Some past examples are available here. And here's a new one to add to my collection:
ST June 4, 2006
Net furore as critics call it unrealistic and embarrassing, but there are fans too
By Jeremy Au Yong
THE National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School's new television commercial has become something of a hot item on the Internet - but not for the reasons NUS might have hoped.
The advertisement in question shows a student in suburban America (it was actually filmed in Woodlands) leafing through letters from University of Pennsylvania's Wharton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan and University of Chicago's business schools before squealing in delight at an acceptance letter from NUS.
A voice-over then confidently proclaims NUS as 'preferred around the world by tomorrow's elites' before the clip ends with the student's mother joking that the boys in Singapore are 'way too cute'.
The commercial has been a talking point and many of the comments are far from complimentary .......
Critics cite two complaints: first, that it is unrealistic for NUS to compare itself with the top 10 ranked business schools. And second, that the 'cute boys' remark was embarrassing.
Said teacher Sam Ong, 35: 'Why were they playing up the cute factor? We have so many selling points, why pick that one?'
Advertising veteran Mark Fong, creative director at ad agency Young and Rubicam, also took a dim view of the ad. 'I doubt that even a top 10 business school would dare use such an unapologetically proud positioning,' he said.
Current international rankings do not flatter the school.
In The Financial Times' MBA programme rankings - the gold standard in business education rankings - NUS came in 92nd this year, while Wharton, University of Chicago and Sloan came in at first, sixth and 10th respectively.
In a previous post, I had commented as follows on Singapore's culture of unfounded self-praise: "The danger of such apparently harmless (if vain) utterances of admiration is that this country may begin to delude itself, in some ways at least, into believing that it is something we are not." The Straits Times article now provides an example:
The school is also standing firmly by its campaign.Mr Earley, rankings are rankings. If you're ranked 92nd, you're ranked 92nd, and that's a very long way from the 1st, 6th and 10th places.
The dean, Mr Christopher Earley, who came up with the concept for the ad, said that a lot of the criticism was a product of Singaporean modesty.
'I think all too often people here are too hard on themselves. They don't realise what an incredibly good university we have here.
'Our best students are every bit as smart as the students in the top schools. I'm absolutely convinced it sends the right message.'
Also, you might be correct to say that the best students in NUS are as smart as the average students in the top schools. But that in itself explains why NUS is a long way off, from the top 10. When your average students are as smart as the average students in the top schools, well, that's when NUS will be a top school itself.
All in all, another rather embarrassing episode for Singapore, as the following interviewee correctly points out:
Though most agree that NUS' ad would not sway someone's choice of university, they still think it was a bad idea.
Said Mr Ong: 'People who see it are going to scoff at the ad. Any discerning student will know to check university rankings first.'
An interesting coincidence - Singapore is also ranked world no. 92 for something else - soccer. Applying the logic of the NUS advertisement, our national soccer team should consider itself comparable or better than Brazil (world no. 1); Spain and the US (joint 5th place in the world); and England (world no. 10).