Did you hear the one about the intern who mistook US president Barack Obama for England defender Chris Smalling? I bet you have – it’s been everywhere. Here’s the story from the Daily Express:
You MUGS! Manufacturers mistake England’s Chris Smalling for BARACK OBAMA
AFTER the team’s timid capitulation against Uruguay and subsequent exit from the World Cup England are less world leaders at football, more like a bunch of mugs.
Two successive defeats at the World Cup in Brazil has left the hopes of a nation in ruins.
Right now, there are few more important jobs than shoring up Roy Hodgson’s leaky defence…with the possible exception of leading the free world, that is.
The Three Lions might be heading home soon but do we really think the team can one day win something? Yes We Can.
If you are wondering why the chap on this souvenir mug looks a little familiar, well, it’s Barack Obama.
Source: Daily Express, 22nd June 2014
The Daily Express weren’t the only ones to run the story – in fact it also found coverage at:
Mixing Barack Obama and Chris Smalling – what an embarrassing mistake to make! I imagine there’s an intern out there who is pretty red-faced! But, of course, it’s an easy mistake to make, isn’t it? After all, all it takes is for an intern to do a Google search for Chris Smalling but accidentally type the words ‘Barack Obama’ by mistake, then find that very famous photo that definitely exists of Barack Obama wearing this season’s England shirt, and then fail to recognise one of the most famous men in the world and use that photo in place of Chris Smalling.
After that, it’s a simple case of nobody at his company stopping to question why the President of the USA is on a mug, wearing an England shirt (we all remember when Obama posed for that photo in an England shirt, right?), and for no printer to notice the error either (and I’ve worked extensively in print design and can confirm, when it comes to printing merchandise like this, that there’s typically at least half a dozen conversations around design specs, plus the need to sign off a proof of every product before a full print run).
Clearly it’s a mistake that absolutely anybody could make… well, primarily anybody who wanted to get the name of their online surplus stock wholesale company into as many media outlets as possible:
Andy White of Wholesale Clearance UK, which specialises in buying end-of-line stock and factory seconds, said it had knowingly bought the mugs when they were offloaded by a merchandising company.
If we stop for even a moment to think about the validity of the official story behind these mugs, it’s clear it simply doesn’t hold up. Even now, more than 24 hours since the story broke, a Google image search for Chris Smalling shows hundreds of photos of the Manchester United player… and zero photos of Barack Obama.
What’s more, a photo of Obama in an England shirt simply does not exist – so it had to be photoshopped. Are we to believe the ‘bleary-eyed intern’ accidentally photoshopped a photo of the world leader into an England shirt ‘by mistake’?
There simply is no route by which this story could have happened as told in the media. This is, in my opinion, the clearest of PR stunts from Wholesale Clearance UK.
What’s more, it’s not the first story of this nature to involve Wholesale Clearance UK. Remember when William and Kate were still pregnant, and we didn’t know if Baby George was actually going to be a Georgina? Remember the tale of the memorabilia firm who jumped the gun and printed a job lot of ‘Royal Princess’ plates? Here’s the Daily Mail’s version of events:
‘To celebrate the birth of the Royal PRINCESS’: Firm left with 5,000 unsold plates after wrongly assuming Kate would have a girl
The birth of Prince George has been a massive boon for many manufacturers, but one company lost out after it produced 5,000 commemorative plates celebrating the arrival of a ‘Royal Princess’.
Other objects produced to mark the historic birth this week include Lego, dolls and an official porcelain collection – but most had the wisdom to wait and find out the baby’s sex before launching their memorabilia.
However, one unnamed firm supposedly had a tip-off from a royal insider that the Duchess of Cambridge was set to give birth to a girl, and designed plates with the message: ‘To celebrate the birth of the Royal Princess’.
Source: Daily Mail, 25th July 2013
Once again we have an un-named memorabilia firm making an unfortunate-but-comic screw up, and once again who bought up their useless stock?
The useless memorabilia was snapped up by online retailer Wholesale Clearance UK, which is selling the plates in lots of 50, with each set costing £149 – or £2.98 per item.
As with the Obama England mugs, this story simply doesn’t pass the sniff test: the firm created 5,000 plates assuming the baby would be a girl. Did they also release a range of plates based on the Royal baby being male? If they did, I can’t find them. There absolutely are such plates available, but none with a remotely similar design to the Royal Princess range (which are, incidentally, still on sale on Wholesale Clearance’s website). Did the unnamed company really only make Royal Princess plates? Or did they also make Royal Prince plates, but inexplicably chose to create a whole new design for them, knowing only one of the two designs would ever be on general sale?
What’s more, take a look at that Royal Princess plate – who the hell is that baby in the middle of it?
Why would a firm commemorate the birth of a child who wasn’t yet born, at a time when they didn’t know the gender, using a photo of a baby who wasn’t the actual baby? When the more sensible alternative would be to have no photo of a baby at all? Even if the royal baby actually was female, the plate would have been worthless, given that the photo wasn’t of the correct baby. Are we really meant to believe that any memorabilia firm in the world would make such a decision, rather than running without a baby photo at all? Do we really think, even for a moment, that there is any truth to this story?
It seems clear that both the Obama mug story and the Royal Princess plate story are nothing more than paper-thin attention-grabbing PR stunts from Wholesale Clearance Ltd – and given the huge impact and universally-credulous coverage the stunt has received from the mainstream media, it seems like it was a successful stunt at that.
Hat tip to @FieldProducer and @TheMediaTweets, where I first spotted this story.