Monthly Archives: July 2012

“You know what can beat the morning grumps? A shower!” says shower manufacturer

July 13th, 2012

From the Daily Mail on June 21st, 2012:

In a bad mood this morning? Six out of ten of us wake up grumpy

  • Brits have more than 6,000 grumpy mornings in a lifetime
  • Hot showers, tea and coffee help raise mood

Six out of ten Brits regularly wake up in a bad mood, research revealed yesterday.

A study found that on average, at least two mornings a week are blighted by black moods.

That equates to 6,292 strops over the course of a lifetime.

People are unhappy about getting out of bed? Ground-breaking research indeed. Just who do we have to thank for this discovery?

One in ten admitted they were ‘shattered’ when they woke up, while another 10 per cent said work issues made them stroppy in the mornings.

One in four of those polled by Triton Showers said they automatically woke up in a grumpy mood, often for no reason.

Excellent – that would be shower company Triton Showers. If only Triton had some handy solution to our morning grumpiness…

Triton spokesman Tina Simpson said: ‘Waking up in a foul mood is something we can all relate to, but over 6,000 mornings of our lives ruined by a shocking mood does sound rather high.

‘However it’s interesting to see that, rather than breakfast, a refreshing shower, hot drink and spell of good weather are the top three things we need to lift our mood and sets us up for the day ahead.’

Phew, thank god for that, then.

“If only there was something to do on a Sunday!” says hotel firm offering Sunday promotions

July 12th, 2012

Sundays can be pretty boring, can’t they? What with Monday around the corner and all? The Daily Mail certainly thinks so:

When the weekend ends: 4:13pm on Sunday is when we get the blues ahead of the working week

Anxiety about the working week ahead officially starts at 4.13pm on a Sunday, according to a poll.

Four out of ten adults admit that their Sunday is spent feeling anxious and full of dread.

The mild sense of depression begins half way through the afternoon and continues into the evening.

4.13pm is the time we begin to dread Monday? That’s an oddly specific time, isn’t it? There’s a very good reason for this:

  1. It’s unusual and specific, and therefore seems science-y and more memorable
  2. It’s made up – or rather, it’s generated from a survey which couldn’t possibly measure the exact time when people begin to feel down about going to work, and is almost certainly an artefact from poorly-created questions and multiple-choice answers.

Consider point 2 for a moment: how would you objectively measure the exact time – to the minute – at which people begin to contemplate returning to work? For one thing, the likelihood that there is a specific time when those sentiments kick in is incredibly remote. Further, the survey could only measure what people report as being the time they begin to dread work, and who could possibly be sure of such a thing?

Far more likely is that respondents were given a range of times to choose (perhaps to the nearest hour), and the 4.13pm figure is generated by averaging out the responses collected. What we have is the equivalent of having 30 blindfolded people pin the tail on the donkey, and then confidently stating that the donkey’s tail really belongs in the middle of all of the guesses. If the donkey’s tail even exists. And if there’s even a donkey.

Before we see who commissioned the survey, there’s just time to appreciate just how hard the PR company is working to ram home the core brand message:

The study of 2,000 adults also found that 44 per cent of workers will go into work on a Monday, hear about everyone else’s plans and think theirs were boring in comparison.

But this might be because three quarters of people often don’t even bother leaving the house on a Sunday.

Forty-six per cent even admit to regularly going through the last day of the weekend without seeing or speaking to anyone else.

And nearly half of those polled reckon they would be less likely to get an attack of the blues on a Sunday if the evening was more exciting.

A third of adults reckon their ideal Sunday would involve a day trip to somewhere new, while a quarter would like a nice roast dinner in a restaurant followed by a lazy stroll.

A fifth of people would love to extend their weekend socialising to a Sunday, making the most of friends, family and the children.

So too many people don’t leave the house on Sunday, would prefer to do something exciting on a Sunday, don’t see people on a Sunday but would like to go somewhere new on a Sunday, especially if they could extend their weekend to a Sunday night. Who commissioned the survey, and why?

Claire Haigh, spokesman for Premier Inn, which conducted the study to launch their £19 room sale, said: ‘Sundays should be a day to relax and enjoy the last of the weekend break but the results show that people are instead spending their Sundays thinking about work for the week ahead, so they are the most dreaded day of the week.

‘For many Brits Sundays are considered boring and many don’t even bother to leave their house, but it is important that people make the most of their weekends.

‘Premier Inn know that Sunday’s are often the day for checking out after a great weekend, but with rooms available from as little as £19 it is easier for people to make their weekend’s last longer without tugging on the purse strings.

Your Sundays would be much better if you did something interesting with them, and Premier Inn have cheap rooms on a Sunday.

As a side note, notice in the quote from Clare Haigh the incorrect use of Sunday’s as the plural of Sunday. This is interesting for a number of reasons:

  1. The Daily Mail printed a quote with a clear, simple, annoying grammatical error in it.
  2. The same grammatical error was present in the original press release.
  3. The Daily Mail therefore not only copied 82% of the press release into their own ‘news’ article, but they didn’t even bother to correct the grammar during their copy/paste job.

Perhaps the person responsible for checking grammar was too busy booking themselves into a cheap hotel.

“Lesbians are good for headlines!” says promoters of lesbian TV drama

July 11th, 2012

The notion that ‘sex sells’ has long since passed from truism to cliché, the cliché is never more true than when you can throw in the opportunity to show photographs of famous, attractive women. Which goes a long way to explaining this, from the ever-reliably-lecherous Sun:

Most women fancy a snog with Cheryl

ONE in two straight women has snogged a girl friend — and Cheryl Cole is the celeb most would share a gay kiss with.

A survey of 2,000 women found that half have thought nothing of paying a pal some lip service.

Of those, 40 per cent said they were drunk at the time, while a quarter claimed they were just curious to know what tickling tonsils with a girl was like.

Not to mention this three-for-one from the equally-lecherous Daily Mail:

Cheryl Cole, Angelina Jolie and Duchess Kate voted top female celebrities straight women would choose for lesbian clinch

Cheryl Cole is the starlet women would most like to have a lesbian fling with, according to findings. 

Fellow brunettes Angelina Jolie and the Duchess of Cambridge were also rated highly during a study exploring female sexuality.

More than half of heterosexual girls questioned (51 per cent) admitted to passionately kissing another woman on the lips, with 37 per cent saying they were drunk at the time.

Very little about the story is worth passing comment on, but it is however worth pointing out that this ‘study on female sexuality’ was in fact a standard PR opinion poll commissioned to publicise the release of BBC’s lesbian-centric drama Lip Service.

“We don’t clean often or thoroughly enough!” says cleaning product manufacturers

July 10th, 2012

I like it when a story is plain and simple, with no twists and turns. Take, for example, this one from the Express:

WHAT A DIRTY LOT…SO MANY SKIP HYGIENE

MILLIONS don’t bother with basic personal hygiene because they are too busy or too lazy, a survey revealed yesterday.

Researchers found barely half of British adults always wash their hands with soap after visiting the toilet. And a quarter of workers claim to be too rushed to wash and dry their hands properly after nipping to the loo.

A morning shower is regularly skipped by 58 per cent of men, with a quarter admitting they would rather have the extra time in bed. One in three said they simply couldn’t be bothered.

And its partner from the Daily Mail:

We really ARE the great unwashed! Brits ‘too busy’ to wash their hands after using the loo – while over half of men skip their daily shower

Millions of Britons neglect a string of basic personal hygiene tasks – because they are too busy or too lazy, a survey found today.

Researchers found barely half of adults always wash their hands with soap after visiting the toilet.

And shockingly 27 per cent of workers claim to be too rushed at work to wash and dry their hands properly after visiting the toilet.

Additionally, 58 per cent of men regularly skip the morning shower – with one quarter admitting they would rather have the extra time in bed.

Incredibly, one quarter of lazy Brits change their bed sheets just once a month.

Here we have a simple, easy-to-follow story telling the tale that we Brits are dirty, filthy creatures who don’t know the value of soap and have no clue how to keep ourselves clean. There are no prizes for guessing where this one is heading.

Before we get there, a quick note on some of the stats:

  • 58 per cent of men regularly skip the morning shower – this stat is meanignless without a definition of what constitutes ‘regularly’, an analysis of how many respondents had access to a shower (rather than just a bath), and how many respondents opted for a late-night shower instead
  • with one quarter admitting they would rather have the extra time in bed… one in three said they simply couldn’t be bothered – presented as if to seem like a quarter or third of the 2000 people polled, this is actually one quarter of the 58% above, therefore this stat not only suffers from the issues its parent stat does, but also from the issue of now including a much smaller number of respondents
  • One in twenty of the 2,000 adults polled … said the last time they cleaned their toilet was a month ago and 10 per cent said it was two weeks ago – does this reflect the last time their toilet was cleaned, or the last time the respondent cleaned it? It’s beyond plausible that other members of the household could have cleaned the toilet, yet with the incorrect wording of the question we’d see only the last time the particular respondent personally undertook the cleaning.
  • one quarter of lazy Brits change their bed sheets just once a month – oddly this contradicts other equally-scientific ‘findings’ in the past, stating that Brits change their bedsheets either once every three weeks (Daily Mail, April 2012, for shopping channel QVC), or just four times a year (Daily Mail, February 2010, for insurers Sheila’s Wheels). It’s almost as if this isn’t science at all, but meaningless paper-filling PR drivel.

Speaking of which, this was a study conducted on behalf of cleaning product manufacturers Dettol by 72Point’s polling arm (and our old friends) OnePoll – we know that because here it is on their site:

Quite remarkably, the Daily Mail version of the story (which was ‘written’ by Deborah Arthurs) takes 90% of its text directly from the OnePoll press release, meaning that the journalist involved contributed only 10% to the article.

Similarly, the article in the Express, attributed to Jane Matthews, was actually 80% copied and pasted from the press release, making the Jane of the Express twice as good as Deborah of the Daily Mail, but still operating at only a fifth of the quality standard expected of a professional journalist. Value for money, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, is anybody else left feeling a bit dirty?

“Some of our members wash cars less often than others!” says breakdown service

July 10th, 2012

From the Daily Mail, July 9th, 2012:

Wealthier motorists are ‘too posh to wash’ their cars, an AA survey reveals today.

They are more willing to drive dirtier vehicles for longer than poorer but prouder owners who prefer to keep their cars clean.

Only one in 17 car owners from professional and managerial backgrounds wash their vehicle once a week, reveals the survey. That compares with one in 12 among lower-income motorists, which includes manual and part-time workers.

Overall, a grubby 3 per cent of the 18,080 AA members surveyed admitted to washing their cars just once a year or not at all. Among women drivers, this figure doubled to 6 per cent.

While 18,080 represents a remarkably large sample size, it’s worth bearing in mind the self-selecting nature of the respondents – all of respondents were people who’d chosen to be members of the AA. This could throw up all sorts of biases – for example, the average higher-income driver may well be able to afford to be part of the AA, whereas the average lower-income driver may not.

In effect, this would bias the survey to include a higher proportion of those lower-income drivers who prioritise car care and thus fork out for AA cover, whereas the lower-income driver who doesn’t see car care as as much of a priority will be missing from the survey – a distinction which may be lessened where the drivers have more disposable income.

What’s more, the ensuing breakdown is little more than data-mining – without outlining ahead of time the questions you’re looking to answer (such as ‘do wealthier people neglect washing their cars?’), any findings from the data can’t be confidently stated, especially with the narrow margins involved.

Take for example the 1 in 17 wealthier-backgrounded people who wash their car each week, compared to the 1 in 12 people of lower-income: broken down to a percentage, this is the difference between 5% and 8% – which may not pass for statistically significant. It’s certainly not enough to assert that poorer people are ‘prouder’ of their cars.

Consider also – does the survey show that poorer people have cleaner cars, or that people of lower-income wash their own cars more often than those who have the disposable income to pay to have their car cleaned by someone else? Similarly, the statement ‘3% of people admitted to washing their cars just once a year’ may well show that there are unwashed cars around, or it may actually show the number of people who wouldn’t say they had ‘washed their car’ if someone else had washed it for them. Without access to the survey and the questions, we have data but no information.

The survey showed that drivers in Scotland and North-East England have the cleanest cars, with 11 per cent of owners washing them every week. This compares to just 4 per cent in London and South-West England.

Rather confusingly, here, the AA has changed its mind as to what the data represents – if the more well-off amongst us wash our own cars less often than the lower-income driver, would a higher incidence of car-washing in the North East show a higher proportion of cleaner cars, or a higher proportion of lower-income drivers? Again, we have data but no information.

AA president Edmund King said: ‘The Victorian concept of the ‘great unwashed’ perhaps needs to be reversed as richer drivers have dirtier motors.’

Before we go overturning any old adages, it’s probably best to analyse and understand what story we’ve uncovered. If we don’t we’re largely left with a case of Have Data, Will Mine.

“Women have sex on holiday!” says creepy firm asking men to pay to for female holiday companions

July 9th, 2012 (Updated: July 23rd, 2012)

Some PR stories are so clearly and obviously pitched that the same article, in almost the same words, can feed into the narratives of multiple newspapers at once. Here’s one such example, leered over excitingly by The Sun:

Brit hol girls go bonkers! Third enjoy sex on beach

BRITISH girls are hot stuff on their hols — with a THIRD admitting they have enjoyed a bonk on the beach.

More than 40 per cent of women under 30 have had a one-night stand on holiday — while one in ten have had at least FIVE lovers during a week-long break.

The shocking survey of British holidaymakers’ love lives also reveals nine in ten girls have more sex in the sun than when they’re at home.

And here’s the same story being sneered at and morally-judged by the softcore-pornography-clearing-house that is the Daily Mail Online:

Sun, sea and sex: More than 40% of women under 30 admit to having one-night stands on holiday

More than 40 per cent of British women under 30 have had a one-night stand on holiday, according to a new survey.

The poll, which explored the nation’s sexual habits, found that holiday-makers are more likely to have casual sex abroad than when they are at home.

And getting in touch with their adventurous side, 30 per cent said they enjoyed spending evenings canoodling outdoors on the beach.

Which side are we meant to fall on? Are we to rub our knees and phwoar like a Carry On film? Or should we tut and dismiss the youth of today as a bunch of amoral hussies? Or, maybe, we should take a look behind the survey, and see what that tells us… from the Mail:

The findings were revealed in a poll for dating website MissTravel.com, which asked its 30,000 female British members ten questions about their sexual habits during their summer holidays.

Commenting on the findings CEO Brandon Wade, said: ‘It is clear that women become much more sexually liberated when they are out of their comfort zone.

‘Once they get into their bikini or travel to an exciting new city our members’ thoughts turn to sex.

‘Almost one in three of our members have had sex on a beach

MissTravel.com, for those who aren’t aware, are less of a dating website and more of a ‘wealthy men paying for attractive girls to go on holiday with them’ opportunity. From their own website:

Who needs money, beautiful people travel for free! Travel dating for generous and attractive people

The business is model runs thus: single men with plenty of money are able to choose young, attractive women from the pages of the website’s catalogue membership list, and determine which of them they’d like to hire accompany for a holiday. Such sites are relatively new, albeit based on a business model which bears striking similarity to the world’s oldest profession. Which would of course be fine, were it sold transparently so, rather than hiding the model behind the seeming legitimacy of this pseudo-sociological bullshit research.

Looking again at the story through the lens of the dubious product it’s promoting, the angle is clear:

Hey, men! Finding it hard to get into a girl’s knickers? Join our site, pay us a fee, take a stranger abroad and you’ll have a 2 in 5 chance of getting laid. You’re welcome, creepy millionaire / desperate and frustrated singleton!

At least The Sun have the good grace to display their venality up front – The Daily Mail’s faux outrage at the amoral youth of today is somewhat undone by the otherwise glowing reports of Miss Travel and their ilk below the fold in the article.

“All men’s stag parties are tame!” says Wedding Planner’s weak survey of not-all-men

July 8th, 2012

Key to getting high-quality, informative data from your market research is to ensure you have a solid representative sample of your consumer base – partly by having a large sample size, and partly by selecting your sample from a broad and unbiased range of demographics.

Here’s an excellent example of how it’s not to be done, from the Daily Mail, June 14th: Are X-rated bachelor parties on the way out?

The rise of low-key grooms who want pre-wedding bashes WITHOUT the strippers It seems that booze-fueled bachelor parties filled with strippers are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

A survey conducted on Tuesday by TheKnot.com, the wedding planning website, found that 61per cent of brides-to-be claim that their fiances are planning ‘low-key’ bachelor parties.

‘Tamer’ dinners and relaxed drinks are proving to be popular options for grooms-to-be these days.

Conducted on the website’s Facebook page, the survey received 61 responses from brides; 37 of them said their fiances didn’t want a wild bachelor event while 24 of them said they did.

Setting aside the ridiculous assumptions that a) stag do’s should involve strippers for them to be ‘real’, and b) stag do’s without strippers are ‘tame’, what we have here is a sweeping statement about the trends and habits of a nation… based on 61 people, surveyed via Facebook poll. This very poll, in fact:

In terms of survey sampling, this is abysmal. Not only is a sample size of 61 respondents too small to be able to assume anything at all, but given that the difference between the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ options is just 7 people, it’s extremely unlikely to be reliable. 

Added to that, we have the complications of the vague question wording – what qualifies as tame? And what if the part will involve a ‘tame’ activity and then something more raucous – which option should be ticked? Notice, in fact, that the strippers found in the headline of the Daily Mail aren’t even found in the question. 

Finally, how random is our sample of 61 respondents? Bearing in mind that the survey was conducted on The Knot’s Facebook page, the audience of which is overwhelmingly female. Even the very question isn’t directed at the attendees of the stag party – instead we’re measuring the assumptions and beliefs of 61 women who already subscribe to a wedding planner’s Facebook page, and then extrapolating the response up to be a verdict on the state of the nation.

I have no idea whether in actuality men are visiting strippers more or less commonly on their stag do. But given the shoddy and weak nature of the survey by The Knot, neither do they, and neither do the newspapers running the story.