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  • Writer's pictureGavin Human

And the Oscar for overselling goes to...

With the Oscars in town, Hollywood still found time to talk about an entertainment event in Glasgow whose critics were more barbed than Barbie.

It was the story that started weird, got a bit weirder and then added outrage and humour and took off around the world. When you're putting on a new event you could only dream of every major news channel around the world covering it for you.

Willy's Chocolate Experience was an immersive event ("inspired by" but not affiliated to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) that for £35 promised to deliver families "to a universe where confectionary dreams are brought to life,” with chocolate fountains, a lemonade river and attractions that if you read the description sounded a little out of reach for Disneyland, let alone an industrial warehouse in Glasgow. The actual event didn't quite live up to the hype of the clearly AI generated images and over the top and error strewn text. When families turned up to a largely empty space with spare decorations and half a cup of lemonade in a plastic beaker and a couple of jelly beans, they were less than impressed - children were in tears and it was cancelled after a few hours with the police called. The whole sorry tale might not be enough for a Tinseltown movie, but it is enough for a Channel 5 documentary.

For a long time, and in most areas, the British approach to talking about yourself or your own work was grounded in modesty - the equivalent of being in school and saying "here, do you want to see my picture, it's rubbish." But with the open market of online promotion and the desire to get eyeballs on your work and products, our vocabulary has changed and now everything is AMAZING and INCREDIBLE in capital letters. Equally, things that are just not very good are now "awful" and "horrifying."

Estate Agents and property descriptions have probably been an outlier here in the way they have "exaggerated" some features of properties they are are putting on the market. There have been trends to call anything small and a bit cramped "bijou", and houses that are rundown as a "project." But does hyping up a house work?

To be honest, with over 30 years in the business, I can't say that I have never chosen adjectives that might place a more positive slant on a home's qualities. And I certainly appreciate the tactic of saying "it's important to get people through the door." That is true, and people who say "it's a numbers game" are right, but you also need the right numbers - not just more people through the door, but more people who will be interested in the house. And click bait headlines might get viewers to a website and please advertisers - but clicking on a website for two seconds and being annoyed is one thing, but making an appointment, giving up your time, and then travelling all the way to a house that you then think doesn't live up to the description...that's different. There's a lot of trust involved through the house buying and selling process and starting off with deception isn't the best idea as it makes you question what else the agent isn't being truthful about, and maybe what else isn't accurate about the house.

The organiser of the Wonka event has now said that "it all looked good on paper" - something that could sound familiar to a lot of people. A lot of ideas sound good. A lot of places look good. But to actually make an idea work takes work. It's no different with selling a house - taking time to write an accurate description, getting an excellent photographer to take flattering but realistic pictures, and making sure people get to see the house that they were being sold.

People may be less modest these days - in lots of ways - but we still don't like feeling like someone's trying to con us, it makes you less Willy Wonka and more The Twits.

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