FEATURE1 May 2010

Diary: Orwell, Geordies and the Dunkirk spirit

Stuff that caught our eye in and around the research industry this month.

Big Brother is watching you

When people mention George Orwell and social media monitoring in the same sentence, that’s usually a bad thing. Strange, then, that a new buzz-tracking tool has decided to call itself Online 1984, invoking the images conjured up in Orwell’s novel. You know – paranoia, oppression, powerlessness, despair. Orwell would no doubt have been delighted to know that his dystopian vision is providing inspiration for new marketing information services. After all, worrying about online surveillance is so passé. In an effort to stay ahead of the curve, Diary informs readers that it has registered the trademark for a data collection tool to be named Boot Stamping On A Human Face Forever.

The company that Cameron keeps

Jem Fawcus of qual research agency Firefish found himself in the papers this month by virtue of his engagement to Tory leader David Cameron’s younger sister. The Mail on Sunday provided a lurid report of Fawcus’ stag party, guests at which included “a ‘trance’ DJ”, “a ‘space dub’ musician” and “a former rock guitarist”. To delicate Mail readers, that’s a bit like saying Cameron was partying with Jack the Ripper, Osama Bin Laden and the Daleks. Furthermore some of the guests were “recovering drug addicts” – a detail that only the Mail could construe as sufficient to stain Cameron’s reputation by association. As far as Diary can see, the only fact in the story that reflects strangely on anyone other than the writers is that Fawcus is a market researcher. Just what kind of people is Cameron mixing with?

Dulcet tones

The Geordie accent is the sexiest in Britain, according to a poll of 5,000 people sponsored by Travelodge. It is presumably Cheryl Cole, the nation’s sweetheart, whom we have to thank for this, rather than any other noted Geordies (Peter Beardsley, Geoff from Byker Grove, Jimmy Five Bellies). It’s encouraging news for Cole, who had been concerned that her Newcastle accent would hold her back from breaking the US because Americans wouldn’t understand what she was saying. But a spokesman said her fears were probably unfounded, commenting: “Ah divvun nah boot that, layk.”

Ferry annoying

Thom Noble of NeuroFocus Europe has told Diary of his experience amid April’s volcanic ash cloud chaos. Thom got stuck in Zurich after flying out with Nielsen’s Stephanie Hayden for a meeting just before planes were grounded. They ended up taking six trains and three taxis to get to Dunkirk and catch a ferry back to England. The final twist was that ferry operator Norfolkline would only accept passengers ‘with powered transport’. In the face of unprecedented travel disruption across Europe, it might seem sensible to set aside such rules and just let passengers pay their money and get on, but Norfolkline obviously felt differently. So Noble and Hayden had to buy a pair of battered old bicycles in a Dunkirk junk shop and ride them up the boat’s ramp in order to be allowed on board. There’s a lesson about customer relations here – one that Norfolkline has clearly chosen to learn the hard way.