Thursday, 2 June 2011

Smoking is no longer a health condition...

Via everyone's favourite toothless advertising regulator:

They added that as smoking was not a health condition, being asked if you were a smoker was, therefore, not a health question.
The ASA noted that Asda had followed the BMA and ABI guidelines in considering smoking to be a lifestyle choice

The ASA case in question revolves around whether Asda, in advertising life insurance with "no health questions asked" can get away with asking potential clients if they smoke or not.

Here in the real world, where smokers are regularly discriminated against on the basis of not only their own health (NHS costs,) but others (second hand and the fabled third hand smoke) it's hard to see how "do you smoke" cannot be construed as a health question.

One does, however, wonder what other "lifestyle choice" questions the nice people at Asda also ask, since the adjudication is strangely quiet.

I'm sure the list is, if not endless, quite large.

Well at least we now know you can tell your doctor to mind his own business when he asks how many you smoke, since it has no bearing on your health whatsoever; it's simply a lifestyle choice.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

(g^2)^7 - how not to be a maths teacher on camera.

"Turn Your Talent to Teaching"- but make sure they bloody camera-man doesn't catch you writing the wrong answers on the board.

The UK Government, once again wasting our money, is advertising for teachers. Maths teachers. Just a shame the editors included this bit in the still above.[1] Perhaps those useless maths classes at school weren't so useless. At least if you're in media/advertising.

The video, while it's still around (the `still' is from around 19s):
Teacher: What I want you do now is we're[2] going to look at how we're going to solve this equation here.[(g2)7=g? appears on the board as a problem]

Teacher's voiceover: If it's an early lesson and I need to get them started, [we see the kids playing bingo] I try different ways to clear the cobwebs out. [teacher writes g2×g7 on the board]

Teacher: This one, is just do[2] the highest common factor, so what's the highest common factor of 80 and 60.

Kids: <mumbles of 'twenty'>

Teacher: Do'ya[2] think it's twenty? Twenty, yeah?

One Kid: Bingo!

Other kids: <cheers>

Voiceover: Turn your talent to teaching. Visit

The Daily Mail appears to have been the first paper out with this 'mistake' being spotted by some 15yr old spotty oik[3] claiming they're showing the wrong answer.

Of course, that segment could quite probably have lasted a couple of minutes in the classroom there, with the teacher pointing out why it's not the right solution, but to include it in the final advert where it could be misinterpreted? Laziness on the behalf of the advertisers.

Of course, the DM's on a rant about how this 'wrong' answer shows declining standards in our schools. I'm more put out by the standard of spoken English by the teacher[2].

Mr. Coombs is praised highly for his observation of course. From the DM article:
Adam Williams, principal of John Cabot Academy which Chris attends, praised the schoolboy's attention to detail.
Aren't you simply looking forward him being one of your colleagues a few years hence? No big-headedness of course, just a mention in a newspaper article.
He said: 'It is great to think that Chris showed that degree of observation and understanding of maths to spot the apparent error in the advert.'
I learnt about indices in the first year of secondary school (12 yrs old) - just when are they teaching them these days? A-levels?

[1] For those who can't spot it, (g2)7, is g2×g2×g2×g2×g2×g2×g2 which is g14. Not g2×g7 which is g9. And Wrong™

[2] Probably just as well she's not teaching English.

[3] Well - Chris Coombs doesn't look too spotty from the DM photo.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Powerade ION4 - making you wetter than a wet thing in lots of wet stuff.


Update: Jan 2014, ASA found against GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd when they made a similar claim of "hydrates and fuels you better than water" finding that it "did not appear on the list of authorised health claims in respect of carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks"

Update: Jan 2012, ASA found in favour of Coca-Cola when two people make complaints about this advertising campain.

New, improved[1], Powerade ION4 [Subs: Na, Ca, Mg, K] [Sub: Contains carbohydrates] replenishes fuel and 4 of the minerals lost in sweat.

[Sub: Preparation]

[Sub: Determination]

[Sub: Perspiration]

[Sub: Hydration]

Powerade ION4, hydrates better than water.

Keep sweating.

Presenting Coca-Cola's new and improved[1] sports drink. They'll be sponsoring the Olympics (2012) dontcha know.

However it's not exactly new[1]. From the US website[current - there's a video there that didn't make it to the archive]:

In 2009, POWERADE® sports scientists created ION4®, which revolutionized the sports drink. ION4® is an advanced electrolyte system that is in POWERADE® to help replenish four electrolytes lost in sweat.

I wouldn't call a 2 year old product "new." Certainly not in the context of advertising. So that's a load of bollocks right from the start.

Back to the UK advert, they claim to "hydrate better than water." Sounds a tad spurious. Lets look at what it's supposed to 'help' with, or mitigate - dehydration.

The medical definition of dehydration (or hypohydration) is:

[...] the loss of water and salts essential for normal body function.

There are various stages/severity of dehydration:
Mild dehydration is the loss of no more than 5% of the body's fluid. Loss of 5-10% is considered moderate dehydration. Severe dehydration (loss of 10-15% of body fluids) is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care.
Causes of dehydration?
Strenuous activity, excessive sweating, high fever, and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea
Symptoms of dehydration at any age include cracked lips, dry or sticky mouth, lethargy, and sunken eyes. A person who is dehydrated cries without shedding tears and does not urinate very often. The skin is less elastic than it should be and is slow to return to its normal position after being pinched.
Increased fluid intake and replacement of lost electrolytes are usually sufficient to restore fluid balances in patients who are mildly or moderately dehydrated. For individuals who are mildly dehydrated, just drinking plain water may be all the treatment that is needed. Adults who need to replace lost electrolytes may drink sports beverages or consume a little additional salt.

So. Yes. If you're MILDLY dehydrated, Powerade, MAY be used to replace some salts lost during heavy sweating during exercise. (If you've lost quite a bit of fluid/your electrolyte balance is way off however I'd suggest you visit a doctor/hospital rather than drink this as a treatement.)

Or you could just drink water and, possibly, eat a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. Doing both, of course will also "hydrate you better than water (alone.)"

I think I know which will probably be cheaper. (I can't find any ION4 online at the moment, but from Ocado, 4x500ml bottles Powerade Cherry: £3.49. 12x25g Walker's Ready Salted: £2.65)

So while their claim to "hydrate better than water" isn't entirely bollocks, the way they present it - as something wonderful that cannot be achieved by anything else - is.

On the specific salts/minerals they mention - your body is adaptable. It can get temporarily lower on them without danger and can obtain all sorts of vitamins and minerals and salts from your (hopefully varied) diet. If you get a little low on some of them, your body will catch up. If you're getting dangerously low on some of them then Powerade isn't going to help you.

I'll probably do a post on the snake-oil that are OTC, self medicated, mineral supplements in general (or some specific ones) sometime.

[1] Come now. It can't be both. If it's new, then there isn't an old thing to improve upon. If it's improved then there must have been an older thing. Or as one Yahoo Answerer succinctly put it:
It's improving on the perfectly good thing that you own that the ad agency wants you to now think of as junk, so you'll buy the product they are pitching.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

"For God's sake" is not offensive.

In the ongoing campaign by various groups about the invasive nature of, and pointlessness that is the UK Census being held this year, one group - the British Humanist Association[1] came up with three posters addressing what is the only voluntary question on the whole census - the religion question. One is shown below; all three can be seen here.
Not Religious?
In the 2011 Census Tick "No Religion"

"I put 'Jedi' in the last census. But I'll tick 'No religion this time.

I'm not religious and I don't want Bishops and the government saying this is a religious country.

That's just an excuse to keep religion in politics."

If you're not religious for God's sake say so.

The intention was to buy advertising space at railway stations to display the posters

CBS Outdoor, the advertisers that own the space, had other ideas.

Two reasons were given by owners of the space: they were concerned that the use of the phrase ‘for God’s sake’ would cause widespread and serious offence and they also did not wish to take adverts relating to religion.

As the BHA allude to, only the professionally offended could take "widespread and serious offence,"

But what the BHA didn't point out (at least in their PR) is that the second reason is also spurious. Lots of religious groups are quite capable, and able, to advertise on the self-same spots. Those listed (though probably not exhaustive) include the Alpha course, the Christian Party[1] and the Trinitarian Bible Society.

It's not as if there isn't a history of religious advertising on public transport.

Vaguely related, I was somewhat amused by His Grace's "Mind your own *%$#@!! business" campaign but I think I'll be ticking the No Religion box.

[1] The BHA were responsible for the "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" bus adverts that generated ASA complaints. In reply the Christian Party came up with "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life" which became the most complained-about non-broadcast ad ever.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Update (2): Natwest - (not so) helpful banking

Back in August '10 I brought up Natwest's "Helpful Banking." advert.
In December '10, they got slapped down by the ASA for not opening as many branches on Saturdays as they appeared to imply in that advert.

Now it appears that they aren't really living up to the rest of that advert.

Deloitte (an auditor) was hired by Natwest to monitor them for how well they were living up to their 'promises.'

A sample[current] of what they promised to do:

3. We will provide you with friendly, helpful service whenever you deal with us
We're aiming to get 9 out of 10 customers to rate our service as helpful.
90% satisfaction? Wonder how they're going to select the people they're going to question.

Either that or the fact that the other 10% of their customers are costing RBS/Natwest £2.8m due to mishandling of complaints in the space of 6 months[1] suggests that when things go wrong, customers would be better off at Santander.

9. We pledge to stay open for business if we are the last bank in town and will consider a range of options to ensure a local banking service is available
We’ve already identified over 100 ‘Last in Town’ locations where we’ll continue to provide a local banking service.
Woolly description of what "last in town" means, especially when by the industry definition, Natwest is already the "last bank in town" in 217 locations. I somehow thing it's stretching the weasle phrase "over 100" to cover 217, so that means they're quite able to shut "up to" 116 branches and still keep this 'promise.'

"Local banking service" is also similarly woolly. It's not a hard and fast commitment to actually operate a brick-and-mortar branch (Saturdays or not.) Perhaps they're going to buy some more white vans.

13. Twice a year we will publish the most common of complaints
And we’ll strive to address the causes

It's been 7 months since the adverts. I could be wrong, but if you're going to do something twice a year, it's generally accepted that they should be 6 months apart, so that mean they should have published at least one list.

Strangely I've not seen it, and it's certainly not linked on that page.

Anyway. How did they do?
(I couldn't find the report/PR, so this is based on the sparse news reports currently out there.)

Out of their 25 goals, they passed 20, and failed 5. That's 20% failure.  (Or a "80% success rate" as Brian Hartzer, head of Retail Banking, would have you think of it.)

Possibly an acceptable result had the goals been externally imposed, but these were self-imposed.

2. We will aim to serve the majority of customers within 5 minutes in our branches
This year we’ll introduce a new queue busting programme in our busiest branches to ensure every available member of staff is out serving customers during busy periods.

75% of customers were served in under 5 minutes. Presumably leaving the other 25% waiting half and hour. Or more.

3. We will provide you with friendly, helpful service whenever you deal with us
We're aiming to get 9 out of 10 customers to rate our service as helpful.

Only 80% of customers believed the hype. The still suspiciously high number is probably down to either judicious selection of the people questioned, or biased questioning. Again - few details available.

4. We will help you to make the right choices for you and your money, providing a clear product range with simply explained features and charges
All of our branch literature will be simplified and rewritten in line with customer feedback. We’re also introducing a new Customer Service Review programme to make it easier for our customers to choose the right product for them.

This appears to be another one. Bugger all detail apart from they've reduced the number of products from 600 before the banking crisis to 200 now.

12. We will resolve customer complaints fairly, consistently, and promptly
We are aiming for 75% of customers to be satisfied with the way their complaint has been handled.
Way short. 57%. And that includes a 41% increase in complaints about the group in the 2nd half of 2010. Perhaps RBS/Natwest were encouraging more people to complain so they could (attempt to) satisfactorily solve them to push the %age up?

Sadly none of the news reports coming up on Google News at the moment have the 5th missed target. Indeed, none of them list the four I list above in much detail.

[1] Ok, it was the first half of 2009, but the timing of the fine coinciding with this report from Deloitte is rather embarrassing.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

3-in-1 - if you actually take three in one that is

Nescafe's "latest" wheeze for the UK[1]:

3-in-1 coffee

With NESCAFÉ ORIGINAL 3-in-1 it’s now amazingly easy to make the perfect white coffee with sugar.
All you have to do is add hot water so you get a creamy and sweet tasting coffee every time.

The premise being that the vast majority of the population all
  • use the same sized cup
  • use the same size level-teaspoon of coffee
  • take the same amount of sugar
  • would use the same amount of whitener if they normally use skimmed/semi-skimmed/full-fat milk, but didn't have any milk
Sod all those who
  • use pint mugs
  • use heaped teaspoons of coffee regardless of the size of their cup
  • don't take sugar
  • prefer their coffee slightly cooler due to the milk they normally add
Anyway... brief costings from a quick google search:

Asda £1.00 for "10" servings of 3-in-1: 10p per cup.

Asda £6.38 for 300g jar Nescafe Original (@1.7g per serving => 176 servings) - 3.625p per cup
Asda £1.34 for 2kg of sugar (lets say 2 tsp = 8.4g => 238 servings) - 0.536p per cup
Asda £0.86 for 2 pints semi-skim milk (lets call it 20 servings) - 4.3p per cup.

So, on the face of it, at those prices (and, of course, assumptions) you're looking at about 1.5p more expensive per cup for the, more convenient, creamy and sweet stuff (the latter comes to 8.5p rounded up.)

  • You're not getting any choice in the serving size with the former
  • It assumes you actually want all three
  • You prefer whitener to milk.
  • This will, of course, be an introductory price, and it will, in no way, stay this low if they continue to sell it.

Scaryduck has his own take on this of course...
However, I can't help thinking that this new innovation might be missing a trick.


If only you made such a product which provided the coffee lover with just coffee, leaving them with the option of adding sugar and milk to taste?

[1] They've been trying this all over the place. They tried in Africa in 2008.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Polls within posts

Test post to attempt to answer the question posed over at The Moose.

Used as a starting point.

How easy is it to create polls actually in blog posts?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

BT and net neutrality.

BT - claiming in one breath they're not doing something while saying they are in the next. Via the advertising medium of a newspaper quote. (Or possibly a press release - I haven't located the original source of the quote.)

First, a brief definition: "Net neutrality": not forcing customers (or the websites providing the data they want to look at) to pay extra for bandwidth.

For example: since the iPlayer uses up more bandwidth than, say, email, this provides a headache for ISPs since it uses up a lot of bandwidth. ISPs either provide that extra bandwidth, or manage the traffic such that other traffic gets priority over iPlayer traffic.

Net neutrality (loosely - it's a bit more complicated) is the concept that while ISPs may take reasonable measures to manage their traffic, they shouldn't try to profit from it by, say, charging  either the BBC on the one hand, or those using iPlayer on the other (or even both) to prioritise iPlayer traffic.

Critics claim that opponents to net neutrality want to create a 'two tier' internet, those who are willing/forced to pay for prioritised traffic, and those who refuse/cannot afford to.

BT have a new product "Content Connect" (warning - annoying auto-play video.) Essentially a service whereby the likes of the BBC and Google (i.e. YouTube) can pay BT some money to have their content delivered faster to the user, or you, the end user can pay for faster, 'guaranteed' content.

When called on this by the Open Rights Group:
"We are talking about ISPs competing with the Internet for content delivery. Whether films, music or gaming services, the idea is that ISPs will deliver content better and more reliably than the Internet. That says a lot about the state of investment in our Internet.

"The result could be a fundamental shift away from buying services from the Internet to bundled services from ISPs: which would reduce competition and take investment away from Internet companies. That would be bad for everyone."
Or the FT:
BT is starting to sell a new service that gives broadband providers the tools to create a two-tier internet, where some video content would reach consumers in a better condition than other material.

The service devised by BT’s wholesale unit gives broadband providers the opportunity to charge content owners for high quality distribution of their video products to consumers.

BT replied:
"Contrary to recent reports in the media, BT's Content Connect service will not create a two-tier internet, but will simply offer service providers the option of differentiating their broadband offering through enhanced content delivery,"

Content Connect will not create a two-tier internet, but will simply create a two-tier internet.