them on Thursday; they’re not suggesting cars get disproportionately damaged on a Thursday. That might be the next pollster story to come out…):

Misleading satnavs have caused more than £200 million worth of damage to cars in the past 12 months, it was revealed today.

As many as 83% of satnav users have been misled by their system, a survey by Confused.com found.

Accidents caused by drivers going the wrong way have led to damage totalling £203 million in the past year, the poll also showed.

As you can see, this was a story placed by Confused.com via their PR agency Cake, in order to promote their brand new sat nav blackspot locator

Second up, we have the story from Sunday’s Telegraph which told us that ramblers are now so reliant on sat navs they can no longer read a map, and as such are terrible ramblers:

Warning over decline in map skills as ramblers rely on sat navs

Ramblers are getting lost because many no longer have basic map reading skills and rely on smart phones and sat navs, mountain rescuers have warned.

For generations, the most essential piece of kit for any rambler tackling Britain’s mountains and moors has been a map. But for modern hikers, it seems, this is no longer the case.

Experts have warned that traditional map-reading skills are now on the decline, with sales of paper charts slumping.

No mention is made about you can prove a causal link between use of a sat nav while driving and getting lost on hills… but at least we get some stats:

Ordnance Survey says sales of its paper maps have dropped by 25 per cent since 2005, to 2.1 million last year. Over the same period, mountain rescue incidents in England and Wales have increased by 52 per cent, to 1,054 in 2011.

So, half a million fewer maps are sold, and five hundred more people required mountain rescue assistance – therefore there is a causal link here, and that causal link is the use of sat navs. This appears to be the argument being made here. Which would be fine, if there was data to back that up – but at the moment, we’re given only anecdotal linkages.

And who compiled these figures?

Ged Feeney, who compiled the figures for Mountain Rescue, which represents emergency response units, said: “The majority of those who get lost do so as a result of being unable to do the basic things with a map and compass.”

Perhaps there may be a genuine argument that a rise in sat nav reliance leads to a rise in ramblers needing rescue – however, this story, despite being sold on the assumption that sat navs are to blame, says nothing about any link to sat navs. The links being made are to the fall in ordinance survey sales – but falling sales in maps doesn’t mean that ramblers aren’t buying maps any more, it just means that fewer maps are being sold. Is the fall in map sales reflected in the rambler community? We’ve no idea, the research hasn’t been done. Until it is, we can’t say anything at all about the effect having a sat nav in your car has on your ability to ramble.

“People are grumpy and dumb in the morning” says home insurance firm

Not all nonsense PR stories have to be related to a survey finding that seems shocking or counter-intuitive in order for it to hit the news – the UK press is so accustomed to being spoon-fed the warm-drivel template of ‘shock survey shows us x!’ that they’ll often print entirely-obvious statements as if they were hand-crafted wisdom from the god of science herself.

Take this, for example, from last week’s Daily Express:

TIME TO GET UP! DREAM ON, WE PREFER AN EXTRA 40 WINKS

EVERYONE who has ever reached drowsily across to hit the snooze button on their bedside alarm knows the delicious feeling of grabbing those precious few extra minutes under the covers.

And they’re not alone. All across the country, the average Briton is putting off the start of the day by almost half an hour.

On average, they’ll hit the snooze function four times before finally hauling themselves out to face the world. The lure of the warm bed is, not surprisingly, strongest of all on chilly winter mornings. 

So, people in the morning like to stay in bed? Even more so on a cold morning? Well I’ll be damned!

One thing we can thank the Express for is that they gutted out the male/female competitiveness angle which originally accompanied this press release, which we saw take centre stage in the Daily Mail of the previous day:

Snooze wars: One in four couples argue about what time to get up

If you find it almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning, you are not alone.

Brits spend almost half an hour each morning with their alarms on snooze, a survey has shown.

And more than one in four couples reports arguing over the snooze button and when it really is time to crawl out of bed.

Note the author of this piece in the Mail – it’s our friend Maysa Rawi, who you may remember from the ‘Women are fatter than even they realise!‘ story covered elsewhere on this site.

Maysa Rawi

Maysa’s own Twitter page tells us she’s the ‘MailOnline fashion editor and blogger’, so that she’s straying from the ‘look what she’s wearing!’ stories to this ‘look what this press release says!’ piece might seem surprising – however, this is the state of the Fourth Estate. With journalists today being required to write three times as much copy per day as their counterparts 20 years ago, it’s far from uncommon to see journalists double-hatting in a specialist role and a general ‘news’ role.

So, who originated this rather un-shocking statistic?

A poll for insurers Sheila’s Wheels found the average Briton dozes on for 25 minutes each morning in winter, compared to just 17 minutes in summer. 

We can be sure this story came from Sheila’s Wheels, as it appears on the press section of their site, where we can also see that they hired PR firm Mischief PR, who commissioned this survey via polling company FlyResearch. Of course, the origins of the story aren’t widely broadcast in the original article, as that somewhat undermines the ‘researchiness’ of the case being made.

And just in case you were wondering why Sheila’s Wheels – the insurers of car and home – would be talking about couples rowing over how many times they’ve hit the snooze button in the morning, we have a lovely quote to tie it all back together:

‘It’s important that people train themselves to ‘get up and go’ as then you are less likely to make a careless mistake, like forgetting to switch off an electrical appliance or leaving yourself vulnerable to burglars by not locking the front door properly as you rush out.’

So: don’t snooze so much you forget to lock your doors, or your insurance will be invalidated. Struth.

“Life at 50 is expensive, but buy private healthcare!” says private healthcare provider

February 20th, 2012

As you get older, life seems to get more expensive – but it’s important not to neglect your expensive healthcare…

The mid-life money crisis: Turning 50 marks the most expensive stage of our lives

With children flying the nest and more free time than ever, those turning 50 would be forgiven for thinking they might be able to kick back and enjoy their golden years.

But according to a new study, the tough times are only just beginning.

A new study has found that those celebrating their half-century are about to enter the most expensive stage of their lives.

said the Daily Mail, at the start of a scare story about the shocking finances of the over 50s, and how expensive life gets once you’re past the half-century.

The article was derived from a press release from Benenden Healthcare Society – in fact here’s the press release (another effort from OnePoll/72 Point).

You might think it odd that a private healthcare firm to be telling their target audience that finances are tight, and they need to prioritise? Not so:

Marc Bell added: ‘Life is getting tougher for the over 50s. The increased costs places extras pressures on the wallet, but it can also put greater pressure on mental wellbeing and the strength of relationships.

‘In the midst of this greater expense, we should not forget to prioritise our personal health. It is perhaps the time of life when maintaining good health is most vital – therefore ensuring a secure future for our family.

‘Whilst being in your 50s can be the most expensive time of life, not having safeguards such as life cover could end up leaving loved ones to pick up the pieces and to try and deal with huge financial burdens.’

So ‘even though you’re skint, don’t skimp on the healthcare or your family will be screwed when you die’. Wonderful.