diamond geezer

 Thursday, August 26, 2010

PR Masterclass

Lesson 3: How to cheat using geography

Imagine that you're the PR person responsible for a world-famous board game, and that this year is that board game's 75th anniversary. What you need is a big birthday splash in the media, built up around an irresistible 'exclusive' fact, backed up irrefutably by boffins. Step forward Louisa Nigro, senior brand manager for Monopoly.
"It's the 75th anniversary of Monopoly this year so we decided what better way to celebrate it than to solve the mystery of where is Go in London."
Excellent idea. All the properties on a Monopoly board are geographically fixed, so what better than to announce precisely where in London the 'Go' square might be. It would be great if 'Go' were somewhere central, somewhere well-known, even somewhere world-famous. Indeed, speaking publicity-wise, it would be criminal if 'Go' were to end up anywhere else.
While Old Kent Road, Bond Street and Mayfair are all well-known Monopoly locations, the location of Go has been shrouded in mystery, until today. The secret spot has now been revealed as Queen’s Walk on the South Bank, next to the London Eye.
A perfect choice. The London Eye is known the world over, and there's also a big patch of green alongside should you ever want to host an outdoor promotional junket on the 'Go' square itself. Just like happened yesterday, in fact, as dutifully reported by several newspapers and websites.

But there's more. On London's Monopoly board the 'Go' square can be found midway between Mayfair and the Old Kent Road. Look on a map of London, says Louise, and the midway point between Mayfair and the Old Kent Road is the London Eye. Go, QED.
Ordnance Survey, the mapping firm, traced the spot after being commissioned by Hasbro, the game's maker, using digital technology. They concluded that "Go" is to be found on the South Bank at Queen's Walk promenade by the Eye tourist attraction.
Ooh, so it's not just official, it's also accurate. If the Ordnance Survey are involved, it must be. They'll have pinpointed the precise spot with integrity using computers and stuff, so if they say the halfway point is on the South Bank promenade then it surely is. Surely. Isn't it?
Rob Andrews, from Ordnance Survey, said: "It has been fantastic to work with Monopoly and solve the 75-year mystery as to where the exact location of 'Go' is."
Except it isn't. The halfway point between Mayfair and the Old Kent Road isn't on the edge of the Thames close to the London Eye. Not unless you fiddle the coordinates, either at the beginning or the end of the calculation. And I'd like to suggest that this is precisely what Rob and Louise have done.

To work out where the halfway point should be, I need to define one single location to represent Mayfair, and another to represent the Old Kent Road. That should be easy. Mayfair is fairly well defined as the area bounded by Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly and Park Lane. The centre of Mayfair would therefore be somewhere around the northern end of Berkeley Square. I'm sure Rob with his mega-computers could calculate the precise mathematical centre with ease, but Berkeley Square will do. Identifying the middle of the Old Kent Road is even easier. The street's 1.7 miles long, and halfway down is approximately outside the giant Asda superstore, close to the junction with Ossary Road. I don't need Rod's technology once I have these two points, I simply use a Google map to draw a straight line between them [map]. And the midpoint of my line, where the 'Go' square should be, lands slap bang in the road outside St George's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark. That's quite close to the Imperial War Museum, which is a fine upstanding London tourist attraction. But it's nowhere near the London Eye. Bugger.

Well, maybe I've made a wrong assumption. Rob assures me that his London Eye midpoint is correct so, given one endpoint, I should be able to work backwards and deduce where the other must be. What if only my Old Kent Road endpoint is correct? That would put the Mayfair end of the line close to Edgware Road station, nowhere near Mayfair at all. So that can't be right. What if only my Mayfair endpoint is correct? That would put the Old Kent Road end of the line on Falmouth Road in Elephant and Castle, not quite as far as the closest end of the Old Kent Road. So that can't be right either. Which suggests I've made two wrong assumptions. My Mayfair end's far too far west, and my Old Kent Road end's not far enough east. Back to the drawing board.

In which case I need to fix the line's midpoint at the London Eye, because that's correct, and then fiddle around with both ends until I get one into Mayfair and the other on the Old Kent Road. Once two points on the line are known, geometry decrees that the third will fall into place. It soon becomes clear that the Old Kent Road end has to be right up at the top of the street, at the Bricklayers Arms roundabout, not anywhere near the middle. And this tugs the Mayfair end back below Oxford Street, where it needs to be, roughly in the northwest corner of Grosvenor Square. Like so [map].

If you didn't read all the geographical intricacies above, simply know this. I had to fiddle the precise locations of 'Mayfair' and the 'Old Kent Road' in order to get the halfway point where I wanted it to be - on Queen's Walk below the London Eye. And that's what the Monopoly people must have done too. They wanted a photo opportunity with giant Scottie dogs on the South Bank, so they selected subjective locations within Mayfair and the Old Kent Road to give them the 'Go' square they wanted. They warped the facts to get an exciting end result. They cheated.
Nigro said: “We’ve turned Queens Walk into an area of Monopoly madness today including our Monopoly jail, a cash-blowing globe with Monopoly prizes and a Monopoly-branded bus to take people around the landmarks on the board".
So the Monopoly 'Go' square is officially located beside the London Eye - I have no problem with that. But please don't try to drag in a cartographer to prove it, because they'll have to abandon any degree of scientific integrity in order to do so. Do not misrepresent 'Go'. Do not collect £200.

By this same ludicrous halfway argument...
» Jail must be located halfway between Pentonvile Road and Pall Mall, ie outside the front of the British Museum
» Free Parking must be located halfway between Vine Street and the Strand, ie round the back of the National Gallery

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