Monthly Archives: November 2012

“Scientists find the formula for the perfect pint!” says pub chain who paid those scientists

What factors go into creating the perfect beer? It’s an age-old question, if you believe The Sun and the Daily Mail, who both declared the search for the ultimate tipple was over, after scientists (or ‘Beer Boffins’ according to The Sun) discovered the formula to creating the perfect pint:

How to pour the perfect pint: Scientists devise complex formula for ale lovers (though following it after you’ve had a few could be tricky)

Scientists claim to have cracked the code of every drinker’s dreams – what makes a perfect pint.

Based on surroundings, music volume and the number of drinking partners, researchers have devised a formula that can calculate what makes a perfect pint for any given individual.

The equation also takes into account the availability of snacks, the ambient room temperature, and the number of days until you are required back at work.

Source: Daily Mail, 19 October 2012

Scientists discover formula for the perfect pint… And they had supped around 1,000 drinks along the way!

BEER boffins reckon they’ve finally discovered the secret of the perfect pint

For centuries, Brits have debated what it is about a favourite tipple that makes it stand out from the rest. Now experts reckon they have finally cracked it – after asking 1,000 volunteers around the country to take part in a mass survey for brewers Taylor Walker.

The result is a mathematical formula that takes into account everything from pub ambience to the time of day and what snacks are available in your local boozer at the time you consume the pint.

Source: The Sun, 19 October 2012

So far, so good – and the formula produced certainly looks like science: 

E = -(0.62T2 + 39.2W2 + 62.4P2) + (21.8T + 184.4W + 395.4P + 94.5M – 90.25V) + 50(S + F + 6.4)*

But what does this actually mean? Handily we’re provided a helpful key:

T = The ambient temperature in degrees Celsius 

W = The number of days until you are required back at work

P = The number of people with whom you are drinking 

M = Related to your mood whilst drinking the pint 

V = Related to the volume of the music being played

S and F are related to the availability of snacks and food.

Decoding the formula, we can see that the ‘beer boffins’ have concluded that the perfect pint occurs when a drinker is in pub is of ambient temperature with snacks available, where the music isn’t too loud, with lots of people around (but not too many), at a time when the drinker has a large number of days until having to go back to work.

Those beer boffins, how DO they do it?

Still, that said, just because the formula matches what we might come up with ourselves with a moment to think about it, doesn’t make it false, right? Well, no – but it might make it irrelevant, especially if the source was less than genuine…

The complex formula was devised after researchers polled 1,000 volunteers from up and down the country on what conditions they preferred when drinking their pint.

Dr David Lewis, who calculated the formula at Mindlab on behalf of pub chain Taylor Walker, said: ‘Following all of our research we developed a formula for the perfect pint.

In fact, the formula was commissioned by a pub chain – presumably to then declare that they not only know how to make the perfect pint, but that a pint in their pub is scientifically guaranteed to be the perfect pint.

As for the survey of 1,000 volunteers from up and down the country – the article certainly makes it sound like these volunteers had to visit many pubs, sample many drinks and really put themselves through their paces before offering their opinions, doesn’t it? After all, as The Sun declared:

…and they had supped around 1,000 drinks along the way!

So what was the research methodology carried out by these scientists? It was… an online poll via friends of the site OnePoll:

So much for volunteers, and so much for legitimate research.

And what of Dr David Lewis, the scientist behind the research? What role do they, and their so-called ‘Mindlab‘ play? How much legitimacy do we have there?

At Mindlab International we provide cutting-edge insight into the behaviour of individuals in a wide range of situations.

Our proprietary Neurometrix2 technology will allow you to make better informed business decisions, improve sales and enhance brand efficiency.

In other words, Mindlab may be scientists, but they’re very clearly also a brand and market research company, masquerading behind the banner of scientific legitimacy. And they have form – from this year in the Daily Mail alone:

The point here is clear – while the formula Mindlab were paid by a brewery to come up with may describe reality, and may fit in with what we know, that doesn’t make it real science. When the source is so clearly commercially-motivated, and the goal is to achieve publicity, discussing the merits of the research is to be taken in by the smoke and mirrors of the trick. The only story here is that Taylor Walker and Mindlab wanted to get headlines, and they succeeded.

“Women need to impress other women!” says swimwear company

The Daily Mail has never been shy when it comes to piling pressure onto women to look good – just take a glance at the neverending-sidebar-of-gossip-and-flesh for more examples than you’d ever be able to sit through.

Keeping women in a state of constant paranoia about their looks requires eternal vigilence, lest anybody start to feel good about themselves, so it’s no surprise to see one of the Mail’s foremost poll-pasters Martha de Lacy putting this article together:

Women spend more time checking out OTHER WOMEN than they do men (and it’s their clothes, figures and hair we’re most interested in)

Ever get the feeling your boyfriend is looking at other women as you walk down the street?

Well, perhaps he’s picking up the habit from you.

Women spend more time checking out other women than they do checking out men, keen to see what ‘the opposition’ is wearing, how much cellulite they have, what their hair looks like and how thin they are, according to a new study.

Source: Daily Mail, 14 November 2012

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The article outlines the myriad reasons women have to fear the gaze of their judgemental fellow ladies: 

Clocking other women’s shoes, height, cellulite, where their handbag is from and whether or not they have had plastic surgery is the usual thought process, the study found.

Unsurprisingly, the Mail article by Martha is actually overwhelmingly copied from the original press release, seen here on the website of 72 Point – the marketing company behind the ubiquitous dodgy pollsters OnePoll:

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In fact, according to Churnalism.com, Martha took 76% of the original press release, adding very little of her own work to the process.

Who is the company who wants women to feel under constant scrutiny about their looks?

Helen Boyle, stylist for Swimwear365, said: ‘There is not a woman on the planet who doesn’t love people-watching and having a sneaky look at other women.

The beach is probably the best place to have a good nose at other women, you don’t usually get to see people half-dressed and in so much detail.

That would be Swimwear365, the beachware specialists:

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…

“Women will sleep with you on a first date!” says dating website

Chalking up another one in the ‘subverting common stereotype’ category, the Daily Mail declared:

Sex on the first date? No thanks, say MEN: Women are now happier to jump into bed with a new partner than men are

– Half of men would be turned off by a woman who wanted to have sex after going on only one date

– Only 39% of women felt the same way about men

It’s men who are desperate to leap into bed with women after just one date, right?

Wrong, according to new research suggesting that the stereotype is now defunct, and these days things are in fact the other way around.

Source: Daily Mail, 16 November 2012

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Who’s behind the research?

Women are now more comfortable having sex on a first date than men are, with almost half of men actually turned off when a woman wants to get intimate after going out only once, and only 39 per cent of women feeling that way, according to dating website Parship.

That’s Parship – the dating website:

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So the angle is clear: ‘Hey men, women will sleep with you if you can get a date… so you should pay to join our dating website!’

“Wear a nice pink cotton shirt, you’ll make more money!” says cotton spokesperson

According to the Daily Mail:

The power of pink: Men who wear shirts of that colour earn £1,000 a year more than those who don’t

– Men who wear pink also tend to be confident and get more compliments from female colleagues

– Research also found men in white are most punctual, while those in blue have the least work romances

Men who wear pink shirts to work earn more and are better qualified than those who favour traditional colours such as white or blue, it has emerged.

Researchers also found men who wear pink are more likely to get compliments from female colleagues and are more confident characters in the office.

The story was also picked up by The Independent and The Telegraph. Who were the researchers undertaking this valuable research?
 
Stephanie Thiers-Ratcliffe, International Marketing Manager for Cotton USA, which commissioned the study, said: ‘You can tell a lot about someone by the colour they wear.
It isn’t hard to see why a cotton spokesperson might have an interest in reminding us of the value of a nice cotton shirt.
 
Unsurprisingly, the research was carried out by OnePoll – the polling company behind almost every dodgy survey story you’ll see, and a company who have such more work published in the Daily Mail they’re practically on retainer. Here’s the press release on their parent company’s website:
 
Plugging the press release into Churnalism.com, it’s clear that the Daily Mail’s David Baker had a laid-back morning on the 22nd, taking a whopping 84% of his article directly from the press release. Not too far behind him was Mark Reynolds of the Daily Express, who took 67% of his article from the press release.
 
As for the so-called research, the findings have a near-astrological feel: 
 
One in four men feels more attractive in a pink shirt and those who frequently wear purple or lilac have the most office romances, while those who prefer blue have the least.
 
Men who wear pink are also twice as likely to have a Master’s degree than those who favour white shirts, with one in ten pink shirt wearers having a PHD.
The report also found men who favour shirts with green tones are the most likely to be late for work, whilst white shirt fans are the most punctual, the survey found.
And if you are trying for a promotion then it’s best to dress in a purple shirt, it emerged.
So it may well be that the colour of your shirt dictates certain attributes about your life… or it may well be that if you ask enough questions, you’ll gather enough data to be able to mine your way to a raft of meaningless conclusions.
 
Also, can you spot the glaring flaw? I’ll give you a hint: since when did anyone ever wear the same shirt colour every day…?

“People watch lots of repeats on TV!” says streaming-on-demand service ahead of Christmas

November 22nd, 2012

One of the hardest, but potentially most effective, tricks to pull off in Bad PR is to have the same story, from the same questionable data, spun off into two entirely separate-seeming articles.

The reasons are pretty straightforward – generating two convincing angles from the same source doubles the potential take-up of your press release, allowing you to pitch to multiple publications at various levels of the market. What’s more, diverging your angles also serves to help obscure the source and nature of the story.

Take for example, stories from the Daily Mail and the Independent from earlier in the week: 

Time well spent? Average Briton spends nine years of their life watching TV – with three years wasted on ‘rubbish’ and repeats

– British adults spend nine years of their life watching TV

– On average, they spend three-and-a-half hours in front of the small screen each day

– Five times longer than 650 days which is combined time for other activities like shopping and sport

Adults in Britain spend nine years of their life watching television – including three years wasted on “rubbish” programmes and repeats.

A survey of 2000 people found on average Britons now spend three-and-a-half hours of hours in front of the small screen each day.

Source: Daily Mail

Seasons repeatings: Nearly half of Britons will watch 25 hours of TV repeats this Christmas

The majority of British adults watch four hours of repeats every week, according to a survey.

Researchers found that 51% of adults admitted to sitting down to at least four hours of shows, aired again by broadcasters, that they had already seen before.

Half of adult viewers spend around 16 months of their lifetime watching repeats, researchers said.

The average adult spends three-and-a-half hours every day watching TV, and according to the survey for movie and TV streaming service blinkbox, nine years across an adult lifetime.

More than half (53%) of Britons have watched the same shows so often that “they can remember most of the words and say them in time with the actors”.

Source: The Independent

As you can see, while the Daily Mail pitches us a truism about daily life, The Independent warns us of the upcoming repeat-laden Christmas schedule – both around a common theme, but at first glance both very different stories. Yet, the two stories were spun from the same press release – in fact here it is on the Blinkbox website, with the full scattergun remit of facts, figures, demographics and potential storylines in place:

Of course, the angle to all of this is pretty clear – but in case you’ve missed it, here’s Blinkbox spokesman Ben Ayres in a version of this same story from the Express:

Blinkbox spokesman Ben Ayers said: “We spend 15 per cent of our adult lives glued to the TV.

Life is too short to spend three years watching repeats and rubbish programming.”

Especially when you could be spending those three years watching your Blinkbox, as advertised to you two different ways in three national newspapers on the same day…

“Women will have sex with you if you have a nice kitchen!” says kitchen company

November 21st, 2012

Sometimes, Bad PR debunks and exposes itself, with little or no work from me. Take, for instance, this from The Sun:

How to get steamy in the kitchen

KITCHENS are fast becoming the UK’s hottest rooms, with 45 per cent of British women saying they feel aroused by a man’s granite worktops and designer toaster.

A survey by B&Q found women fancy a bloke more if their kitchen is nicely kitted out.

Source: The Sun

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Kitchen furniture company says women get turned on by a man with a nice kitchen?

Nothing further to add, your honour.

“Parents tell lies to children!” says bakers launching new loaf for kids

November 20th, 2012

If the PR people are to be believed, parents these days certainly aren’t to be believed. Take, for instance, the following from the Express:

THE LITTLE WHITE LIES WE TELL OUR CHILDREN TO KEEP THEM IN LINE

Tall tales can work better than a stern ticking-off, reckon mums

THE secret to being a successful modern parent is telling little white lies, according to a poll of under-pressure mums and dads.

Ninety per cent admit lying routinely or concocting fanciful stories to ensure their children stay on the straight and narrow.

Source: Express.co.uk

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The Express weren’t alone in running the story, with Natalie Evans from the Mirror declaring:

“If the wind changes your face will stick like that”: 90% of parents regularly lie to their kids

A survey found that more than half of all mums and dads believe telling tall tales is the secret to successful parenting… so what lies were YOU told as a kid?

Source: Mirror.co.uk

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Plus, of course, never far behind a free story from a dubious PR poll, the Daily Mail chipped in with a lengthy piece, ‘written’ by Martha de Lacy:

There’s a baby dragon in the hand-drier and a princess in your tummy’: The creative lies parents tell to make their children behave

– Some 90% of parents have a list of white lies they tell their children

– Tooth fairy lie still most popular, used by 38% of parents

The ice cream van only plays music when it’s run out of ice cream….there’s a princess in your tummy who can only eat vegetables….and there’s a baby dragon in the hand-drier who needs to practice his fire-breathing on your hands.

These are just some of the white lies parents have admitted feeding to their children to steer them onto the correct path in life, according to new research.

Source: Daily Mail

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Unsurprisingly, of course, this story was taken near-wholesale from a press release put out by Warburtons, the bread people, to mark the launch of a new load of bread (no, really):

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The angle is somewhat given away in the Mirror’s coverage:

“Don’t make faces or the wind will change and you’ll stick like that… eat your crusts and your hair will grow curly… carrots help you see in the dark…”Remember hearing those as a child? Then you might not be surprised to hear that a whopping 90 per cent of parents admit to routinely telling white lies to keep their kids in line.

Plus, of course, to daub the message in butter and force it down our throats we’re given a subtlety-busting quote from Mark Simester, Marketing Director of Warburtons:

Mark Simester, Marketing Director at Warburtons, said: ‘The tooth fairy is an old classic that many of us were brought up on, but parents today are using their clever and creative sides to build on this – mixing traditional and modern tactics to help keep children healthy and happy.

‘The tooth fairy is an old classic that many of us were brought up on, but parents today are using their clever and creative sides’

‘Providing children with a balanced diet has always been important to mums and dads, so we weren’t surprised to see examples of clever parenting put into practice to get goodness into kids. 

‘As we understand the challenges parents face, we have created two Warburtons Half & Half loaves – with a mix of wholemeal and white flour – as a great way for parents to sneak fibre into their child’s lunchbox.’

So, essentially, Warburtons are saying sometimes it’s OK to make things up if it means getting your point across? 

“Women love money, hate commitment!” says dating site for ‘sugar daddies’

November 19th, 2012

Working (badly) in PR, you really can have it both ways. Come up with a dodgy PR story which fits perfectly into a perceived stereotype and narrative, and you can guarantee you’ll have heads the length and breadth of the country nodding in ‘Itotallyknewit’ agreement.

On the flipside, engineer a stereotype-busting storyline, and you’ll be just as sure to bank the resulting headlines. Take, for example, a story which hit the Daily Mail on November 15th:

Ten ways to leave your lover: ‘I’m not ready for commitment’ is the line used most by women when dumping their partner, while men go for ‘it’s just not working’

Source: Daily Mail

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“Wait a second,” I pretend to hear you cry, “It’s normally the men who hate commitment amiright?!”. Well, we’re given an answer to that too:

You know when your relationship is not working out. But how do you tell your partner they are dumped?

A new poll reveals just how women and men call time on a love affair.

And the results reveal big differences in the sexes over how to give a loved one the push – and the reasons they give for the split.

Women are far more concerned about letting a man down gently – trying to soften the blow with emotional reasons for the split.

So women are using the lines most often associated with men, but they’re using them because they’re actually all thoughtful and womanlike. This kind of ‘having it both ways’ is actually a trick often favoured by two-bit psychics and cold readers, oddly enough – “you’re a warm, friendly person to those you like but the people you don’t like won’t enjoy being on your bad side”. In the right hands, it can slip through almost unnoticed, giving the recipient the unknowing choice to choose the part which suits them and discard the rest. 

Dating site SeekingArrangement.com asked 1,000 of its male and female members why and how they would dump a partner.

Going against the stereotype of the commitment-phobe male, the most popular line used by women in ending a relationship is: ‘I’m not ready for commitment yet.’

The second most popular is: ‘This is going too fast for me.’

Interestingly, money – and the earning power of their partner – is far more important to a woman than a man.

‘You don’t earn enough money’ is the third most important reason on the women’s list, whereas it doesn’t feature at all on the men’s list.

It turns out that a dating website has found women aren’t interested in commitment, and don’t think a serious relationship is important, but do think it’s really very important to have lots of money. It’s almost like the entire findings of the dating site’s survey suggest that there are plenty of women out there – horny, frivolous women – who want nothing more than a man with money to have some fun with. Why on earth would SeekingArrangement.com want to spread such a message?

Or to put it another way, why would ‘SeekingArrangement: The Elite Sugar Daddy Dating Site for those Seeking Mutually Beneficial Relationships’ want to spread such a message?

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In case it isn’t obvious what a Sugar Daddy Dating Site is about, the blurbs are helpful:

  • The Modern Daddy – You are always respectful and generous. You only live once, and you want to date the best. Some call you a mentor, sponsor or benefactor. But no matter what your desires may be, you are brutally honest about who you are, what you expect and what you offer.
  • Goal Seeking Sugar Baby – Attractive, intelligent, ambitious and goal oriented. Sugar Babies are students, actresses, models or girls & guys next door. You know you deserve to date someone who will pamper you, empower you, and help you mentally, emotionally and financially.

Leaving aside the site itself – which has a slightly creepy vibe, but consenting adults and all that – it’s fair to say the source of the story has a monumental impact upon its validity.

For one thing, and given that we can’t see the data behind the survey, it’s in no way certain that the findings are genuine, and free from the biases of directed questioning. In fact, in the absence of any reference to the survey on the company’s website, it’s not even certain that the survey even took place.

What’s more, even accepting for a moment that the survey is genuine and the findings accurate, we still have a hugely selective sample size – those who have chosen to be part of a website where attractive young women are paired with rich older men. It’s fair to say this is quite a self-selecting audience, and in no way indicative of a wider population – akin to surveying 100 people at a comic book convention and then announcing that 100% of the national population visit comic book conventions. It’s nothing short of nonsense.

A final note – we are given, as ever, a tasty soundbite from our spokesperson:

SeekingArrangement owner Brandon Wade said increasing numbers of online daters jump quickly from one relationship to the next.

He said: ‘They meet someone they like, have some fun and then quickly moved on.

‘If you are going to be a success dating online you have to learn how to end a relationship without causing too much fuss.

The other message to come#mce_temp_url# from this survey is that women like men with money. It has always been so.’

If the name Brandon Wade sounds familiar, he has featured on this blog previously.  He’s also behind the site WhatsYourPrice.com – where users can bid on first dates with each other – which in July 2012 sent out the following press release:

Hi [redacted],

In the event of a tragedy like the Dark Knight Massacre, who would you want by your side on a first date? One online dating website asked their members what they would do on a first date if they found themselves in danger, and the answer may surprise you. If you are holding out for a hero, dating someone who is generous, but not necessarily wealthy, may be the difference between life and death

During the Dark Knight Massacre, three men lost their lives to save the lives of their girlfriends. But what if you were on a first date, and you had only just met? How do you differentiate the courageous from the cowardly? According to the results of the survey of over 20,000 generous male members, it’s by generosity, but a man’s generosity is not defined by the size of his wallet. In fact, men who make between $80,000 to $150,000 per year are more likely to take a bullet for you on a first date.Those who fall outside of that income bracket, are significantly less likely to put their well being over that of their date’s, on a first date.

WhatsYourPrice.com is the first online dating website where generous members can bid on a first date with an attractive member. The website launched in April 2011 and currently has over 400,000 members worldwide. “Our website is known for generous men bidding for the chance to spoil and pamper women on a first date,” says Founder & CEO, [redacted]. “Not only are they generous, but most of the men who use our website are also gentlemen. A gentleman opens doors, pulls out chairs, and puts their well being above that of their date, even in the line of fire.”

I have attached the press release for your review, and the full study is available by request. To schedule an interview with Founder & CEO, [redacted], please send an email to [redacted] or call [redacted].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,

[redacted]

What’s more, Brandon went on to defend the move against criticism online:

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It just goes to show – in a world as murky, shady and often immoral as Bad PR, nothing is off limits if there’s money to be made.

PS: If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I’ll be giving a number of talks soon: