Thursday, September 27, 2012

one of the problems with Australian advertising

At Sputnik Planning Labs we love our cognitive biases; and a particular favourite is the one sometimes called 'the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon' or more commonly the 'frequency illusion'.

This particular foible being the illusion in which a word, name, phrase or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly appears 'everywhere' with ridiculous frequency.

So, if you've never heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, never fear, you'll absolutely be hearing about it again soon.

In this case it's the phrase 'world class', and the context principally Australian advertising.

This or that campaign or spot is 'world class'. This CD/Planner/other is 'world class', this or that agency are 'world-class'.

To boot, I was chatting with an acquaintance who is a very senior Professor in Melbourne the other week who informed me that this 'rating' is similarly applied to the scoring of academic papers in his University.

A top mark qualifies a study as 'world class'.

World class then, being clearly up a notch from simply Australian class.

Herein lies the problem.

It's a classic example of another of our favourite cognitive traps coming in to play; the worse-than-average effect in which people will routinely seriously underestimate their own ability to do stuff in comparison to their perceived ability of others.

When does one ever hear of 'world class' work coming from London or New York for example?

Hardly ever.

Because agencies these markets don't feel the need to benchmark* themselves against any other territory.

(*In fact 'benchmarking' itself is another hideous trap, but we'll cover that one another time.)

The work is what it is.

It's either great or not great.

C'mon Australia. It ain't where you're from, it's where you're at.

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