In honor of this weekend’s premiere of the long-awaited “Simpsons Movie” in the U.S., I’m renaming what I used to call “like, duh! moments” – those lines in press releases that say “a new survey from Client X shows that 89 percent of people prefer their lawns weed-free” or “78 percent of people say that during the holiday season they clean their bathrooms before guests arrive.” They are now officially “like, d’oh! moments.”
(I’m more interested to know that 11 percent of people don’t prefer their lawns weed-free and that 22 percent of people don’t mind their guests seeing their grimy, filmy bathroom sinks and uncapped half-used tubes of drugstore-brand personal hygiene products strewn about their moldy vanity.)
As silly as they are – like, d’oh! – these pieces of information so obvious that no one could possibly dispute them are all too commonly used in our profession. And while they’re not always from surveys – I’ve read “like d’oh moments” coming out of the mouths of CEOs and celebrities and from the omniscient voice of a document’s writer – the fact is, they often are.
Now, I happen to like surveys when they tell me something surprising or quirky or downright appalling, and I’m at peace with the idea that we build news from their results (it is news, after all, if we learn that only 5 percent of people like their nose or that 94 percent of moms would rather get a Brazilian bikini wax than pick up their kids at pre-school). But when we try to build news off “like d’oh moments,” it not only sullies our soul, but makes it damn hard to write a compelling press release or media alert or whatever.
There are a few ways to get around this:
Lastly, remember these immortal words of Homer Simpson: "Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14 percent of people know that.” Like, duh? Like, d'oh!