Thursday, November 20, 2014

The curse of recency.

How did cronuts shove the world's many wars off of the front pages?

How did Kim Kardashian's nether regions become more important than corruption in the global economic system, the warming of our planet and a toxic gas leak that on Monday killed four workers?

It's not enough to just say that the world's dumbed down.

There's something else destroying our minds.

The curse of Recency.

Recency, or if I want to get all deep-dish about it, the Availability Heuristic, is the all-too-human tendency to assign more importance to events and conditions that happened recently, as opposed to things that happened a while ago.

It's why if you ask people for the greatest writer in the world, more people are likely to say Stephen King than Geoffrey Chaucer.

The ad business has been especially waylaid by Recency.

Everything we've learned about communication and persuasion is, these days, overwhelmed by the au courant trend, joke, trend or fillip. Worse, because the only adjective we now value is "award-winning," we are under the sway of awards shows that celebrate recency and therefore bring more recency on.

That's a fancy way of saying there's no originality. Most creativity today involves little more than imitation of work that's already won awards. (Perhaps the most creative aspect of most awards shows is the invention of new award categories.)

Recency has gotten us away from persuasion.

It's gotten us away from the core of what our business is about.

There are those, of course, who will use the recency of a new application or a new website or a new belch of wearable technology, and then they'll glibly assure us that "this changes everything."

This palaver will be repeated down the hallways and conference rooms of a thousand agencies around the globe. We'll hear about agencies that are leading the industry because they have a "wearable" department. They'll win awards as the Wearable Agency of the Year. There will be a new award called "The Wearies."

We've seen this sort of thing a dozen times over the last dozen years.

It's all recency.

What we should be thinking about is something deeper than merely recent.

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