Dead Men Left

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Marketing "experts" don't know Foucault

Hurray! It's election year, so all the marketing people in Britain can do their bit for the democratic process by speaking in tongues:

Worcester Woman: The women from provincial cities seen as crucial swing voters in 1997. One recent opinion poll suggested she now felt like "Letdown Lady" after seven years of Labour

Pebbledash People: Voters identified by the Tories in 2001 as the group they had to win. They were married couples aged 35 to 50, white-collar workers and professionals, who lived in semi-detached, often pebble dashed, homes in the suburbs

Bacardi Breezer generation - Ex-Cabinet minister Stephen Byers last year urged Labour to get in touch with 18 to-25-year-olds in danger of being lost to the democratic process

Pollsters ICM came up with the phrase Pebbledash People.

The organisation's head of society and government, Martin Boon, said the names were only a "public relations side effect" of what was hugely expensive and based on several pieces of data.

At least he had the decency to sound a bit embarrassed. The whole process sums up almost everything that is wrong about modern, managerial politics; a fact not missed by the more sensible psephologists:

After all, they ask, if more than a third of the Sun's readers voted Labour in 1992 when the newspaper was vigorously pro-Conservative, what chance is there that shopping habits will reveal party allegiances?

John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde, says: "When you look from one election to another you tend to find the movements [between parties] are relatively even across the social structure."

My own preferred system of classification for these spurious disconnected quasi-facts - or anything similar - is this old favourite:

(a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off looks like flies