30 June 2009

ABC News: Not just wrong but misleading on Yemenia Air crash

An introductory headline in ABC Radio News at 5:00pm (as heard on 774 ABC Melbourne) said:
Another Airbus A330 crashes into the ocean...
The actual report later in the news noted - correctly (as reported elsewhere) - that the aircraft type involved is an Airbus A310, which is an older plane of completely different design to the A330.

The wording of the headline - specifically the reference to "another A330..." and "crashes into the ocean..." - was clearly designed to evoke recall of the tragic Air France AF447 crash in the Atlantic earlier in June.

I rang the ABC Radio newsroom immediately (while the bulletin was still running). The person to whom I spoke acknowledged that the headline had been incorrect and agreed with me that it should be corrected. However, five minutes later, the headlines in the "recap" at the end of the news once again made the misleading claim that "another Airbus A330 has crashed into the ocean".

OK, I may be a plane-spotting nerd, but this was not merely a matter of having the facts wrong. This was clearly an attempt by someone in ABC News to sensationalise the news by implying this was "yet another" incident involving the A330, regardless of the fact that this crash involves a completely different aircraft type. Furthermore, reports to this point suggest that this crash occurred while the plane was makiing its approach to land in the Comoros, and not (more worryingly and much less explicably) at cruise altitude in mid-flight, as was the case with Air France 447.

Given that there are a number of A330s in the Qantas fleet, that kind of misleading and sensationalist reporting has serious implications for Australian consumers.

29 June 2009

Wilkins: Not just gullible but culpable in Goldblum death rumour

There's already been a lot written about Nine Network entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins and rumours of actor Jeff Goldblum's death, which spread at the same time as the world was learning that Michael Jackson had died of an apparent heart attack last Friday morning, Melbourne time.

Wilkins' conduct - mentioned as far afield as the Daily Mail in London and exploited for humour by Rove McManus last night - looks more appalling than comical when one examines the timelines involved and considers the resources he has available to him as a highly-paid and apparently well-connected correspondent.

I watched it unfold on Twitter, and there is no doubt in my mind that Wilkins himself fuelled the rumour by:
(a) picking it up from Twitter and not from any reliable news source
(b) broadcasting it and repeating it without apparently making any attempt to check it
(c) worst of all by far, giving the rumour credence by – falsely – attributing the report directly to New Zealand police as though he had spoken to them, and not to the hoax website (which claimed NZ police as a source).

The video clip raises a number of significant issues. Wilkins clearly stated (around 0:52):
New Zealand police are saying that that is a correct story.
Wilkins and colleagues then went on (over a "highlights" or obituary reel of Goldblum's acting) to discuss his career achievements while speaking of him in the past tense.

Some Australian Twitter users then began repeating Wilkins' report on the basis that he had confirmed the truth of the rumour. Indeed, overseas Twitter users began identifying "TV news in Australia" as having verified Goldblum's death; thanks to Wilkins' confirmation, many like this even had the actor dying IN Australia. It wasn’t long before celebrity users like Demi Moore – with millions of followers on Twitter – repeated the rumour and expressed their concern.

Meanwhile, back on the Today show, the time clock in the bottom right indicates that Wilkins was reporting this "correct story" at 9.42 am Eastern Australian time. New Zealand is two hours ahead of Eastern Australia, so it was already late morning in New Zealand, and there should have been no difficulty in getting NZ police media sources on the line to check the story before simply repeating a rumour from Twitter.

Furthermore, Wilkins is a "showbiz" reporter of many years' experience. Viewers could reasonably expect Wilkins to have links to "insiders" (e.g. artists' management and publicists, etc.) not accessible to the general public and to have checked with some of his supposed Hollywood connections, again, before treating the rumour as essentially being fact.

The links to the "story" as it was being posted on Twitter soon after 9 am on Friday all traced back to a single hoax website – there was no great difficulty establishing that it was a hoax. Indeed, Twitter users were already identifying it as a probable hoax as early as 9.31 am (see my own tweet and re-tweet. That is, 10 minutes before Wilkins made the statement that "New Zealand police are saying that that is a correct story", numerous average Twitter users had already exposed it as a likely or definite hoax.

When the likelihood of the report being a hoax was mentioned on Nine (at 9.55 am), the Today hosts and Wilkins did not apologise but rather blamed the nasty, exploitative hoax website for spreading the rumour ("that’s sick").

To add insult to injury, in Nine's main Friday evening news bulletin, as a "footnote" to the Michael Jackson coverage, it was noted that "a rumour spread online" about the death of Goldblum. There was no mention of Nine’s role or of "Dickie" Wilkins' significant contribution to the rumour via his lazy, shoddy journalism.

15 June 2009

Misleading use of the word "exclusive"? There's no other store...

Recently, on the same day, two envelopes from David Jones arrived in our letterbox at home.

One was addressed to my wife, who has had a David Jones store account since before I met her 20 years ago. It contained a letter, addressed to her by name, and carrying a bold red headline that said "AN EXCLUSIVE INVITATION FOR DAVID JONES CARDMEMBERS TO OUR PRE-CLEARANCE SHOPPING NIGHT". The body of the letter read:
As a valued David Jones Cardmember, you and your family are invited to the David Jones Pre-Clearance Shopping Night on Tuesday 2nd June 2009 from 5pm to 10pm at all stores... This is an exclusive invitation for our David Jones American Express Cardmembers and David Jones Storecard holders...

The second envelope, which looked almost identical, was addressed simply to "the Householder". It contained a letter with a similar bold red headline, and read:
Dear Householder... You and your family are invited to the David Jones Pre-Clearance Shopping Night on Tuesday 2nd June 2009 from 5pm to 10pm at David Jones Doncaster store... Whilst usually reserved for David Jones Cardmembers... we are giving you the opportunity to enjoy great offers...

Over the years, my wife has sometimes attended "exclusive" shopping nights for David Jones Cardmembers. But our assumption has always been that an "exclusive invitation for cardmembers" means only cardmembers are invited.

Yet on this occasion, DJs clearly also letterbox dropped thousands of households in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne.

On the night, there was nothing "exclusive" about entry to David Jones' Doncaster store. If you showed an invitation - any invitation - you got in. And no roped-off VIP area for cardmembers.

So how was my wife's personalised invitation in any sense "exclusive"?

This isn't about whether cardmembers are forced to mingle with the riff-raff on a promotional shopping night. It's about stupid and disingenuous - and possibly misleading and deceptive - promotion on the part of David Jones.

Discovering that a trusted brand has engaged in such behaviour can be a powerful influence in undermining customer loyalty. And isn't brand loyalty the reason why stores like DJs have store credit and cardmember programs in the first place?

04 June 2009

Is Kraft putting its Nuts on the line?

Noticed at the supermarket this week: Kraft appears to be re-configuring its peanut butter product range under the name KRAFT Nuts.
First to appear was the "smooth" variety, fomerly called simply KRAFT smooth peanut butter. Under the new brand architecture, the same product is now KRAFT nuts peanut butter - smooth. Only a minor change, and the overall look and colour scheme are the same. So why bother going to the expense of rebranding?
Well, while "Kraft Peanut butter" probably carries significant brand equity with Australian consumers, the word "smooth" and the phrase "peanut butter" are both highly descriptive and not distinctive. Hence, Kraft could only ever claim Trade Mark protection for the word Kraft itself and not for any combination.
However, a search of the IP Australia Trade Marks register shows that a composite mark including the word KRAFT in its familiar hexagonal red border combined with the word nuts on a peanut-shaped graphic device was lodged in April 2009. Kraft and its lawyers obviously believe that "KRAFT nuts" with a specific graphic device is sufficiently distinctive to be granted a trade mark monopoly. This would mean convincing IP Australia that, in combination with KRAFT, "nuts" is an unsual name for a peanut butter or other spread (even though it's a highly descriptive word if applied to nuts).
Strategically, this gives Kraft the opportunity to build equity in something it can own beyond the KRAFT corporate brand name, but in a way that probably won't confuse consumers.
Given that I can find nothing about it anywhere on the web, this rebranding seems to be getting a very "soft" launch. But I would expect to see some new advertising featuring, and possibly explaining, the revised architecture before long.