09 July 2007

Surveywatch..with me, Nick Ross...

Now he's delivered his last "don't have nightmares" to millions of petrified pensioners up and down the country, I was thinking that Nick Ross might be interested in a new gig here at TWL. It's called Surveywatch...and it's an effort to stop crimes against intelligence.

We've been having a dig recently at various pieces of spurious research delivered by creatively-challenged PR types. There was the Weber Shandwick thing of course (and which still rumbles on in the comments), that Carphone Warehouse survey telling us that people like almost anything else you can think of more than they like their mobile phone, and there was that ultimate piggyback piece which explained how virtually everyone (or nobody) was likely (or not) to consider (or reject) the possible idea of one day buying (or stealing) an iPhone (or other mobile device).

Today I've alighted upon a press release on PR Newswire which describes the findings of a "new survey" (because, presumably, the findings of the old one weren't very interesting). It's not technology-related, but I'm sure you'll excuse me that, particularly when you find out that the aim of the survey was to establish who we'd all like to have as our neighbour. It'd certainly been playing on my mind.

The answer, you might be surprised to find, is the Queen. Or maybe it isn't a surprise, given that having the Queen as a neighbour would mean that you were living in a highly desirable part of London. Or Windsor. Or some godforsaken part of Scotland (perhaps the bit that Edelman has just vacated?) Damn, I've just mentioned them again, haven't I? Old Figgis will be along in a minute to have a moan...

The release includes almost every possible survey cliché. There's the battle of the sexes...94% of the people who wanted 'eye candy' Sean Connery next door were women (Connery can't still be eye candy, shurely? "Just let me hang up the coloshtomy bag, my schweet, and I'll be with you...") while men preferred a 'good converser' like David Attenborough.

I can see it now: "What do you think I should do with these bloody moles, David..?"

"Watch them closely, see how they interact with each other...study how the family unit bonds through barely audible grunts and..."

"Bugger that. I was thinking a gallon of unleaded and a match."

And of course there's the "great North/South divide," with "43% of patriotic Southerners opting for the Queen, whilst a quarter of chatty Northerners most wanted to live next door to TV legend Michael Parkinson."

A spokesman said: "The results show that people are more concerned about the quality of their neighbours, hence why the Queen beat Joanna Lumley."

Poor old Joanna. You don't have to be posh to be patronised.

The company behind the survey is developer Prestigious Retirement Villages. Which means, sadly, that whoever you'd like as your neighbour, you're probably going to get a moany old bastard who smells of piss.


Anonymous said...

TWL you are very touchy about Figgis comments re: Edelman. He's clearly hit a nerve.

Seems likely that, from the volume of postings alone, there is more than one person behind TWL. My guess is that at least one works at Edelman.

....the world's leading.... said...

Touchy? Me? Not at all. It was just a little joke...not a very good one, granted.

Anonymous said...

Is there any point to the majority of surveys that find there way into the British press? Given that half of them have probably been rehashed from a previous story, or have had the figures made up can we really believe any survey we read? I'm guessing not.

....the world's leading.... said...

You decide...here's this afternoon's effort: http://www.lewis360.com/2007/07/marketers-to-hi.html

A survey by Lewis PR finds (incredibly) that the majority of attendees at a new media conference are planning on implementing more social media campaigns in 2008. Lewis extrapolates its findings to say that this (apparently) means that all marketers will do so (and not just those who were interested enough already to attend a conference on the very subject).

Bez Berry said...

On one of my old magazines a couple of journalists invented the 'Waste-o-Meter' - a graph that added up all the money that press releases say is 'wasted' every year on paper clips, IT, poor security, biscuits for the boardroom, etc. The aim was to try and get it to total UK GDP - so everything in the UK is wasted. They got very close.

figgis said...

Thanks for the mention TWL - fame at last.

However, I don't really moan. As a long dead cat I find it unseemly.

Anonymous said...

I cringe when we put forward another idea to a client for a survey. As a reader, I hate them (although that may be because I know how shit they are). I keep expecting the bubble to burst, and survey-based pitches to be as useless and outdated as a floppy disk drive, but it doesn't ever burst.

Trouble is, that good ones will work. By work, I of course mean get coverage to please client - not necessarily to actually achieve anything important like brand awareness, understanding, or likelihood to buy etc.

We get paid to think them up, the journos get paid to write them up and as far as I can tell, they flash across the consciousness of the reader for a nanosecond before they are forgotten. What a great industry we're in!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. But maybe there is also a case of lazy journalism. I mean lets face it it's not exactly hard to copy and paste a few facts from a press release, which surely encourages pr's to keep churning out rediculous pieces of research as they know it will get covered.

....the world's leading.... said...

You're right, so an aspect of the Surveywatch service will be to highlight those media outlets that are all too easily rolled over by research.

Did you see that Blackberry report the other day? The one about Blackberry users turning sixty minutes of downtime into 'productive' time every day? It was covered all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame us PROs too much. Whether it's a server farm or the lead singer in musical, we can't function without a survey or poll.

Mind you. I went for a job interview a while back for a senior position at a London tech agency.

Getting through to a second round chat I was asked how I would spend £25k on a European PR campaign for a leading B2B software behemoth...my opening gambit was.

"I'd prefer not to do research as I think the media are bored rigid with surveys on this and that."

Well, you could have heard a fucking pin drop.I'd just pissed in the PR Holy Grail "THE SURVEY"

I blame all this 'Big X Stars On Ice Come Factor Brother' shite. When you need to come up with an idea, just ask someone something, fix the questions so the survey says what you want it to (helps to write the press release on the findings first) and then hawk it round the media until someone bites.

They will, they always do.


PaulW said...

There’s nothing wrong with banging out a quick bit of research to support a campaign, providing the sample size is respectable and the expectations are reasonable. Local radio stations for example love surveys because most of their listeners are the sort of people that vote for GMTVs “recipe of the day” and text into “The Wright Stuff” to bring back hanging and the like. The delivery mechanism for the message fits the channel and its audience.

And there’s no point lambasting the PROs for crappy “time saved” surveys getting picked up by ‘reputable’ media. If fluff gets column inches, we’ll ensure there’s an endless supply of the stuff.

I’m in no doubt we need a moratorium on crap surveys but it’s hard to see who will draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough. For every Charles Arthur there are ten Jonny Staffwriters and Emily Featuresdeskers who will gladly run surveys that tell us 23% of Brits want to have David Beckham as their Uncle or 69% of IT Managers prefer keyboards with the Euro currency symbal instead of the Dollar.

....the world's leading.... said...

Yes, yes...I see. We're in a vicious circle aren't we? As long as the press keeps printing the results of suspect surveys, the PR industry will keep producing them. It's the lazy man's way to riches.

Worth watching though, I think.