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“Isn’t it awful when brands put out sexist PR?!” says newspaper who routinely publishes identical PR

The vast majority of Bad PR stories I cover tend to pass un-noticed and un-remarked-upon into the news, marketing messages laundered into public discourse along with the credibility of the mainstream media.

Occasionally, however, the company behind the PR get the angle wrong, or the commercial angle is too overt, and the public spot the man behind the curtain. Take, for instance, a pre-Father’s Day PR study from M&S Bank, which the company tweeted out themselves:

To regular readers and trackers of the Bad PR world, there’s little remarkable about this tweet, or the associated ‘research’ that found that people are more likely to ask their dads for financial advice than their mums.

It’s a PR trope we’ve seen innumerable times: offer survey respondents a 50-50 choice of two answers to a survey question (I assume along the lines of “Who do you ask about financial matters: Dad, or Mum?”), force them to choose one or the other if they want to be rewarded for completing the survey, and then headline whichever option gets the higher response.

Given the proximity to Father’s Day, I assume there was something in the question to nudge respondents toward favouring their father’s advice, but even if the answer had come up the other way – that mum’s advice ruled – with a minor tweak the press release could have coped: “End of the Financial Dad-Visor: People now prefer to ask MUM about money”.

Still, as routine and commonplace as this gender-cut of marketing survey data is, by tweeting the story M&S Bank broke the PR spell, and the coverage the received focused on their faux-pas rather than their commercial message:

Marks and Spencer sexism row over ‘dads better than mums with money’ tweet

Marks and Spencer has become embroiled in a sexism row after saying dads are better with money than mums.

The high street giant’s banking arm faced a backlash after the ill-judged tweet which has since been deleted.

M&S Bank tweeted: “We found that many people ask Dad for advice more so than Mum – making him the Family Bank’s ‘Advice Administrator’.

“Do you agree? Let us know. #FamilyBank.”

Source: Mirror, 13th June 2019

While we might be tempted to congratulate the Mirror on calling out this sexist story, and reporting on the kerfuffle it caused, we should bear in mind that (as I’ve demonstrated in recent Bad PR posts) the Mirror now routinely print un-edited press releases from the PR company behind surveys similar to the one behind M&S Bank’s story, with just as much sexist stereotyping. Indeed, the Mirror even by-line the PR professionals behind these stories, as if they were journalists.

Finally, a thought: if M&S Bank hadn’t tweeted their survey out, how likely would the Mirror have been to publish the story themselves, as if the data were genuine? Would the Mirror have had the same level of judgement for the marketing hook of the story then?

And would there have been as much outrage and controversy had M&S Bank waited for the Mirror, or the Mail, or the Sun or the Star to cover the story, and then tweeted out their coverage? Based on experience, your Bad PR blogger thinks not.

“Nobody ever knows what to buy their Dad as a present!” says experience day company

Dad news now, with the report in the Mail that many fathers went without presents on Father’s Day simply because nobody knew what to buy them:

Dads are being denied decent Father’s Day gifts because their children are CLUELESS on what to buy them

Dads are being denied a decent Father’s Day because their grown-up children are clueless about what to buy them, a new study has found. 

With just two days until Father’s Day, the UK’s pioneer of gift experiences Virgin Experience Days reveals the nation’s spending habits. 

Source: Daily Mail, 14th June 2019

This is one of those Bad PR stories where the commercial hook is so clear and visible that there’s little else to be said about it.

That said, Virgin Experience Days (who even had the Mail Online link to their website directly) felt it worth underscoring their PR angle even further, highlighting their new “Father’s Day Panic Button”:

In response to the ultimate stress purchase, Virgin Experience Days has created a Father’s Day Panic Button. 

In response to the ultimate stress purchase, Virgin Experience Days has created a Father's Day Panic Button

And, of course, there was the standard quote from a spokesperson to make the hook even more explicit:

Dan Pearce, Marketing Director, Virgin Experience Days, said: ‘Clearly people find Father’s Day a tricky one and we hope our Panic Button can help them out even at the 11th hour. We think people should trust their judgement – most dads would just enjoy more time with their kids – and there are tons of experience that can be shared, and memories to be made that will last longer than a bottle of wine or a pair of socks.’

“Dads can teach us so many artisan crafts!” says craft goods website ahead of Father’s Day, via OnePoll

Father’s Day proved a reliable a gift for PR companies this year, with plenty of companies building their marketing copy around the theme of dads:

Millennials reviving ‘traditional’ skills like knitting and carpentry – thanks to dads

Millennials are reviving a string of traditional tasks once destined for the history books, according to research.

A study into the traditional skills across generations found young adults are adept at skills such as framing pictures, calligraphy and knitting.

Crafting handwritten letters to keep in touch with loved ones is also among the tasks making a comeback.

Thirteen per cent are even learning woodwork and carpentry – and hand-making items such as tables, chairs, and bookshelves.

Source: Mirror, 9th June 2019

Who felt the need to celebrate dads and their propensity for passing down their crafty skills?

Ella d’Amato, Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer for notonthehighstreet, which commissioned the study of 2,000 adults said: “This study is reassurance that practical artisan skills are very much alive – despite a common assumption that young adults don’t have time to be very ‘hands on’.

If the commercial angle isn’t immediately apparent, bear in mind that Notonthehighstreet lists handmade goods by small independent businesses… and according to the company’s marketing hook, many of those business owners learned their craft trade from their dads:

Ella d’Amato for notonthehighstreet added: “We love to see dads of all ages passing their skills onto their sons and daughters.

“In fact, many of the small creative businesses that sell on our platform are using these skills to run successful businesses.

Unsurprisingly, this whole article is a product of 72 Point, from the collation of marketing ‘research’ via OnePoll, to the writing and distributing of the copy – which the Mirror, once again, by-lines to a 72 Point staff member.

“British people like to avoid other Brits while abroad!” says exclusive villa company

National embarrassment news now, with the report in the Mirror that Brits abroad do all they can to avoid standing out:

More than HALF of Brits hide accents when abroad to avoid bad stereotypes

Listen in, mes amis, nearly un in dix of us admit using a fake accent while abroad to avoid idle chit chat with fellow British holidaymakers.

Embarrassed trippers pretend not to speak English and put on cod French, Spanish or German tones.

Source: Mirror, 15th June 2019

While the headline finding is the dubious claim that we Brits try to blend in when we are abroad, it’s actually a secondary stat that carries the main marketing message this PR was designed to convey:

Seven per cent ran off when they heard a fellow Brit and five per cent said they had hidden to avoid UK holidaymakers.

And 69 per cent said they would rather stay in a villa than a hotel, so they didn’t run the risk of meeting another Brit.

Who on earth would benefit from spreading the idea that Brits abroad will be much better off in a villa than in a hotel?

The poll was carried out on behalf of Exclusiveprivatevillas.com.

Of course it was.

“We know what a REAL man likes!” says TV channel aimed at men

Masculinity news now, with the revelation that what it means to be a man has evolved away from traditional stereotypes:

What makes a REAL man? Blokes say loyalty, politeness, parenting and polishing

Loyalty to friends, being in touch with your feelings and doing your bit for domestic bliss are among the top signs of modern manliness, a poll of the nation’s blokes shows.

Standing by mates (42%) topped the list of qualities guys aspire to – ahead of faithfulness to a partner (37%).

The traditional gentlemanly act of opening doors for both women and men was third, followed by a string of less traditional ideals.

More than one in four said sharing chores and parenting duties, including changing nappies, was essential.

Source: Mirror, 12th June 2019

While it’s encouraging to see another article highlighting that the old ideas of masculinity aren’t as relevant or prevalent any more, that doesn’t mean this article is any less of a piece of marketing and native advertising:

A spokesperson for TV channel Quest, which commissioned the poll to mark its move to channel 12 on Freeview, said: “The study has uncovered interesting insights into how modern men view themselves.

“It was good to see how many modern men have passions and hobbies outside of their families.”

Quest, for the uninitiated, are a TV channel who target a male demographic, so it’s nice to see them recognising that the modern man isn’t just about cars, hunting, and working on machinery.

I’m sure the new, sensitive, modern man that Quest are looking to attract will look forward to tuning into the modern man’s channel, to watch programmes like “Wheeler Dealers”, “Deadliest Catch”, “Salvage Hunters”, and “Scrap Kings”.

Ah well, they say progress is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Lots of European countries are lovely!” says flight comparison site

Europe news now, with an article about how friendly and polite foreign people are, which ran somewhat counter-intuitively in the Mail Online:

Brits vote the Dutch as being the friendliest people in Europe followed by the Portuguese (and the French come last)

The Dutch have been voted as the friendliest people in Europe, according to a poll of Brits.

In total 73 per cent of respondents voted those from the Netherlands as being the most welcoming, closely followed by the Portuguese on 70 per cent.

Meanwhile, the French were identified in the study as being the least friendly people on the continent.

Source: Daily Mail, 14th June 2019

What kind of company might be keen to remind people how charming and lovely many European countries are, especially as we head into Summer holiday season?

The study was undertaken by flight comparison site Jetcost, which polled more than 2,300 people over the age of 18 who said they had been on holiday abroad at least once in the past two years.

So, now you’ve been reminded how pleasant the rest of Europe is, perhaps it’s time to head on over to Jetcost and justify their marketing spend.

“Technology can help us feel more connected!” says smart home technology company

Revealed: Brits spend less than 30 hours a month quality time with friends and family – and more than double that on social media as lack of time with loved ones harms mental health

Families now spend less than an hour a day of quality time together on average, with some parts of the UK spending less than 20 minutes a day with their loved ones.

This lack of time spent nurturing and enjoying our closest relationships is seeing a significant decline in our mental well being, according to a new report commissioned by Hive.  

The report reveals that over half (56%) of the time we spend with our family and friends is not genuine quality time but is in fact wasted – leaving us feeling upset, anxious and embarrassed.

Source: Daily Mail, 17th June 2019

While this story, commissioned by smart-home company Hive, might have some worrying news regarding our mental health, we do at least have some light at the end of the tunnel, in the shape of the internet of things:

Technology has become a vital tool for many, helping us to maintain relationships and give us peace of mind by keeping us informed on each other’s lives, even when we’re not together.

This is particularly true for technologies such as social media, instant messaging, and new smart home apps that can enable families and friends to keep in touch and provide real-time updates. One in five (19%) of us now regularly use these platforms to check up on each other’s welfare, with two fifths (39%) saying technology is ‘essential’ for staying connected to family and friends.

To cap things off, we have a spokesperson from Hive to emphasise the growing role of technology (that Hive sell) in alleviating our social isolation and associated mental health woes:

Claire Miles, Managing Director of Centrica Hive said: ‘Setting aside real, quality time with those we love is becoming increasingly tough to do, as we try to balance the pressures of modern life. At Hive, we are always looking for innovative ways that technology can make this easier, and help give each of us back precious time for the people we love.

‘These findings, launched today in our Quality Time report, show how technology is already playing a much more central role in the way we keep in touch with the people that matter most to us, compared to just five years ago. As we continue to see major socioeconomic shifts in the way we live our lives, it is so exciting to think about the ways in which new technologies can help us get closer to loved ones.’ 

Thank heavens Hive are here, to pay for articles telling us our mental health is at risk unless we invest in smart home technology like the kind Hive sell.

“You really need travel insurance!” says travel insurance industry body

Insurance news now, with the revelation that people claim on their travel insurance more often than you might think:

ONE TRAVEL INSURANCE CLAIM MADE EVERY MINUTE BY BRITISH HOLIDAYMAKERS

The cost of medical treatment for a British couple hit by a drunk driver in the US was £587,000

British holidaymakers made travel insurance claims at an average rate of almost one a minute in 2018, according to the latest industry figures.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that 498,000 claims were made on travel insurance policies in 2018.

Source: Independent, 7th June 2019

The Association of British Insurers, the travel insurance industry body, commissioned the research which showed how you never can tell when you might need travel insurance. Unsurprisingly, their spokesperson has advice for would-be travellers on how to avoid a mishap while out of the country:

The ABI’s senior travel policy adviser, Charlie Campbell, said: “The fact that a quarter of Brits travel abroad without the right travel insurance is incredibly worrying.

“Anyone travelling this summer should avoid unnecessary financial and emotional stress by ensuring they have the right cover in place.

“People really love music – even during sex!” says concert ticketing website with a REALLY dubious stat

One of the reasons I find Bad PR stories so fascinating and worrying is what I feel they say about the current state of modern journalism – how flimsy a premise a story can have and still make it into the press, how evidently a story doesn’t pass the sniff test and yet it gets published, unverified and often unedited.

Take, for example, a recent story from the Mail Online, which made some surprising claims about the nation’s sex lives:

Isn’t THAT romantic! People confess to wearing AIRPODS during sex, as they open up about their bedroom preferences – from signature song choices to favorite fetishes

People confessed to wearing AirPods during sex in a recent survey inquiring about respondent’s music and sexual preferences during intercourse. 

The survey, conducted by ticketing service TickPick, asked 1,010 people their music preferences during sex and how it compared to the positions they chose or if they used contraception, to name a few. 

The story was put together on behalf of TickPick – an online ticketing service whose main aim was to emphasise how important music is to people, and to use the ever-reliable “sex sells” tactic of getting their brand name into the headlines.

However, looking at the headline finding about AirPods, it seems abundantly clear that this statistic could not possibly be true:

An astounding 17 per cent of people confessed to having worn AirPods during sexual intercourse. 

The story claims that 17% of people have worn Apple AirPods during sex. If we pause for a moment and put that figure into context, that would mean slightly more than one in every six people have had sex while wearing the Apple bluetooth earphones. Does anyone genuinely think one in six people even own Apple AirPods?

Far more likely is that the participants in the survey, incentivised as they naturally are to answer survey questions quickly and with little care or concern, saw a question about using AirPods during sex and decided to opt for the more amusing answer. A good survey methodology would look at the findings, recognise the 1-in-6 AirPod stat couldn’t possibly be true, and throw it out as an outlier.

However, this story didn’t come from a study of human habits, it came from a marketing survey designed to create headline-grabbing findings. Whether they intended to generate a false and misleading stat about AirPods, or whether it was an unexpected outcome, either way the client and the PR company they hired are happy – the AirPod stat wrote their headline for them.

Any journalist who glanced at their press release should have been able to recognise the stat as clearly false, and spike the story as a result. And yet, the Mail Online ran 800 words of copy, with associated infographic and link through to the client’s website – a perfect win for TickPick and their PR agency.

When it comes to a ticketing website making ludicrous claims about our sex lives, this whole process is relatively (though not completely) harmless. However, the same pressures and failings that allow a story like this to get through are also present when it comes to more important stories – stories that influence the way we think, the way we act, and the way we understand the world.

By understanding the cheaper and sillier end of the spectrum, we can gain an understanding of the more sophisticated and more important effects of those pressures.

“People love classic old pop hits!” says classic pop radio station

Pop news now, with the news that the definitive, official best year in music has been objectively decreed:

Brits reveal their favourite year for music – and the greatest decade

It’s official – 1984 was the best year for music according to Brits.

The year of Prince’s Purple Rain album, The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s debut and the notable Band Aid record ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ beat all other years from the 70s through to the 90s.

It was also the year George Michael achieved five top 10 singles and Frankie Goes to Hollywood spent five weeks at number one with “Relax”.
Second place went to 1985 with 45 per cent also choosing the colourful eighties as the top decade overall for music.

Source: Mirror, 11th June 2019

It was news that was, unsurprisingly, something of a gift to radio stations, whose running orders for the day could revolve around playing the top hits of 1984, and asking callers which year they felt was the greatest year for pop music.

That the story was so convenient for radio stations is no surprise, given the company who paid for the story to be put together:

The study was commissioned by Greatest Hits Radio.

Presenter Mark Goodier said: “The results prove how defining the 80s were as a decade for music, artists such as Queen, Wham! and Madonna were at their peak and of course the Band Aid release bought together some of the biggest acts.

As for the story itself, the Mirror attributed it to Alice Hughes, a Creative Account Manager for PR company 72 Point, whose marketing copy the Mirror reproduced entirely.