February 28th, 2012
Never underestimate the power of a good, old-fashioned bait-and-switch. For example, take this story from the Daily Mail last week:
Smartphones replace newspapers as choice of reading material… for men in the toilet
Taking the newspaper to the toilet has long been a proud male preserve.
But now the tech age has affected even this most established of masculine habits.
Instead, Jim Royle types are swapping their tabloids and broadsheets for a smartphone.
New research shows that men are far more likely to be scrolling through their phone screens than browsing the paper.
Now one in two men regularly takes their mobile phone into the toilet to surf the internet, compared to just a third who take a newspaper.
So, who might be behind this story? A smartphone manufacturer? A new time-wasting app? Andrex? Nope.
Head and Shoulders – the shampoo made by Proctor and Gamble.
Why would a shampoo have any interest in men’s reading habits on the toilet, you might wonder? The answer is simple enough – they don’t, really, but it makes for a nice headline. Looking at the other stats and stories in the article, it’s clear what the real focus of the poll was:
The new survey, carried out by shampoo brand Head & Shoulders, found that men spend longer in the bathroom than women – 19 minutes compared to 18 minutes on a typical week day.
More than twice as many men as women take two or more showers a day – 19 per cent compared to nine per cent – and men are much more likely than women to regard a loofah and nail scissors as a bathroom essentials.
Geordie men are the cleanest when it comes to bathroom habits, spending 26 minutes in the shower on a typical morning, while men from the north-west spend least time at just 16 minutes.
At weekends, men in London indulge themselves with showers averaging an incredible 31 minutes.
But our motivations for washing are more complex than they might seem – women are more likely to feel showering makes them feel more attractive, while men say a shower makes them feel more productive.
So, what we have is a survey primarily based around shower habits with plenty of datamining to flesh out the bones – showing, for example, the areas where men are ‘cleanest’ because they spend longest in the shower, when common sense dictates that someone had to come top of that list.
However, to not only bury the client behind the survey but also to grab a few extra headlines, there’s a random question about toilet habits thrown in, which is the main hook the press release was based around. Had the toilet angle proven fruitless in the datamining, the PR firm working for Head and Shoulders (called Ketchum) clearly had a back-up plan, in the form of a trusted celebrity angle:
As an escape from the daily routine, one in five men thinks about singer Cheryl Cole in the shower, while women are most likely to think about Hollywood star Johnny Depp while washing. Scottish and Northern Irish women are particularly keen on Gary Barlow.
So there we have it – a classic bait and switch, and a great example of a press release masquerading as news.