Monthly Archives: March 2012

“People regret smoking!” says quit-smoking product

March 9th, 2012

Regrets? We’ve had a few (our love lives, health, childhoods, finances, smoking and careers…)

We spend three quarters of an hour dwelling on our regrets every week, a study has found.

The most common cause for remorse is not having saved more money, followed by a wish that we had put more effort in at school.

This appeared in the Daily Mail on February 27th, with the taking-the-fun-out-of-it-for-me URL:—Electric-Zebra-survey.html

Electric Zebra, in case you’re unfamiliar, are a company who produce an electronic substitute cigarette. So that they found that the people they surveyed regretted smoking, is surely no surprise. 

That the Daily Mail gave the game away in the URL, however, is a bit of a surprise. I don’t know if this means I’m winning, or that the Daily Mail want to make this game way too easy for me…

“Men do things usually associated with women!” says product traditionally associated with women

March 8th, 2012

The Daily Mail’s official OnePoll correspondent Maysa Rawi was red hot on the Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V again last week, with the following:

Crying over films, cuddling on the sofa and enjoying bubble baths….It’s the end of the macho man era (and most women prefer it that way)

Modern men have an increasingly soft center, and women prefer it that way. 

The modern man is a big softy who cries over films, likes cuddling on the sofa and enjoys a bubble bath, according to a study

The source of the press release? Ice cream manufacturer Haagen-Dazs, who you’d imagine might have a vested interest in telling the tale that men are soppy, soft and doing things traditionally associated with women… such as eating fancy ice cream in front of a romantic comedy.

It may well be that men are, in fact, engaging in behaviours that are stereotypically female – there’s no reason for them not to be, after all, if that’s what they want to do. However, without seeing the questions asked by Haagen-Dazs, and without seeing the results of the poll, it’s impossible to tell how genuine any of this information actually is. Yet, with the vested interest from the company behind the poll, there’s a significant reason to suspect the questions may well be biased.

In case there was any confusion, here’s the press release on the OnePoll website, which a casual glance shows is perhaps 90% identical to the article which made the Daily Mail.

“Paris is a great place to propose, girls!” says London to Paris train operator

March 7th, 2012

Last week was a Leap Day. I don’t usually feel the need to preface posts with a calendric context, but it seems somehow crucial this time, given that a Leap Day is a day in which an archaic tradition dictates women are allowed to do that most shocking and inappropriate thing of proposing to a man – a practice which is violently banned throughout the rest of the year, punishable by death under a law which stretches back to the time Catherine the Great attempted to wed a horse, merely so as to make their first time together really meaningful, or something.

OK, the latter half of that last sentence was entirely untrue, but you’d be hard pushed to believe that the notion of a woman proposing to her beau wasn’t highly illegal at every other point in the year had you so much as existed in the UK last week, given the way in which various and numerous facets of the media were falling over themselves (and each other) to talk-up the ‘magical lady proposal’ day.

It’s as if radio stations, inane TV mid-morning magazine shows, tabloids and glossy magazines were somehow clutching at any straw suitably palatably fluffy to pad out their content. Funny that.

We had The Sun, following five ‘wannabe brides’ as they did the unthinkable, the Scottish Sun reporting on three Scottish women who popped the question, the Mirror ambushing men conviently-closely to a prominently-mentioned bridal boutique, the Daily Mail bizarrely flogging an iPhone app, and many more.

Given the ubiquity of the storyline, it’s little surprise to see PR types fully took the opportunity to get their clients in the news, with this fine effort making the Daily Mail:

Single girls would leap at proposing …but they would still expect to be bought an engagement ring!

In an ordinary year, they might be happy to wait for the man to do the asking.

But almost half of unmarried women would take advantage of a leap year to propose to their partner on February 29 – though two thirds would still expect their partner to buy them a ring, a study has found.

It also revealed that three quarters of men nationwide would have ‘no problem’ with being proposed to.

In Bristol and Leeds, this jumps to 90 per cent. But those from Belfast are the least accommodating, with just 50 per cent open to the idea, the study by Eurostar found.

Rather amusingly, the press release which formed the basis (if not verbatim, this time) of the Daily Mail story led with the clunky title “Voulez-vous vous marier avec moi?…. but only if you’ll buy the ring!” – a continental affair unsurprisingly rejected by the Daily Mail. 

If it weren’t already apparent what the hook to this story is, it’s put beyond a doubt with:

When it comes to ideal locations, a third of those questioned for the Eurostar study said they thought Paris was the most romantic city in Europe, followed by Venice and Rome.  

Mary Walsh, from Eurostar, said: ‘It seems modern men have met their match in the modern woman, with thousands of ladies planning to get down on one knee this leap year.

‘Every year we see a jump in bookings to Paris for Valentines Day but this year we’ve also seen a surge on February 29, compared to a typical Wednesday.

So, the message is clear: “Girls, why not propose to your fella? By the way, we hear Paris is nice, and apparently you can get there by train these days…”

Stay classy, Eurostar!

“Lots of women own bras!” says bra manufacturer

March 6th, 2012

If you want to make a headline – and, if you work in PR, that’s exactly what you’re interested in – here’s a neat little trick you can exploit: take a figure that’s relatively standard, and multiply it up by a large number – what you’re left with will seem impressive.

Take, for example, this from the BBC last year:

The British eat their way through billions of apples each year, and it’s the nation’s love affair with the fruit that has made it so popular today.

A billion apples sounds like an awful lot, but with a UK population of around 60 million, that’s around 17 apples each, per year. Not so impressive, then. While the BBC weren’t basing their story around the fact, it was included to give an impression that we’re all apple fiends, which the numbers perhaps don’t back up. 

The Daily Mail were guilty of a similar statistical trick recently, with:

British women hoard 156million bras with half admitting they own underwear they have never worn

No matter their size or shape, most women dread shopping for bras.

This makes it even more surprising that almost half of women have purchased bras they have never even worn.

According to research, a total of 156 million bras in Britain have gone to waste.

I don’t mind admitting that my knowledge of bras is peripheral at best, but it strikes me that the following sentence is key:

A poll of 2,000 women conducted by specialist retailer Sweatshop found that the average British female has a total of nine bras, but more than half of these are unused.

For one thing, the poll was conducted by a bra manufacturer looking to get into the news, via a polling company who can be reliably shown to be questionable around the data.

Furthermore, taking the results from a sample of 2,000 respondents and factoring up to an entire nation’s population is problematic, especially if the respondents can all be shown to be answering polling questions reliably.

Still, the headlines sounds fun and impressive, and it means as an editor you get not only the initial story, but you can spin it into a second piece around women’s relationships with their bra, so why bother questioning the data?

“Women don’t need make-up… during the day, anyway!” says make-up vendor

March 5th, 2012

Every now and then, you come across a PR bait-and-switch so brilliant that you really do have to take a step back and admire the sheer audacity and brass balls of it. This is one such case

We’re not all Desperate Scousewives! Ladies of Liverpool believe they are the most natural looking in the UK

Ladies of Liverpool do not generally have a reputation for advocating the natural look when it comes to make-up and styling.

But a new survey has revealed that the women who made the ‘scouse brow’ famous – and who frequently pile on the make-up at Aintree – believe they are the most natural looking in the UK.

The independent survey of almost 2,000 women, shows Liverpudlian lasses leave home without a scrap of make-up on 17 times a month.

Just who is it that wants to tell us that the women of Liverpool don’t need to overdo the make-up, that they’re naturally beautiful, and that they shouldn’t worry about having to spend a small fortune dolling up? You’ll be amazed.

The results of a Superdrug survey show 95 per cent of ladies living in the metropolitan city prefer to look as natural as possible – and the average girl wears a full face of make up just three days in her normal week.

Yep, Superdrug. Good for you Superdrug! I mean, it would be so, so easy for you to use the heavily-made-up faces of reality TV stars to put pressure on the average girl on the street, to make her go out and spend a small fortune on fake eyelashes and false tan. But no! You take the moral high ground, and tell girls they’re better off au naturale, even if means taking a hit in the pockets as a result. Brava!

Hats off to Sara Wolverson, Beauty Director at Superdrug, then for this bold stance. Just look at the positive, affirming, uplifting message she has for the women of Liverpool (and, by extension, anyone who wants to share in their praise):

‘We sell more false lashes than anywhere else in the country and this survey backs up these sales figures showing that Liverpool women are confident enough to step out without a scrap of make-up in the day, then transform themselves at night into a real glamour puss.

‘This is a positive message for all women out there, the secret of looking beautiful all the time is having that inner confidence, and let’s face facts, a really good moisturiser.’

Yeah! Wooo! You go sister! You’re so right, women are beautiful enough naturally to be able to go out during the day. I mean, obviously, OBVIOUSLY they need a whole hell of a lot of crap on their faces if they want to be able to venture beyond their doorstep of an evening – but that’s taken as read, surely? 

I really do have to hand it to Superdrug – this is one of the most remarkable volte-powdered-face I’ve seen, and to sell it as a story affirming the natural beauty of everyday women, too, is remarkable. I’d suggest it was bare-faced cheek, but I imagine they’d immediately try and flog me some cream to make that bare-faced cheek look ten years younger.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that Superdrug have form for this kind of stuff – here’s Sara talking last year about the (made up) fact that women feel sexy only once a week:

This poll clearly indicates that while women know exactly what they have to do in order to feel sexy, they obviously aren’t doing it often enough.

Maintaining a beautiful polished appearance can take time, something most busy women don’t have enough of.

But with a little bit of effort, such as a splash of scent, a pair of fluttering false lashes and a big smile, ladies can feel confident and incredible.

Superdrug: they’re like a girl’s best friend, but specifically that best friend who always tells you you’re looking a bit ropey and tries to flog you a series of moisturisers after they’ve ground your self-confidence down into a tiny little nub. But don’t worry! Because Superdrug’s new vitamin-enriched nub-enlifterment-cream will have that nub of yours looking artificially boosted and glowing again in no time.

“People still have teddy bears!” says hotel chain looking to get in the news

March 4th, 2012

From the Daily Mail on February 22nd:

Bear necessities: 35 per cent of British adults ‘still take a teddy to bed with them’

They’ve been keeping children happy for years and are a godsend for many parents when trying to keep their little ones quiet.

But it would seem it is not just youngsters who appreciate the soothing benefits of the teddy bear – it still occupies a special place in the hearts of many grown-ups too.

Research has revealed that 35 per cent of adults in Britain have admitted they still sleep with a teddy bear to help them de-stress and sleep at night.

A total of 6,000 Britons were surveyed by hotel chain Travelodge to learn more about the country’s fascination with the teddy bear.

The whole story came from a press release from Travelodge, who commissioned the research partly to learn more about our fascination with teddy bears, but more specifically to get their name into the newspapers.

Nomophobia: a review

March 3rd, 2012

A few weeks ago, I reported on the mobile security firm who wanted to tell us we’re worried we’ll lose our mobile phones, using the ridiculous phrase ‘nomophobia’ to promote their story angle.

Since then, my inbox has been filled with echoes of the story, showing exactly the penetration one of these made-up, bullshit PR stories can achieve as it gets churned into the news wire. Here are a few highlights:

…and many, many more.

It just goes to show – spend a little time and money coming up with a bullshit Bad PR story, and the global news churn will take care of the rest.

“Being unable to afford things is embarrassing!” says supermarket promoting low prices

March 2nd, 2011

One mother in four mothers forced to return items at checkout in order to make ends meet

said the Daily Mail last week… erm, twice, in fact.

One in four cash-strapped mothers is being forced to return items at the checkout or buy low-cost own brand products in order to make ends meet.

In a desperate attempt to disguise the impact of the economic downturn from their children, mothers are re-filling branded cereal boxes with supermarket own brand versions.

The story also had a brief showing in The Telegraph too, as Christina Odone shared her thoughts on the findings.

Nice and simple, this one: 

The tactics being used in homes across the country have emerged in a study carried out by Asda.

Supermarket chains says some people are trying to cut costs, and that they’re the best supermarket to shop in if you want to cut costs. A bread and butter Bad PR story.

“Kids today, they aren’t as employable as they used to be!” says recruitment firm

March 1st, 2012

Some PR stories follow so clear a rule of thumb it becomes redundant to go into too much detail – a great example of this is recruitment PR. Take this tale from the Daily Mail and Daily Express, which tells of a generation of employees who are totally unequipped for the workplace:


SCHOOL leavers are being sent back to the classroom by their employers to “de-text” their language.

Bosses say increasing numbers of young recruits are unable to communicate with customers in formal English. 

Instead they use “text speak” and litter emails with abbreviations and obscure acronyms.

Now senior business figures are urging the Government to take action. They believe social networking has created an underclass of prospective employees who lack the basic skills needed to secure employment.

So, kids today are inequipped to function in the world of work, and it’s social media and text messaging that’s to blame? Why not throw in alcopops and rap music while you’re at it, and go the whole stereotypical hog.

A couple of things stand out about this story, to me:

Some of the claims made across the stories are quite remarkable:

[Youngsters] only know to interact with short “text speak” to save themselves time, so they start using text speak in conversations

Youngsters only know how to interact that way, or is it that they also know how to interact that way?

Heavy use of Twitter and Facebook is isolating staff because relationships are all through a machine

An interesting claim – and one we’re given absolutely no proof for.

We have instances in offices where people would rather sit at their desk and send e-mails to each other next door than walk around and have a conversation.

Instances? Are we to believe this is a behaviour so entrenched in the nation’s youth that it deserves to have them written off in headlines in the papers, or are these merely ‘instances’?

So, let’s take a look behind the story. From the Mail version:

Research for Adecco found that 52 per cent of employers believe the British school system is failing to equip youngsters for the world of work.

Adecco – the recruitment firm – tell us that people leaving school are unemployable because of all those things that youngsters today do that the generation or two above them didn’t do. This is just another example of the generational decline narrative, which we’ve seen before on this site – decrying the youth of today is a handy storyline that reliably makes headlines.

February, however, must have been quite a hard month for Adecco – because while they’re now telling us that Britain’s youths and school-leavers are an unemployable bunch, as recently as January 16th they were telling us:

UK employers rate school leavers over graduates

One fifth (18 per cent) of UK employers believe school leavers make better employees than university graduates, according to new research from Adecco Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest recruiter. 

It’s almost as if recruitment firms will say anything at all, so long as it gets their name into the news…