Tag Archives: Giles Sheldrick

Wholesale Clearance’s PR stunt makes mugs of the nation’s media

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.

“Going for outdoor walks is nice!” says map company

“Going for outdoor walks is nice!” says map company

With the world becoming increasingly commercialised, it’s heartening to know that some things we hold closest to our heart don’t always have to break the bank. Sure, there are things like love, cuddles, clean sheets and chocolate – but, more importantly, there’s also the joy of going for walks in the great outdoors:

The list was ­compiled by Ordnance Survey to coincide with the launch of its custom-made maps, which allow people to add their own titles or humorous pictures to a favourite part of the country.

Managing director Nick Giles said: “Our everyday lives are becoming so much more stressful and busier than ever before.

“Some 80 per cent of the 2,000 people who took part in our survey enjoy exploring the countryside, many preferring to do it on foot. Something as simple as a relaxing country walk can turn a bad day into a good one.”

With this emphasis on inexpensive ways to enjoy life, it’s clear why the Ordnance Survey hired Bad PR regulars One Poll to come up with this ‘data’.


“Some recruitment consultants invent silly job titles!” says other recruitment consultant

“Famous insults are funny!” says DVD featuring famous insult

We all love a good, catty insult, right? Of course we do – in fact, there’s even ‘research’ to prove it: 

‘My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly’: Winston Churchill tops poll of history’s funniest insults

Winston Churchill’s ability to lift the spirits of the British people in times of adversity were, however, neatly balanced with a sparkling line in withering put-downs.

Now Churchill has topped a poll of history’s funniest insults with a famous jibe directed at either the socialist MP Bessie Braddock or the Conservative Lady Astor, the first female MP (depending on which version of the story you hear).

When accused by one of them of being ‘disgustingly drunk’ the Conservative Prime Minister responded: ‘My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.’

Source: Independent, 14th October 2013

Unsurprisingly, the story also ran in the Daily Mail – themselves no stranger to insults:

Churchill tops poll of history’s funniest insults with ‘My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly’

When Winston Churchill was accused of being drunk by socialist MP Bessie Braddock he knew exactly what to say.

And the former Prime Minister, who was famed for his wit, has topped a poll of more than 2,000 Britons to find history’s funniest insult.

Source: Daily  Mail, 14th October 2013

While the opportunity to rake up old insults – plus the chance to have a heartwarming photo of good old Mr Churchill – is one the newspapers scarcely need an excuse for, the article is still merely a piece of PR nonsense:

As well as the scathing Mr Churchill, the Daily Express reported that other household names including Barack Obama, Groucho Marx, Noel Gallagher and Elizabeth Taylor also made the top ten of the poll, which was commissioned to mark the Blu-ray release of the LIberace biopic Behind The Candelabra.

This may seem like something of an unusual paymaster for this particular story, until we spot who occupies position three in the list:

Liberace himself makes an appearance at number three in the list with his response to a critic: ‘Thank you for your very amusing review. After reading it… I laughed all the way to the bank.’

I imagine the PR company behind this are also laughing all the way to the bank.

“People should remember to make a resolution to go to the gym!” says gym chain

At the turn of the year, with people around the country making their traditional New Year’s Resolution, one resolution which was sadly lacking was a pledge from the tabloids to ditch the PR churnalism. Which is a roundabout and clumsy way of introducing this ‘research’ published in the Telegraph (and also paper editions of the Daily Express and The Sun):

Traditional New Year resolutions shunned in favour of reading and saving money

Traditional New Year resolutions such as quitting smoking have been replaced by modern life changes like reading more and saving money, a study has revealed.

New technology and healthier lifestyles mean three quarters of Britons have scrapped “old fashioned” vows relating to smoking, alcohol and exercise.

Current top resolutions are reading more books and saving money, the poll of 2,000 people found.

Source: The Telegraph, 30 December 2012

The article went on to list all of the extravagant new resolutions people are making at the expense of more ‘traditional’ resolutions – with ‘read more books’ topping the list of fancy modern newfangled ways of self-improvement. Bafflingly.

However, what follows is a cautionary tale, reminding us that while we may have all had our heads turned by those shiny new book things, we ought to remember the importance of traditional resolutions – such as losing weight and getting more exercise. These are vital, imperative things to strive for, according to the entirely-impartial company behind the research – gym chain LA Fitness. 

Tony Orme, Marketing Director at LA fitness said: “The traditional resolutions we’re used to hearing or even making ourselves are less prominent this year.

“But it’s important to remember that taking time to exercise and eating a balanced, healthy diet not only give you more energy, but they also help to manage stress levels.”

It’s quite apparent, then, that this is simply a press release to advertise a gym chain at a time when many people tend to vow to get back into shape after a winter of excesses. In fact, the ‘research’ took the form of an online poll run by our friends at 72 Point’s Onepoll, who show the press release in full on their website.

If the quote from Tony Orme weren’t enough to convince the reader of the importance of using the service that Tony Orme sells, there are plenty of other subtle clues, such as:

The biggest aims Britons shared were to feel physically fitter, followed by less stress, and feeling happier and more secure overall.

Two thirds aim to improve their fitness in the coming year and improve their body confidence.

And, if even that were too subtle for the tubby Telegraph reader to take the hint, the article goes into all-out advertorial mode soon after:

LA fitness has launched its New Year Health Resolutions Campaign across its 80 private health clubs, with a half price membership offer for those signing up in January for 2013.

The service also included 24-hour online support service for members to help motivate them beyond the first month of joining the club – ranging from work/life balance to how to mix up diet and exercise to develop an ongoing fitness routine.

On the plus side, with the time Greg Walton of the Telegraph saved in churning out this story based on 68% of the original press release, I’m sure he was able to squeeze in an extra session at LA Fitness that day…

“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:


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


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


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


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):


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?