Tag Archives: martha de lacey

“Wolf whistling really motivates women to look good!” says exploitative weight-loss product

Forget feminism, and forget what you thought you new about respecting your fellow human beings – it transpires that, after all, one of the most stereotypical expressions of sexism may be better for women than they realise. According to the Daily Mail:

Nice legs, darling! Wolf whistles named top weight-loss motivator as 72% of us say we began 2013 unhappy with our figure
– 80 per cent of dieters say compliments are best thing to keep them on track
– Worst ‘compl-insults’ named as ‘you’re looking well’ and ‘curvy’

We may tut and scowl and whisper obscenities under our breath when men wolf-whistle in our direction – but secretly we love it.

More than half of women say they would like to be on the receiving end of one, and almost a third of female dieters say being complimented in that most garish of ways is one of the single biggest motivators to losing more weight.

The news comes at it emerges a staggering 72 per cent of people will begin 2013 unhappy with their weight, according to research.

Source: Daily Mail, 4 January 2013

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It’s actually hard to know quite where to start with this one, so we’ll get the main point out of the way – this is, obviously, just an advert for a product, the makers of which feel this is a good way to get attention, to get people to read their product name and to push their commercial interests into the press. In this case, it’s dubious weight-loss regime ‘XLS-Medical Fat Binder’:

Elise Lindsay, celebrity personal trainer and Fitness Advisor to XLS-Medical Fat Binder, highlighted the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people: ‘My clients come to me in all shapes and sizes, but those who are most successful have a strong support system around them to keep them motivated.

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That the article was able to get from ‘strong support system’ to ‘wolf whistles’ is remarkable, and that the article was then to get from there to supporting photographs of men leering at women in the pub and women standing ashamed in the shadows, measuring their weight in front of a huge silhouette of their figure is even more amazing still.

It would be easy to say this is yet more proof of the endemic, ingrained sexism of society and the misogynistic nature of the media – it would be both easy, and painfully naive. What this is, plain and simple, is PR: uncaring, cynical, exploitative and ill-thought-out.

It fits perfectly into the PR rules we’ve seen over and over: either create supporting evidence for a stereotype and gain media attention on the back of a million nodding heads of common-sense agreement, or confound a stereotype and make headlines with the ‘well-whaddya-know’ crowd.

It’s a toss-up, and to the commercial enterprise behind the story, it doesn’t matter a jot which way the coin falls, so long as the coin ultimately falls into their pocket.

The real danger, then, is in the repercussions of this non-data: the regurgitation in magazine articles, on talk shows and phone-ins, in future tabloid articles for years to come, and in water cooler chats around the office. The effect of each individual article may be small, but the dripfeed contribution to the overall narrative gains weight and momentum, and becomes a part of our everyday lives.

This isn’t because the agenda is sexist, per se, but because there is no commercial incentive to consider the ethical ramifications of each article produced – when pressed on it, the standard justifications tend to follow from ‘we just report what the data says’ (which is true, but entirely led by the biasing of the questions to support the pre-designed article’s angle) and ‘this is just a piece of harmless fun’.

In isolation, perhaps these justifications stand up; but as a part of the ongoing contribution by the commercial PR industry to the perception of stereotypes in our culture, such arguments simply don’t hold weight.

“TV remotes are hard to find!” says voucher code company who wants you to get a divorce

Truisms about modern life are always a good bet if you’re a company looking to insert your product name into the headlines. Take this tale from the Telegraph:

TV viewers ‘spend two weeks looking for lost remote’ during their lifetime

It’s got to be one of the most irritating aspects of the technological age. Now a new study has revealed that looking for a lost remote is not only annoying but can also take up weeks of a television viewer’s time over the course of their life.

The average television watcher will spend more than two weeks looking for lost remote controls during their lifetime.

The average time spent searching per week was 5.35 minutes, which amounts to 278.2 minutes or more than four and a half hours a week.

Source: Telegraph, 2 January 2013

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The missing TV remote – it’s as classic a truism as poor airline food, people who cut in front of you in a queue and newspaper journalists who will blithely publish any old press release put in front of them if it means filling their quota of stories for the day (I’m looking at you, Alice Philipson of the Telegraph).

Leaving aside the clear typo in the fourth paragraph (we can safely assume that Alice actually means four and a half hours per year – but it would be interesting to see if that typo was also present in the original press release), it’s worth asking: how was this measured? Traditionally, these figures often come from the same method – an online poll which asked people to guess.

Think about it for a moment: how long did you spend looking for your TV remote last week? I’m sure you haven’t got a clue. But if you’ve signed up to an online polling company who will give you a small amount of money if you’re able to give an answer, I’m sure you’d be willing to take a punt.

This, certainly, was the story behind another ‘how long do you…?’ study, published in August 2011, which announced that the average kiss lasts less than 5 seconds – having taken part in the survey myself, I know that the question which produced this very headline was simply “How long does an average kiss with your partner last, in seconds”, with a range of multiple choice answers.

As a self-reported measure, given by a sample set incentivised to spend a minimal amount of time estimating, it’s wildly unlikely to bear any resemblance to reality.

Then again, resemblance to reality isn’t the point – as ever, with PR stories, the only point is that the company name makes it into the newspaper; everything else is strictly secondary at best. In this case, the company name placed into the Telegraph for you to read is Netvouchercodes.co.uk:

Over the course of an average lifespan, the number of hours rockets to 371, according to the study by discount site netvouchercodes.co.uk.

Pushing their company ahead of the January sales, Netvouchercodes.co.uk were relatively busy on January 2nd, with another press release (presumably from their PR agency London PR) appearing in the Daily Mail announcing yet more valuable ‘research’, yet again totting up the time we spend doing a particular activity:

British people spend NINE HOURS a day (that’s 30 YEARS of our lives) staring at screens…and more time online than ANY other nation in the world
– Research comes as internet celebrates its 30th birthday
– Screens include computers, televisions, mobiles and tablets but not cinema

Just as the internet celebrates its 30th birthday, it emerges Britain is the nation most obsessed with the world wide web.

The average UK resident now spends nine hours every day glued to a screen – a shocking total of 30 years throughout life – and more time online than the inhabitants of any other country.

Source: Daily Mail, 2 January 2013

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Once again, given the online poll behind this story, we can safely dismiss any results as being self-serving and inaccurate – indeed, if they happen to be right it’s far more likely to be the effect of chance and common sense than methodical survey methodology and commitment to truth. This is, after all, an advert.

One final note – it’s worth a look at past stories Netvouchercodes.co.uk have felt happy seeding into the press, and in particular this charming effort in The Daily Star:

HAPPY NEW YEAR, I WANT A DIVORCE

THOUSANDS of stressed Brits are expected to download internet divorce vouchers over Christmas.

Web offers start at just £65 for a quickie split, while special codes are available that knock 20% off legal fees.

New Year is peak time for married Brits to separate after days holed up together at home.

Lawyers are expecting a bumper January with cash woes predicted to expose cracks in relationships.

Steve Barnes, of NetVoucherCodes.co.uk, which is offering the deal until January 12, said: “December and January are by far the busiest months in terms of the number of people searching for a divorce code.

“The peak days are the two weeks after Christmas Day when we are expecting to see thousands of codes accessed.”

Source: Daily Star, 18 December 2012

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Netvouchercodes.co.uk – the online voucher site that wants you to find your remote and leave your wife.

“Men need help buying lingerie!” says lingerie firm ahead of Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s little surprise to see the PR industry taking full advantage. Take this classic playing of the ‘men are hapless’ angle, from Martha de Lacy in the Daily Mail last month:

Men are pants at buying knickers! £100m of underwear bought as gifts lie unworn in our drawers because men keep getting it wrong
– One in five women NEVER wear the lingerie their partner gives them
– Women most dread receiving crotchless underpants and leather knickers
– Men in Edinburgh spend most on lingerie sets for women: £55 compared to national average of £42
– Welsh women most likely to hate lingerie gifted by their partner

Lingerie has always been a popular Christmas gift for a man to give his girlfriend or wife. But that doesn’t mean he ever gets it right.

Over £100m-worth of ‘lingerie let-downs’ lie gathering dust under beds and in the bottom of drawers thanks to bad choices made by men when it comes to purchasing underwear gifts for the women in their lives, according to new research.

Source: Daily Mail, 16 November 2012

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It ought to be no surprise to regular readers of this site that the story – emphasising how clueless men are about lingerie and how much of a classic and popular present lingerie is for Christmas – was placed into the news by a lingerie company, by the name of Fox & Rose.

What may well prove a surprise, however, is that a near-identical story appeared at almost exactly this time last year, in the same publication, previously used to promote laundry specialists Dr Beckmann:

Too racy, too lacy: Twelve million pairs of Christmas knickers will NEVER be worn
– 24 million pairs of knickers will be given over Christmas – half will never be worn
– 31 per cent of knickers bought by men for their partners are too small

A pair of knickers might seem like the perfect last minute present purchase as Christmas Day looms ever closer… but men should choose very carefully.

A national survey has shown that half of the 24 million pairs of knickers given over the festive period will never be worn. They’re too small, too racy, too lacy, or simply the wrong colour.

Twelve million pairs will simply get pushed to the back of the underwear drawer, while a third will get worn just once before being relegated.

Source: Daily Mail, 13 December 2012

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A year apart, the same story – replete with saucy headline and baffled befuddled men chaps – appears, advertising completely different products. Given that the research is the same, we can do some basic maths:

  • 2011: 12m pairs of knickers go un-worn
  • 2012: £100m pairs of knickers go un-worn
  • Therefore, the average price of a pair of knickers = £100m / 12m = £8.33.
  • However, in the 2012 research, we’re told that the average price is actually £42

Thus, we can tell, that either the price of lingerie has risen dramatically in the last 12 months… or this data is simply meaningless PR drivel designed to play on and perpetuate an existing stereotype for the purposes of flogging underwear at Christmas.

“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!’

“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? 

“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.