Now now, NOW Magazine!

10 05 2011

First of all, sorry that I haven’t written anything for a long while, and sorry that my second blog, focussed solely on freelancing, hasn’t yet properly materialised! After learning that I was to be made redundant from the publishing company I work for, I was all set and ready to freelance full time – but then, out of the blue (and annoyingly, just after I’d had a batch of business cards printed up!), I was offered a permanent job with a med comms company that was too good to turn down! I start my new job on Monday, so things have been quite manic trying to wrap up my old job amidst an unusually hectic social calendar! Freelancing has taken a back seat for now, but I will try to get the blog back on track again!

Anyway, back to the subject of this blog post.

If you’re a Facebook user, you’ll notice that the adverts that appear on your pages are quite often cleverly targeted to whatever you have been writing about on your Wall. Over the last few weeks, I’ve attended two hen parties and was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding, so of course the ads on my Facebook page have been all related to rings, dresses, cakes and wedding photography. Then, just yesterday, a friend posted, “Health kick has begun! 15K run and only one chocolate bar consumed today!” Ever since I congratulated her on her efforts, I’ve had sports and dieting-relating ads appear on Facebook – and it’s one of those ads that I want to talk about today because it’s got me rather riled!

The offending advert is this one; “Cheryl Cole Loses 19lbs”. Even without clicking the link, the advert has got me mad – Cheryl Cole is TINY and I rather suspect that the advert text is not only misleading but also factually incorrect. Intrigued, I decided to click the link in the advert, and was directed to a NOW Magazine article that discusses how between them, the 5 members of British girl band Girls Aloud allegedly lost 36lbs in weight. Weirdly, the article doesn’t mention “these 2 old diet tips” proffered in the advert, though the page is loaded with miracle diet-related Google ads, and even more oddly, the NOW article was from 2006!

Immediately getting on my soapbox, I wrote to NOW Magazine and pointed out the many inaccuracies and misleading titbits quoted in the article.  For starters, the Facebook ad claims that our Cheryl lost 19lbs in weight; the NOW article says she lost 14lbs. More seriously, I felt that NOW Magazine were glamourising Cheryl and her bandmates’ unnecessary weight loss (and it is at this point that I should point out I don’t know if the figures quoted are even true or not!). According to the article, 5 ft 3 in Cheryl has gone from 9 stone to 8 stone, and suggests that the higher weight was unhealthy. In fact, for Cheryl’s height, both 9 stone and 8 stone are well within the “healthy” Body Mass Index (BMI) bracket.

Even more worrying were the weight loss figures quoted for her bandmates Sarah Harding and Nadine Coyle, both of whom have reportedly lost 7lbs. However, at 5 ft 6 in and 5 ft 5 in respectively, both Sarah and Nadine’s starting weights were at the lower end of the “healthy” BMI bracket, and their alleged weight loss has now put them in the “underweight” category. Despite this, Nadine Coyle is reported as saying that she still feels she has “curves” – which we all know is magazine-speak for “fat”. This is not something that I feel a woman’s magazine should be promoting!

Though it is 5 years old, I am shocked and appalled that this article was even published in the first place. Many people, especially young girls, look up to Cheryl Cole and the other members of Girls Aloud, and it’s easy to see how these impressionable groups could be led to believe that 8 stone or less is “the perfect weight”, especially in the absence of any explanation of the Body Mass Index – a measure of how your weight is relative to your height. The article also fails to mention that many secondary factors can be attributed to weight – genetics, metabolism, muscle to fat ratios and gender, among other things, can all affect your weight and alter what an individual’s ideal weight should be.

The thing that angered me most about the article was not even the article itself, but rather the way in which I was made aware of the it – through a targeted Facebook advert that was presented to me on the grounds that I congratulated my friend Jenny on her running achievement and chocolate-avoiding will power. It appeared to me to be part of some highly unethical pay-per-click marketing campaign in which young Cheryl Cole fans would see the ad and think, “OMG! If Cheryl Cole needed to lose 19lbs then what does that mean for me?! What can I do about it?! Oh look, there seems to be a Google advert, conveniently placed directly underneath this article, that promotes a miracle diet cure! I’d better try it!” And just like that, NOW Magazine earns a few pence from the ad click, and another teenage girl becomes deluded – or anorexic, eating only rocket salad and balsamic vinegar, just like Kimberley Walsh.

But there’s a twist in this tale! I immediately fired off a complaint email to NOW Magazine and was surprised when, not less than a few hours later, I received a reply that said,

From: Now online
Sent: 10 May 2011 16:34
To: Lisa Martin
Subject: Re: Complaint about Facebook ad article link

Dear Lisa Martin
We do not have any Facebook ads and this article, as you say, is 6 years old so we are perplexed by your letter.

What Facebook ads please? Do you have a grab of one?

So I sent a screen grab and replied,

Hi,

Well I’m somewhat comforted to learn that you don’t seem to know anything about this Facebook advert (though I still think the article is terribly written, even if it is 5 or 6 years old!), but please find attached a screen grab of my Facebook homepage (as of 5pm today) with the offending “ad” on the right hand side. The link directs to your article at http://www.nowmagazine.co.uk/celebrity-profiles/diets/230337/girls-aloud-s-diet-secrets/1/.

Would appreciate an update!

Thanks,

Lisa

NOW Magazine sent a brief reply saying, “Will let you know. This is very odd”.

Very odd indeed! What’s going on here?!

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Do spelling and grammar matter on social media sites?

15 12 2010

In answering this question, I’m referring specifically to corporate profile pages and communications via sites like Facebook. Though I’ll confess poor spelling and grammar always bugs me (something to which my long-suffering boyfriend will attest), I’m not in any way suggesting that my friends and family should take an English language course before being allowed to update their statuses or comment on my photos. To a certain extent, my attitude is relaxed when considering Twitter in this argument too, since the very fact that you can only write 140 characters per tweet often necessitates the use of “txt spk” in order to fit your point into the required character count.

My editorial eye seems naturally drawn to spelling mistakes, typographical errors, use of the wrong words, word repetition and poor grammar. I can’t help but notice. Sometimes, while reading The Times (a frequent culprit), in a throwback to my days as a school teacher, I’ll circle the mistakes in red pen; I’ve yet to go so far as to send the edited article back from whence it came, but perhaps I ought. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a crime for published media to contain errors, especially those institutions like the aforementioned Times who portray a professional image and, after all, whose business it is to make sense.

But what of social media? Anyone who’s anyone has a Facebook profile, and more and more businesses are cottoning on to the fact that they can meet their clients on a social, more informal level and create opportunities for interaction, rather than just stuffing leaflets through our doors or sending emails to our inboxes and hoping we’ll read them. Facebook is cool, and creating a social media buzz about a product, a company or a campaign is hot right now.

A friend living in Ireland, who clearly feels the same way as I do on this issue, posted a screenshot of this to his Facebook page today:

Be the Difference” is a campaign being run by the Irish branch of O2, one of the UK’s biggest mobile phone and communications networks, to promote their involvement in sponsoring Irish rugby. As my friend pointed out, it helps if you read it in an Irish accent (“we taught we’d help you out!”), but going by the numerous other errors in this short advertorial piece, I’m not convinced it’s meant to be that humorous!

Is it OK to let mistakes like this slip just because it’s on Facebook? I have no doubt that O2 and other large companies have proof readers and editors cast a final glance over their TV, billboard and magazine ads, so why not their social media ads too? Or, to cut out an extra step in the process (because clearly the up-to-the-minute nature of social media marketing means that a large volume of material is generated on a daily basis), why not hire marketeers that can spell and use grammar correctly in the first place? Perhaps there is an argument that most people won’t notice; that Average Joe can’t spell so why should it matter? I strongly contest this. To my mind, correct spelling, grammar and use of the English language – especially in corporate communications – demonstrates professionalism, shows that a company is intelligent and that it knows what it’s talking about. Of course, having a great product or service that people actually want is crucial, but so is the way that that product or service – and the company as a whole – is portrayed to the consumer. Excepting deliberate use of poor grammar and spelling for humorous intent, sloppy standards and dumbing down don’t work for me, I’m afraid.








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