Endemol & Channel 4 Unacceptably Sensationalise Tourette Syndrome

Last year I made a decision not to watch Big Brother. I made that decision because I wanted to enjoy my summer without feeling I had to know every evening what had happened in a house-come-studio in Elstree. I felt good at the end of it all that I’d managed to pick up enough through the press to be able to discuss it at work but I hadn’t wasted my evenings with the modern-day equivalent of the 19th Century circus freak-show.

Last night the 2006 housemates entered the fray and frankly I was appalled. Channel 4 have felt it acceptable to put a tourette-suffering young lad, Peter Stephenson, in there apparently (due to Davina’s evident guffawing) to make him a national point of mirth: effectively, ‘look at the funny man with the tic who swears’. Ultimately Tourette Syndrome is a psychiatric disorder and I really thought we’d gone past the days of finding these inherently funny.

Last year the Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA) in the US released a press announcement “It Ain’t Funny & It Ain’t True; Exploiting Tourette Syndrome for Laughs”. There is no doubt in my mind that Big Brother is attempting to sensationalise this condition and is being aided and abetted by The Sun. They also quote a spokeswoman from the TSA in the UK: “Sufferers should be laughed with, not at. We hope Big Brother will help viewers understand TS and be supportive.” Detailing some of Peter’s other behaviours (his apparent lack of sexual inhibition and cross-dressing) the Sun builds a picture of someone with co-occurring conditions. Often Tourette Syndrome sufferers exhibit Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which in adults manifests itself in excessive talking, interrupting others, blurting out answers before questions are finished and saying what's on your mind without regard to the ramifications. I’m not an expert but a degree in Psychology does at least qualify me to say these do correlate with the behaviours Pete apparently displays.

Pete’s presence at the house in Elstree is designed solely to grab audience attention – it’s certainly not for any other reason – and whether he’s fully aware of what this means in a social context for his disorder, it remains that this encourages a climate of discrimination. A counter argument may run that this is actually better than hiding Pete away as a form of social censorship but that is not what I am advocating either, merely that this programme demonstrates an artificially skewed sense of social order and what suffers like Pete need is inclusion and acceptance. BB7 is not educating the Great British Public about psychiatric disorders, it is (in my opinion) unacceptably sensationalising it.

Also: Brand Republic: "Channel Four reveals Big Brother's freaky 14"

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Viral Marketing Measures of Success: Reach vs. Conversion

I was sent the viral Fan Van game this afternoon which (as chaps might be able to see) is quite an entertaining and visually appealing distraction. It has been sent on already and has therefore fulfilled the viral element of the strategy. What I'm not so clear on is how effective it will be at getting people to generate revenue for the company involved. That company is P&O and the strategy for this viral must be for (men) to enter the competition to win a van and therefore supply them with significant volumes of client data or book their trip (and I guess the supposition is that this will be a trip to Germany 2006 via the P&O ferry route) through them. I'm not convinced a high percentage of viewers of this viral will actually do that.

By chance today Justin Kirby of Digital Media Communications writes in NMA (New Media Age) about how "Marketers must get creative for viral campaigns to succeed". He asserts a similar position: "...sadly success still seems to be judged simply in terms of reach rather than tangible business benefits, such as shifting product or increasing brand advocacy." I'd like to see the figures from this P&O viral, what was their reach, what was the uptake in sales and what was the increase in brand awareness. There's no question that the P&O viral is creative, but does it have longevity? I might forward this on but I'll have forgotten about it tomorrow and it'll have been deleted from my mail box. It's not something I'm going to revisit and, if it wasn't for the fact I'm writing this, I'm pretty sure I'd have forgotten who it was for. In fact, I'd heard about it from a friend before I got the email ... he described it as "the fan in a van thing" ... I searched in Google for "fan in a van" and it didn't appear. I typed "faninavan".com and .co.uk, it didn't appear. If I had wanted to look for this after i'd deleted the email I wouldn't have found it again.

In addition, is this sort of viral just a little too indiscriminate. Some will inevitably fall on stoney ground. Ok, so it will reach a core target audience of 17-35 year old men but will all of these have the sort of disposable income where they will be booking P&O trips? Will they be the sort of chaps that will want a van? This seems a bit of a broad-brush approach. But then, does this wastage matter on the web. At the end of the day, you don't HAVE to click and a video of nubile girls is unlikely to annoy many unwitting recipients in this demographic. I'd have much more confidence in the product/service shifting results of this viral if it had been effectively targetted and profiled.

Some additional Blog comment via Gordon's Republic.

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Prioritizing Dancing Mangos

It's been some time since I've posted about the dreadful service I have experienced on one railway. That's not to say it's improved, well not much, it's just that I seem to have bigger fish to fry.
However, I was delighted today to be pointed in the direction of Dancing Mango. I'm particularly interested in the Customer Experience section, I love reading about companies that are getting it right and those that are getting it wrong, it brings clarity to much of the internal hypothesising I find myself doing as part of my job. To that end it's been a real eye opener to pick up Jakob's new book, "Prioritizing Web Usability". Unlike some of his previous books this one (and it might be Hoa Loranger's input) contains a fair swathe of analytical, thought-provoking copy. But, and this is what give it credibility in my eyes, is that it's not afraid to say "we were wrong" or at least "we're no longer right" about certain topics. For example link colours. Previously Jakob said, blue is essential, now it's ok to use other colours for links as long as they're consistent and contrasting. Common sense prevails. It simply has less of a prescriptive tone and more of a common sense advice, and in that sense it picks up on the great successes of Steve Krug's work.

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