Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The curious case of 96% of women

I was blown away, off my couch, the other night, watching an ad for Dove Shampoo on TV. I didn’t know Dove had shampoo, so there you go; now I do. Advertising does work.
But what flabbergasted me was the end title: “96% of women prefer Dove Hair”. Really? Seriously? 96% of women?
I didn’t even know it existed, haven’t tried it, so I definitely wasn’t one of the 96%. I asked my Post-Grad class at UCT. Four girls out of about 60 were ahead of me in that they actually knew that Dove had a shampoo, but none of them had tried it.  

So who are these women? The ad doesn’t say “96% of women who tried the product”. It doesn’t say “South African women”. It doesn’t say “women who work in the Unilever building”. It just says “96% of WOMEN.”
Then, quietly steaming about this utterly fatuous and, in my opinion, obviously blatantly untrue fact, I was again assailed on my couch. Revlon ran an ad (like Dove, a rather bland and otherwise uninteresting ad), and there it was again. Like a wet fish in the face. Can you believe that “96% of women” also prefer Revlon’s product – I think it was the anti-ageing stuff.
The same 96%? Of women?
What I wondered is whether the women in Somalia had much time to ponder their preference of shampoo and anti-ageing face cream; same for the women in Afghanistan, rural China and even rural South Africa. Of course to make the statistic even more ridiculous, the size of markets for these types of products are limited by actually being physically suited to the product.

So if I do some basic calculations, on just South African women (remember the ad doesn’t even say that), I get that the total universe of vaguely suitable consumers for Dove Shampoo in South Africa (as a percentage of all women in South Africa) is 24% of South African women. So is it 96% of this 24% that prefer Dove Shampoo? I strongly doubt it. Walk into a room of ten White, coloured or Asian women in South Africa, and ask them if more than 9 of them prefer Dove Shampoo.

Aha! You might say. There’s an asterisk and a TINY qualifier at the bottom of the screen in the Dove ad. Visible only to the obsessive like me, who paused the ad on PVR and pressed my nose against the TV.  So that must qualify the 96% surely, because this is Unilever, and they know better, and also because Dove is about being real, about building a caring relationship with their consumers, so they would never lie…
But you would be wrong. The tiny print (visible only in a cinema, with binoculars) only says that they prefer this shampoo to one they are currently using. No news about the 96% then.

So I am left deeply curious about this statistic.
Is it a blatant misrepresentation of a small sample to which we are not privy?
Or am I just not getting it?
Revlon and Unilever: would you be so kind as to clarify this so I can sleep better?

1 comment:

  1. I am so GLAD someone noticed this too. My mother told me the other day that SA Regulating Authorities (of sorts) is going to start clamping down on 'false claims' and demand that all ingredients be printed on product labels (current requirements is in 20%'s). So not sure if this comment has made it top of mind but standing in a Dischem line I noticed FIRST a giant black label stating 'brand name APRICOTS - SA's most nutritious brand ..' The product in the plastic bag was a sweet called 'apricots' made from petroleum by-products. Yet they claim to be SA's most nutritious ... It's such a sign of the times ins't ...