Footloose with figures

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I couldn’t believe my ears. I wasn’t watching, admittedly, but the voice in the television advertisement definitely said, “No wonder 93% of Cosmopolitan readers recommend it.”

That is some recommendation, that’s a lot of people. It’s a lot, even if the ad refers to UK readers only. I just had to check.  Let’s see: according to its owner, Hearst Magazines UK, Cosmo’s UK readership is 1,430,000, at least it was in the second half of 2012, which suggests that 1,329,900 readers recommend Scholl’s Express Pedi, “Professionally pedicured feet at your fingertips.”

How does Scholl know?

It is, after all, a huge number to survey.  Did Scholl really provide nearly 1.5 million people with the Express Pedi, get them to use it, get them to respond to the question, “Would you recommend this product?” and then count all the responses?

Of course not.

Scholl advertisement

If you read the small print, if you happen to be watching the advertisement and not simply listening, for a fleeting moment you will see a line at the bottom of the screen “93% of 151 surveyed.”



You can check for yourself, the ad is posted on the Scholl site.  I did hear right!

It’s honesty, even if it’s in the small print. What they mean is NOT “93% of Cosmopolitan readers recommend it.”  What they really mean is, “93% of the members of a Cosmopolitan product testing panel recommend it.”  That’s better. Better still if they make the small print larger and clearer throughout the advert, and change the narrator’s lines.

93% of women recommend it

And then all that Scholl need do is to change the wording of the 5-star award on their reviews page, “93% OF WOMEN RECOMMEND IT.”

Before someone suggests that they’ve put their foot in it?

(The small print: it is probably quibbling to suggest that we might want to know how those 151 people were selected, or how representative they are of Cosmopolitan‘s readership, or how often they recommend the products they are given to test as against rejecting them.  We might want to know whether 200 or 2000 or maybe even more people got to test the product, but only 151 responded. We might want to know whether the choices were “Strongly recommend / Probably recommend / Might recommend / Neutral / Not likely to recommend / Definitely not recommend” – and anyone choosing any of the first three went into that 93%. We don’t know, we aren’t told. But let’s not quibble.)


Hearst Magazines UK. Cosmopolitan circulation and readership data, 2012. <>

Scholl Express Pedi (advertisement). <>

Scholl Express Pedi (reviews). <>

One thought on “Footloose with figures

  1. More than 50% of the world’s population have recommended something I didn’t even know existed?! So I’m part of the “unknowing” 7% of all the women in the world? What about the other women that never have heard about the product or the poverty stricken women in the world that, I assume, can’t afford to use or even test Scholl’s products…?

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