diamond geezer

 Friday, November 05, 2010

PR masterclass: Oxford Circus crossing proving a hit one year on

Westminster Council is keen to remind London that its Oxford Circus X-shaped pedestrian crossing has now been open for a year. This is not news. But earlier in the week Westminster's PR hotshots managed to propel this non-story into the mediasphere through careful use of hyperbolic language. Indeed, they even got the BBC to regurgitate key points from the press release with no additional independent reporting whatsoever. Watch and learn.
"In its first year more people have walked across the Oxford Circus crossing than live in the UK and Australia combined."
90 million people, apparently. Yes, it's that old favourite, the use of statistics to justify any old crap. It is patently not true that 90 million different people have used the crossing, instead rather a lot of people have used it several times each. Anything for a headline. It gets worse.
"Since its launch a year ago on 2 November 2009 the Shibuya style crossing, which was inspired by Tokyo’s famous district, has allowed more than 90 million people to cross the road diagonally in an X."
No, that's not true either. The crossing may be an X shape, but nobody's crossed it diagonally in an X. They might have done a / or a \ but they couldn't have done both simultaneously. And let's not forget that a significant proportion of the 90 million users actually went | or — instead. This is bollocks, masquerading as truth.
"The busy intersection has given the millions of shoppers and visitors to the West End around 70 per cent more freedom to move around..."
Absolutely not. Only visitors to Oxford Circus have found more freedom to get around, not visitors to the West End as a whole. And where has that 70% figure come from? How does anyone actually measure percentage increase in freedom? I assume they've measured length of crossing (four sides of a square plus two diagonals is about 70% longer then the perimeter of the square alone). But that's geometry, not reality.
"...and has helped boost annual sales figures in the West End which are up by 7 per cent."
So West End sales are up 7%, and Westminster are insinuating that the new crossing is therefore the cause? Some of that increase maybe, but probably not much of it.
"Since the crossing opened last year Oxford Circus has become a must visit destination in the capital..."
No it hasn't. Not amongst sane people anyway, not after the initial week it opened. No tourist flies into London and thinks "Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Oxford Circus pedestrian crossing." Get a grip.
"...and has doubled as an event venue hosting catwalk shows, student and arts projects and charity events."
Oxford Circus rarely closes to traffic, but has been doing so for the annual VIP shopping day since well before this crossing was opened. This is nothing special.
"Boris London, the Mayor of London, said: 'Ripping out the railings and clutter that littered this legendary crossing has made a dramatic difference. That is why we made it a key priority of my Great Outdoors project which is tasked with improving the look and feel of our great city and making it easier for the millions of Londoners and visitors to get around our great capital. One year on from its launch it is clear that opening up the area and clearing out the clutter has made this iconic crossing massively easier to use.'"
Actually I can't fault that particular speech. Well said, Boris London.
"Cllr Colin Barrow, said: "Our redesign gave Oxford Circus the X Factor last year and is still proving a hit one year on. It has become a destination which Londoners can be proud of and has made the West End an international talking point."
But Councillor Barrow deserves a slap for that tosh. Sneaking in a reference to the X Factor, because some marketing wizard told him to, is pitiful. Using the word 'destination' in a PR-branding sense is just sad. And sorry, but two American tourists telling the folks back home about their diagonal jaywalk certainly doesn't make for a genuine 'international talking point'.
"David Shaw, Head of Regent Street Portfolio at The Crown Estate said: 'London hasn’t seen a more significant improvement to its public realm than the Oxford Circus diagonal crossing in the last quarter of a century.'"
To their shame, the BBC cut and pasted this ridiculous claim word for word. I'm sure we can all think of far more significant improvements to London's public realm since 1985 than some extra traffic lights. The pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square, for example, or the development of Docklands. Please, would responsible news gathering organisations stop and think before parroting this drivel?
"Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive of New West End Company representing businesses in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street said..."
That's "Richard Dickinson said", with the most ludicrously long job title sandwiched in the middle to ensure that every relevant stakeholder is suitably plugged. This is how PR folk write. This is not normal English.
"'It is just this sort of investment in world renowned design and public spaces that will help keep our global ranking as the world’s top shopping destination.'"
There you go, the new crossing isn't about making visitors' lives better, it's about getting them to spend more money. Who'd ever have guessed otherwise.
"The crossing has adapted the technology used in the blockbuster films such as Lord of the Rings to ensure the crossing could cope with the people who pass through it."
Oh please, you're just embarrassing yourselves now. Yes, hurrah, Oxford Circus today is a considerably nicer place to walk than it was previously. Really, genuinely, hugely improved. But this anniversary press release scores nothing but a great big cross.

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