Definitely not an advert

Let’s suppose you were putting together the most stereotypical Daily Mail health story (that wasn’t about cancer). What would you include?

Well, obviously first of all, you need your patients. They should be someone Mail readers can sympathise with – white, straight, middle-class, happy and utterly conventional.

When Charlotte Davies met her future husband there was an instant attraction […]

The university administrator met [accountant] Dean three years ago in a bar in Colchester, Essex, and the pair quickly became inseparable.

Secondly, we need a disease. That can either be something rare and terrible – a unique form of cancer, for instance, or a disease like meningitis that often affects the young – or it can be something everyday, like sore joints or high blood pressure… or eczema.

Unfortunately for her, there was also an instant reaction – on her skin. Within weeks of meeting her soulmate, her eyelids erupted with eczema and her eyes had swelled to the size of golf balls.

Third, doctors have to be baffled. If your patient just stumbled to the GP and got a diagnosis, that’s no good. They have to have to been bounced from hospital to hospital until some maverick doctor (who may be played by Hugh Laurie) works out what the true problem was. Better yet, medical science should fail all together, and “alternative medicine” has to provide the “answers”.

Doctors struggled to explain the sudden reaction and it was a homeopath who eventually diagnosed the cause…

Fourth, you need a hook. Something that makes this case of eczema different from the millions of others out there.

as love.

Sigh. Yes.

‘He told me that it was common for eczema to be effected by emotions, but typically due to stress, trauma or unhappiness. This was the first time they had ever heard of someone being allergic to love’, she said.

‘I felt like my body was putting Dean to the test, because even though my heart told me he was The One, it was as if my body wanted to see if he really was a good as he seemed.

‘If he loved me after my eyes had turned into a bright red tomatoes literally within days of meeting him, then I’d know his love was true.’

Aww.

Fifth, you need a moral. Something to appeal to the Daily Mail‘s sensibilities. One common one is the story of the mother who goes against medical advice to abort a foetus, and is then lucky enough to bring it to term safely – women who aren’t so lucky don’t seem to make the papers in quite the same way, of course. In this case, the moral is…

She said: ‘In December we got married and the eczema started to get a lot better. Perhaps my hormones calmed down and I just felt more relaxed once we were married, but it certainly seems to have cured me.’

The headline goes even further: “Allergic to love: Meeting my soulmate brought me out in itchy eczema… until he proposed”.* You heard it here first – living in sin causes eczema!

Oh, and sixth, you need to blatantly plug a product, of course!

Charlotte tried a concoction of steroids, creams, and alternative medicines, to no avail. Eventually she chanced upon Skin Shop’s Dry Eye Gel, a product she describes as ‘miraculous’ at treating the symptoms. […]

Dry Eye Gel costs £8.99 for 30ml and is available from [ADDRESS REDACTED]

Incidentally, the Dry Eye Gel website promotes their product “As seen in the Daily Mail“, while every photo in the article – including the couples wedding pictures – are credited to “Eastnews Press Agency”, a PR photography company which claims on its site thatWe know exactly the style of images National and Regional newspapers demand. With this knowledge we can give you and your clients the best opportunity to gain maximum press exposure. We can offer everything from straight forward picture coverage to an all-in-one package. This would include a full “news write through” of press releases and picture distribution service direct to National and Regional Press.

Come to think of it, it sure was convenient for everyone involved that a woman decided to tell a national newspaper about her relatively minor skin condition, wasn’t it?

(Thanks to Tabloid Watch for pointing out the Dry Eye Gel website)

* There’s a joke about loveless marriage in there somewhere, but I’m not cruel enough to make it.

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  1. #1 by Katrina Morrow on Sunday, 13th March 2011 - 14:29 UTC

    I’m no fan of the daily mail, and I’m a fan of a good dose of scepticism but in this instance you are plain wrong in your judgements. The story was picked up by the mail to promote national allergy week from a letter written in to “take a break” magazine some time previously: hardly a woman telling “a national newspaper about a relatively minor skin condition” (and to anyone out there living with severe eczema: blame the author of the article for the term minor, not me!). I would also query your implications on the photos…could it not be the case that the Eastnews Press Agency have taken the rights to that wedding photograph rather than it being them that orchestrated said picture as a PR exercise?

    • #2 by atomicspin on Sunday, 13th March 2011 - 14:51 UTC

      Fair points. The big question is though, if this really is to raise awareness of National Allergy Week, why doesn’t it mention allergy week anywhere in the article? Why does it instead simply come to a juddering stop to promote these “Dry Eye Drops”? I’m not saying that they orchestrated the wedding picture, I just think it’s odd that a company that prides itself on selling advertorial stories to newspapers is involved in this.

      By the way, forgive me for asking, but a Google search for your name finds a homeopath with the same name who apparently specialises in skincare, has dealt with eczema, and worked in a similar part of the country to the couple. Are you the unnamed homeopath referred to in the article by any chance?

      • #3 by Katrina Morrow on Sunday, 13th March 2011 - 15:14 UTC

        I have no idea why it doesn’t mention National Allergy Week, but you can’t deny it first appeared in Take a Break. As for the unamed homeopath, sadly no conspiracy on that score either. I live in the West Midlands, and work in the realms of conventional science. Oh, and happily I have no skincare issues (more by luck than by any miraculous skincare product or advice!).

  1. Advertising in the Daily Mail: addendum | Nothing Special

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