The perils of dons for hire and the perfect equation for whatever…
Oh dear. One of my favourite writers and thinkers, Ben Goldacre, was approached by Clarion for help on a Veet inspired press release chronicling the ‘scientific basis’ for the ‘perfect wiggle’, which is apparently possessed by plastic starlet Jessica Alba. This tactic got plenty of coverage, but this revealing and angry piece by Ben is probably not what they were imagining when they pimped the idea around. The Clarion bunnies offered one of the most skeptical and intellectually rigorous writers out there £500 to endorse something in total opposition to everything he has ever stood for. That suggests some seriously confused cottontails. When Ben tracked down a Professor Weber of Cambridge University that is quoted in the guff, it emerged that he had not signed off the release and seemed rather offended by the whole thing.
Stupid. stupid, stupid. Now the whole fake ‘science’ and equation based box of consumer PR tricks is a very powerful thing but should always be deployed carefully, with a sense of fun and involving ‘academics’ lightweight enough to sit on a GMTV sofa without confusing anyone. As Ben says, it is a shame that scientific discourse has been brought this low but I think spinners are less of a problem than the hacks hungry for funny numbers and puff that the likes of Veet will happily provide. An excuse to print a picture of Jessica Alba and a bogus equation about why she turns undemanding heads is less dangerous than a feature on homeopathy.
Nonetheless, if you are going to give your tactic a pseudo-scientific gloss, it is best not to seek the help of the real thing.