Tag Archives: Natasha Bernal

“British people are literally cooking themselves!” says supermarket, weirdly

Inexplicable oil news now, with the apparent revelation that British people are frying themselves en masse in order to look tanned:

Fifth of Britons using cooking oil dangerously to achieve perfect sun tan, Asda warns

The 1970s trend of using of cooking oil as sunscreen is making a modern day comeback, according to a new survey.

More than a fifth of Britons are now turning to their kitchen cupboards in a misguided attempt to get the perfect summer tan.

Source: Telegraph, 22nd June 2019

This one, I have to admit, is a bit of a head-scratcher. From the accompanying photo and much of the copy, it’s obvious that this is a story placed by supermarket chain Asda:

A poll commissioned by Asda has found that a fifth of Britons use cooking oil instead of sun cream in a misguided attempt to tan faster. 

An obvious question is: could this possibly be true? Could one in every five people in the UK really be smothering themselves in cooking oil before they go out in the sun? The best way to answer that question is with some simple maths:

  • Population of the UK: 66.87 million
  • 22% of 69 million = 14.7 million

Is it remotely plausible that there are 14.7 million people in the UK who genuinely use cooking oil instead of suncream? Your humble Bad PR blogger would suggest not, and would posit instead that this is the outcome of a dodgy PR survey based on tainted methodology designed to conjure up headline-grabbing pseudo-findings.

But the bigger question is: why? Why would Asda want to spread this obvious untruth, what possible commercial aim could this align with?

As best as I can tell, this story was an attention-grabber so as to be able to tell the world that Asda’s range of suntan sprays are now in sustainable plastic bottles – indeed, that’s the main thrust of the company’s social media post and associated press release:

Kudos on the environmental sustainability, but zero marks on the statistical integrity, Asda.