Thursday, March 02, 2006

Nearly 100% of Publicists Love Surveys

Below is an article from the New Your Times the we loved. Given that all research does not have to be "ground breaking" and the sometimes confirming the obvious can be fun we say let the surveys flow!

Nearly 100% of Publicists Love Surveys

By DEBORAH BALDWIN, March 2, 2006

BET you didn't know: People who own hot tubs have better sex than people who don't.

According to a news release anyway. In a survey, 71 percent of hot tub owners reported that they were "happy with their love lives," while only 51 percent of people without them said the same. "According to respondents," the release declared, "getting into a hot tub increases passion and romance and can lead to better, more frequent sex."

It's probably just a coincidence that this opinion poll was commissioned by ThermoSpas, a company that makes hot tubs.

And it's probably also just a coincidence that people who buy hot tubs tend to be more interested in getting naked than people who lie awake at night harboring other obsessions. Other people obsess about the germ content of their grocery shopping carts. Indeed, precisely 82 percent of respondents in a recent survey said that shopping carts were "among the worst" germ offenders, according to a news release from BabeEase. A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving world health? A think tank concerned with the spread of childhood disease? Turns out BabeEase is a company that makes shopping cart seat covers for germphobic parents of young children.

So it goes: waves of cheerful news releases, propped up with noisy number crunching and "independent" surveys that inevitably tout a product. Blame that journalistic chestnut known as the trend story, the one with the "more and more" phrase up top. With journalists scrounging for statistics to shore up their latest anecdotal observations, publicists are helpfully flooding the zone with scientific-sounding findings.

More and more surveys, you might say. One year the Soap and Detergent Association found that "cleanliness" was the homeowner's top priority. ("Tip No. 1," it advised, "Have the right products ready.") A recent "worldwide" survey commissioned by Ikea revealed that the kitchen is the heart of the home — and more than half of the respondents wished they could get new ones.

Ikea's survey, which came on the heels of one it did on bedrooms, "was intended as an awareness tool," said Wendy Clark, the company's public relations manager for the United States, "a vehicle to talk more about our kitchens, once we have people's interest and attention."
And it worked. In fact Ikea hit the P.R. jackpot, inspiring Jay Leno to invent his own precision statistic. "According to Ikea, 11 percent of people are now having sex in their kitchen," the company quoted him as saying. "Maybe people are having trouble putting their Ikea bedroom sets together."

Is Mr. Leno trying to suggest that some of these surveys are less than 100 percent scientific? Why bring up such a killjoy notion when one might instead savor the vagaries of American life as brought to you by public relations consultants.

Consider:

A survey for Sears concluded that a woman's best friend is her tool kit. "Three out of five women would rather receive an hour of advice from Bob Vila than Dr. Phil," a news release stated, politely sidestepping the question of whether this said more about Dr. Phil than it did about his rival. I'm surprised those women have time to get out their jigsaws, given the distractions of all the collecting they are doing. A survey done for eBay and Country Home magazine found that for millions of women, collecting "is a way of life." And — here's a surprise — 85 percent of respondents said that eBay had made collecting "easier and more fun."

Another eBay survey, also probing the secret lives of women, uncovered a shortcoming among those who remodel. Nearly half said the most difficult part of the process (please sit down) is staying within budget. Spread the word, the release advised: "Many of today's best bargains can be found on the Internet."

Sound like a stretch? You haven't read releases issued around slow news days like the Fourth of July. To the rescue one year came word from a construction industry organization called the Wood Promotion Network. A stunning 78 percent of Americans surveyed had never traveled to visit a patriotic home, a news release reported. And...

...if they were to visit a patriotic home — Mount Vernon, say — they would be interested to learn that these houses were built...

...of wood.

You have to feel sorry for people who agree to participate in these offbeat polls. While other Americans get to weigh in on the future of the Republic, they are stuck answering questions about gas grills.

A propane gas company called Blue Rhino declared last year that over Memorial Day, "in New York alone, more than 12.2 million people will be grilling" — and half of them would run out of gas before their burgers were done.

Luckily Blue Rhino offers more than 1,500 tank exchange locations in the metropolitan New York area. I know this because I read the news release all the way to its inevitable conclusion.
Now imagine getting a call from a group calling itself Cable Movers, whose survey found that "more than half of cable consumers rank getting their TV service hooked up next to getting dinner on the table" — more important, even, "than decorating."

Lots of things turn out to be more important than decorating, depending on who's asking. But more important than a bouquet? "University studies" cited by the Society of American Florists suggested that "the presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and positively affects social behavior."

Editors, take note: Mother's Day will soon be upon us.

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