Monthly Archives: July 2012

“People find it hard keeping up with their neighbours’ lifestyles” says loans company

July 24th, 2012

Today’s generation is more obsessed with materialism and consumerism than ever before. This much, we know – it’s one of the truisms of our age, not least because of the unquestioning way the media parrots this very message on a regular basis. See, for example, the Daily Mail, July 23rd:

Keeping up with the Joneses’: Comparing ourselves to our Facebook friends now at a whole new level

Everyone is guilty of having a quick flick through their Facebook friends’ holiday snaps from time to time.

But according to a new study, the common idiom ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’, which refers to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social caste, has been taken to a whole new level thanks to social media.

To fail to ‘Keep up with the Joneses’ is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority and now it has been revealed that one in five Facebook and Twitter users admit they now constantly compare themselves to others based purely on the status updates, pictures and messages from their ‘friends’ on social media sites.

The message is clear – in this connected consumerist age, our increased access to the social media status updates and therefore to the social status updates of our friends makes us feel inferior, causing us to become more competitive. Specifically, what are we meant to be competing on? Fortunately, we’re given a list:

The latest study by personal loans provider savviloans.co.uk, shows that ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is now a high-tech affair, with the constant stream of pictures and status updates of holidays, purchases, weddings, babies, new homes and other boasts leading to the rest of us questioning our own lifestyles.

Of course, regular readers would have spotted that the ‘study’ was conducted by savviloans.co.uk – a personal loans company, who you might argue have a strong commercial incentive to emphasise the importance of keeping up with our neighbours, and buying things we can’t afford.

A quick google for ‘savviloans.co.uk press release’ finds us the source of the story – it really is that simple. 

From here we can see that the savviloan’s parent company Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance hired Leeds-based PR firm Hatch Communications, who in turn commissioned a survey via polling firm Opinion Matters, which produced this whole story.

What’s more, we can then take the text of the press release over to Churnalism.com, where we can see that Bianca London of the Daily Mail, who apparently wrote this article, actually took 85% of the press release, adding only 15% of her own take on the story:

To emphasise just how remarkably similar these two stories are, I pulled both the original press release and the Daily Mail article (apparently written by Bianca London) into Word documents, and flicked between them, like this:

Which I think says it all.

“Bad weather puts us off sex!” says creepy firm still asking men to pay to for female holiday companions

July 23rd, 2012

The shocking British summer does more than put a dampener on our barbecue plans – it also dampens the fires of our passions. Or so the Daily Express would have had you believe recently:

NO SEX PLEASE…IT’S RAINING

THE wet weather has put a dampener on everything this summer – including sex.

As Britain flounders in its wettest summer for decades, a new survey has found the torrential rain has been a passion killer which puts both men and women off love-making.

See, they even used that obvious line about putting a dampener on things. However, who commissioned the survey?

The dating website MissTravel.com polled its 20,000 British members on top holiday aphrodisiacs.

Yep, our old friends at MissTravel.com – the ‘wealthy men paying for attractive girls to go on holiday with them’ site, which recently appeared on this very blog after the revelation that women who go on holiday are more likely to sleep with strangers (the implication to their customer base being obvious).

And just in case the implications weren’t obvious enough, here’s the head of the business to bludgeon anyone still not sure what he’s getting at:

Website founder Brandon Wade said there had been a surge in membership with the wet weather.

He said: “Who wants to stay in rainy Britain when they can enjoy the sunshine? Travel itself is the greatest aphrodisiac.”

If consenting adults want to enter into an arrangement whereby companionship and even sex is traded for travel or money, I’ve little issue with that – what bugs me is the pseudosociological truisms trotted out by the company in order to get press attention, and the hook-line-and-sinker approach of Express journalist Tom Morgan in publishing these blatant media-baiting sentiments.

This isn’t news; this is an advert.

Update: Many thanks to Sean Ellis, who pointed out that these ‘findings’ directly contradict previous ‘findings’. From July 1st, 2010:

Rain evidently does a lot to put people in a sexy mood, as 80 percent of U.S. adults say they have had sex during a rainstorm, a survey indicates.

The brand being promoted at the time?

A survey by the makers of Trojan Brand Condoms found 83 percent of Americans rate rain as the best weather for sexual intercourse, while seven in 10 say they have had sex during extreme weather, such as a thunderstorm, a tornado or a hurricane.

Absolutely perfect.

“Isn’t marriage boring?!” says extra-marital ‘dating’ company

July 21st, 2012

From the Daily Mail, July 17th, 2012:

Post-nuptial remorse? Over half of all British married couples regret saying ‘I do’

Your wedding day is meant to be the happiest day of your life – and at the time it most likely was.

But, as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have found out, that feeling does not always last.

In fact more than half of all married couples in Britain admit they have felt regrets about tying the knot, and even the person they chose to tie it with, according to new research.

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So it seems we are a nation upset with our choices of partner, and desperately worried about having to spend our lives with the same lover forever. What fools we all are! Or, not, because:

Additionally, many couples that took part in the survey – which was conducted by independent body OnePoll on behalf of married persons dating website IllicitEncounters.com – stated they regretted getting married even before the first year was over; a shocking 11 per cent regretting getting married on their actual wedding day.

This story was indeed based on a poll by OnePoll – we know OnePoll well, and to call them an ‘independent body’ is quite ludicruous. OnePoll are the survey arm of 72 Point, a full-service PR company who secure press coverage for IllicitEncouters.com. Press coverage like:

And I could go on.

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IllicitEncounters.com, for the uninitiated, is a website offering ‘extra-marital dating’ – so it couldn’t be clearer to see where they might have an interest in encouraging married couples to doubt and regret their fidelity.

“Men like hot sexy brainy girls!” says deodorant firm aimed at horny boys

July 20th, 2012

An interesting piece of sociological research surfaced in both the Daily Mail and The Sun recently, analysing the romantic tastes and preferences of post-recession men. Sort of. Here’s the article in the Daily Mail, July 11th, 2012:

It’s the credit crush! British men now rank brains, wit and sophistication in women above good looks due to economic slump

High-maintenance trophy wives, physical attractiveness and TOWIE-type party girls are these days being shunned by British men in favour of women personality, wit, brains and sophistication, according to new research.

And it seems both the Duchess of Cambridge and the economic downturn are to thank for this shift.

Thanks to the former Kate Middleton’s elegance, classic style and intelligence, British men have now decided they are most attracted to smart, dark-haired women with sophisticated dress sense and a sense of humour.

Psychologists also believe that poor economic conditions have led to people becoming less materialistic, seeking partners who can provide happiness and security rather than manicured nails and good cleavage.

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As you can probably imagine, this is pretty robust scientifically-sound research. Unlike a very similar article in The Sun:

Brit men prefer brains to beauty

SEVEN in ten men say they prefer personality to looks in a woman, a poll suggests.

Brit fellas would also snub TOWIE stars such as Lauren Goodger for a Kate Middleton type who is smart, with dark brown hair and a touch of bronzed skin.

Half the men asked said they were most attracted to brainy girls with a sense of humour and a sophisticated dress sense.

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Oddly, then, the status of the scientific research in the Mail has been downgraded to a tawdry ‘poll’ in The Sun. So who should we believe – The Sun or The Daily Mail? There’s a real Rock/Hard Place scenario if there ever was. Still, discovering who commissioned this research may give us a clue. From The Sun:

In addition, she should be funny, sensitive and thoughtful whilst also being outgoing, the research for Lynx found.

That’s the 4th body paragraph of The Sun article, laying the source of the poll bare. The same confession doesn’t appear in the more serious-angled Daily Mail until the 16th – and penultimate – paragraph:

Kavi Tolani, brand manager at Lynx, the company which conducted the research, said: ‘We’ve always known guys have preferences for different personality types and it’s great to see this in our results.

So the ‘research’ into what type of woman men prefer is actually commissioned by teenage-boy-fragrancers Lynx. And how was this entirely legitimate research conducted? That’d be via a poll on their Facebook page, featuring the photo of a girl they’re labelling as High Maintenance, Sporty, Brainy, Flirty or Party Girl.

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So, not exactly PHD-standard research. Also, as you’ll note, nothing at all to do with the economic downturn or the emergence of Kate Middleton – just a simple case of ‘click on one of these pictures of hot girls please, teenage boys!’. It’s fair to say the Mail’s interpretation and extrapolation of the results into a socio-economic commentary is something of a stretch.

“The Daily Mail aren’t the only culprits… but they’re the worst!” says Bad PR blogger

July 19th, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I’m bored of reading the Daily Mail – I don’t enjoy it, and I’d far prefer not to have to. Unfortunately, time and again, it’s the Mail who have fallen worst for printing PR nonsense as if it were news, so time and again I’m forced to cover them. The Mail didn’t get to be the most-read news site on the internet by having high standards.

Still, merrily enough, today I get to cover not just the Mail, but a whole range of the newspapers, as we learn the hand gestures which annoy people the most, starting with The Express:

THE TOP FIVE GESTURES THAT DRIVE US MAD

THE finger-flicking hand gesture meaning “in inverted commas” has been voted the most irritating of all.

The action, created by curling the index and middle fingers, beat the “talk to the hand” move as the most aggravating part of communication.

Other non-obscene gestures which make the blood boil are putting a finger to the nose to depict “none of your business” and “blah blah blah” where people touch their thumb and forefinger to imitate a chatty mouth.

The Sun’s take focused more on famous gesture-makers, providing a welcome excuse to refer to David Brent (something The Sun appear to adore doing):

David Brent’s ‘inverted commas’ gesture is most annoying

THE finger-flicking “inverted commas” motion has been hailed as the most irritating hand gesture, it has emerged.

The action to emphasise a word with a hint of irony – beloved of nerdy boss David Brent from The Office – beat the “talk to the hand” gesture as the most aggravating part of daily communication.

The Telegraph, however, take a more high-brow approach, with John McCain demonstrating the hated quote marks gesture, topping off a near-identical story to the others:

Why making finger quote marks may cost your credibility

People who like to be sarcastic by making inverted commas with their fingers may want to think twice, as it has been named the most irritating hand gesture used in daily communication.

The “speech marks” created by curling the index and middle fingers of both hands, was named ahead of motioning people to “talk to the hand” by extending one arm towards them while looking away, or touching a finger to the nose to suggest “mind your own business”.

And finally, predictably, The Daily Mail take on the story in some length.

Of course, needless to say, all four versions of the stories (and the other incarnations in print and online) are all based on the same press release – equally predictably sourced from our friends over at 72 Point / OnePoll. In fact, all four versions are so clearly taken from the same press release we can even rank their use of copy and paste:

  • The Daily Telegraphunnamed journalist – 56% copied from press release
  • The Sun – unnamed journalist – 72% copied from press release
  • The Daily ExpressJane Matthews – 81% copied from press release
  • The Daily MailRick Dewsbury – 85% copied from press release

Rather interestingly, then, the newspapers most guilty of presenting this press release unchecked as news are the ones who name their journalists. That Jane Matthews of the Express (who we know has form for this) contributed less than a fifth to her article, and Rick Dewsbury less even than that, is somewhat remarkably.

As for the source of the press release, and the service this anthropological study was set up to advertise? Quirky and frivolous iPhone app ‘Goggle Eyes’. Bizarre.

“Women lie about almost everything!” says makers of film about spies

July 18th, 2012

Every now and then a survey story throws up something ill-judged and ill-fitting to the product being promoted, such as this recent gem from The Sun:

One in ten women lie about their past sexual partners

ONE in ten women lies about the number of people they’ve slept with to a new partner, new research shows.

And the study found younger women are twice as likely to be economical with the truth when they meet a new bloke.

So, in essence, women lie (albeit a minority of them, given that 9 in 10 are seemingly entirely truthful in their recounting bedpost notches). Anything else?

But the biggest fib told by women covers the amount of money they spend on clothes, with 26 per cent glossing over the cost of their shopping sprees.

And 20 per cent of lasses said they had lied about their weight, while six per cent claim to be younger than they really are.

So far, so reliably trotting out gender stereotypes.

But blokes can be even worse than the girls when it comes to telling porkies.

The research found men lie 650 times a year, compared to just 537 fibs for women.

Interesting, then, that The Sun chose to bias the lead to their article entirely around the lies of women.

The most common lies for the fellas are excuses for being late, or pretending they’ll be home earlier than they will be.

And 20 per cent of men admitted to lying about the amount of alcohol the had drunk.

And so it goes on, although surprisingly not to then cover the inherent issues with having people report on how often they lie: issues like the fallibility of memory, the definition of what constitutes a lie, the unreliability of people self-reporting their lies and in particular their year-old lies, and so on. In short, it’s crap. But who owns this crap?

The study into why we lie was carried out to mark the DVD release of spy thriller Safe House, which stars Denzel Washington.

I’ve not seen the film – I presume it contains a lot of people lying. Or at the very least making up unlikely, unhelpful and uninteresting stereotype-laden stories in order to sell itself to a bored audience.

“People get stuck in traffic!” says traffic-avoidance gadget

July 17th, 2012

Elsewhere on Bad PR we’ve covered the PR trick of highlighting the extremes of a closed data set: the ‘SOMEONE has to come last’ trick. Here it is perfectly demonstrated in The Daily Mail on July 10th, 2012:

Drivers in Yorkshire spend 86 hours a year stuck in traffic jams… and even Londoners have it easier

If you thought your commute was bad, spare a thought for the drivers of Yorkshire.

The Leeds-Bradford area is the most congested in Britain, with drivers spending 86 hours a year stuck in jams.

Traffic in the conurbation increases journey times by an average of 28 per cent – and up to 63 per cent in the morning rush hour, a study has found

Of course, if this poll hadn’t found Yorkshire to be the worst for traffic jams, it would have found somewhere else – the story would have been identical, with one word changed. It’s clear to see how this could appeal to a PR company, who could have their entire story written before the data even comes in.

Who placed this story in the papers?

Harold Goddijn, chief executive officer of TomTom, said: ‘Over the years, with the help of our customers, we have built the largest and most accurate database of travel times in the world.

‘When we combine this travel database with our detailed real-time traffic information and routing technology, we can not only pin point congestion, but can guide drivers away from congested areas onto faster routes.’

‘Even when only a percentage of drivers use a different and faster route, the available capacity on the entire road network increases, which benefits all drivers.’

So, essentially: ‘traffic jams are bad, if only you had a product like ours that would allow you to avoid them’.

“Office work will make you too fat for your clothes!” says large-size clothing retailer

July 16th, 2012

A somewhat straightforward one, once we get there, from the Daily Mail on July 2nd, 2012:

How a desk job can make you fat: Bored office workers gain a stone a year by gorging on unhealthy snacks

Being desk-bound and bored at work is fuelling Britain’s obesity epidemic as employees are reaching for unhealthy snacks to pass the day.

Competition to bring the best cakes into the office on special occasions like birthdays is also contributing to bulging waistlines, according to a recent survey. 

Researchers found 42 per cent of office workers have gained up to a stone in a year as they graze on snacks such as cake and biscuits during their working hours.

Who may these obesity researchers have been researching on behalf of?

However, despite having greater willpower, the survey by men’s fashion retailer High and Mighty found more of the women polled put on weight over the course of a year.

That would be the oversize-clothing-retailer High and Mighty. And, in case even that implication was too subtle, spokesperson Gill Politis spells it out for us:

You’re going to lose and gain weight throughout your life, it’s unavoidable. But our research seems to show that you’re more likely to gain weight during your office life.’

‘The worst thing you can do if you put on or lose a couple of pounds is to stick to the same clothes. They’re unflattering and will exaggerate your size,’ she said.

There we have it – essentially you are all going to get fat because of the office, and when you do, you know where to buy some new trousers.

“Sex is a lot like tennis!” says sex toy firm during Wimbledon

July 15th, 2012

From the Daily Mail, July 2nd, 2011:

Sex is like tennis – women are making FAR more noise! 

The courts at Wimbledon will be much quieter from today after Maria Sharapova, who is known as one of the noisiest women in the sport, was knocked out of the tournament.

Her shrieks during the game sometimes exceed 100 decibels, while other female players like Serena Williams are also far noisier when playing than their male counterparts.

Now a survey has revealed that it’s not just on the tennis courts that women are louder than men – they are also far noisier in the bedroom.

It seems when the nation turn their eyes to tennis, so do the PR companies, with this particular story appearing right in the middle of Wimbledon and carrying with it the perennial headline-booster that a silly sex story can be relied upon for.

It’s fair to say this story fits more into the ‘generally accepted stereotype’ than the ‘shock finding’ category, and equally unshocking is the source of the survey – online sex toy sellers lovehoney.com:

One respondent to the survey carried out by online sex retailer lovehoney.co.uk said: ‘Sex is largely like the tennis at Wimbledon…

What a set up line! I wonder how that sentence ends…

  • Sex is largely like the tennis at Wimbledon… more fun when it doesn’t involved Cliff Richards? 
  • Sex is largely like the tennis at Wimbledon… perfectly enjoyable until Andy Murray gets knocked out?
  • Sex is largely like the tennis at Wimbledon… somewhat less interesting after the end of the first week?
  • Sex is largely like the tennis at Wimbledon… inevitably dominated by one of the Williams sisters?

Sex is largely like the tennis at Wimbledon… the women are making far more noise!’

Personally, I preferred my versions. As the Mail continues:

Sex expert Tracey Cox said there was no scientific reason why women are louder than men.

Yeah, that doesn’t sound likely to me – there may be currently no known or provable reason why women are louder than men, but it seems highly unlikely that we can be sure there’s no scientific reason, and even more unlikely that such a decree can be confidently made by media sex expert and nominative determinism case study Tracy Cox.

“It’s still worth writing things by hand!” says stationers

July 14th, 2012

The things the Daily Mail classifies as science never fail to amuse me. When it’s not dividing the entire world up into items which either cause or cure cancer (there is no third way), it’s publishing PR stories like this in the science pages:

Could we forget how to WRITE? The typical adult has not scribbled anything by hand for six weeks

If you can’t remember the last time you jotted down a hand-written note, you are not alone.

For a study suggests that the days of using pen and paper may be numbered – with a typical adult not having written anything for almost six weeks.

In a world where we increasingly tap out our thoughts, messages and reminders on a keyboard or a touchscreen phone, the traditional note or letter appears to be becoming redundant.

Six weeks without writing? As anyone who recalls getting back to school after Summer holiday will tell you, six weeks without writing will make it seem like you can’t write any more. So perhaps there’s something to this…

Just kidding – see who commissioned the research:

The research, commissioned by online stationer Docmail, revealed that the average time since an adult last wrote by hand was 41 days. But it also found that one in three of us has not had cause to write anything ‘properly’ for more than six months.

Docmail – the online stationery retailer – think that if you go six weeks without writing, you might forget how to write altogether. This is in the Daily Mail Science section, bear in mind.

Worth highlighting is the quotes around ‘properly’ – even the Mail can’t commit to that as the centrepoint of a shock statistic. What counts as writing ‘properly’? Scribbling down a note to pin on the fridge? Writing out a birthday card? Adding another entry to your ‘Dear Diary’? Or polishing off your novel about a sparkling vampire who solves puzzles and unlocks the secrets of the Catholic church while tying a middle aged and bored housewife to the bedpost with bonds fashioned from his own tired clichés?

The definition of what counts as really ‘writing’ something ‘properly’ is crucial in figuring out if this stat is real, or merely PR bullshit put out by a company who’s livelihood depends on convincing people that stationery is vital in today’s digital age. Speaking of which:

Dave Broadway, managing director for Docmail, said: ‘It’s a shame handwriting is in general decline, but that’s come about from the need for convenience and communication that is clear and quick.

‘People by habit will always look for shortcuts or to make their life easier, and that’s the reason technology is so prominent in our everyday lives.

‘What will always be of importance is the quality of what we’re communicating and how we convey ourselves.

‘Handwriting will always carry a sentimental value but inevitably makes way when it comes to the need to be efficient.’

In case it weren’t overly apparent, this whole story came from a press release from Docmail, which we can see over on their website.

Once more, a quick glance at Churnalism.com shows that the Daily Mail’s version of the article copied 71% from the original press release, meaning journalist Eddie Wrenn appears to have added only 29% to this Science piece. 

It’s a good job journalists don’t have to rely on handwriting, really – it would make copy press releases wholesale far more tricky.