I think it’s a fair assumption to say that in any field there are acronyms, phrases, or “slang” that’s specific to the industry.
In advertising (especially digital advertising) I think this is a bonafide epidemic that actually hurts us professionally.
Clients (even if they use the same BS language) recognize these corporate-jargon-smokescreen-vomit-inducing words for what they are—a cover for not having something meaningful or insightful to say. You could say the same about me making it the subject of this article… but then you’d be added to my list of people to be hunted and killed like the rats you are.
This article is part vent, part pet-peeve list, and at best a simple, desperate, plea for all of us to stop sounding like total jerks.
“Everytime you use ‘ask’ or ‘solve’ as a noun, a unicorn dies.”
This was the headline to a handmade poster lovingly crafted by a friend of mine. Full disclosure, it sparked this article. How many times have you heard someone from account say “We need to remember the ‘ask’.” Or worse, “What’s our ‘solve?’ I’m not so sure a unicorn dies, but misusing words this way makes me feel sad… lonely… defeated.
“We’ll need more time to ideate” – translation: “I don’t have the first clue about what to do because I’m a little incompetent. I’m hoping more time will let me find and steal someone else’s idea.”
Let’s not overlook the word ‘currency’. It’s meant to make people sound smart and sadly, this one’s still in vogue. SPOILER ALERT!!!!: Folks that use this word probably aren’t smart. I first heard it when working on a well known retirement investment company. The strategist said, I sh*t you not, ‘We need to determine what the currencies of transparency are.’ I blinked. Twice. What he meant was, ‘How can we prove to customers that this well known investment company is dedicated to transparency with their financial products?’ Why not just say that? WHY people?
Other agency-specific terms I’d like to ‘take behind the shed’ are “ecologies” (referring to multiple digital tactics), ‘action items,’ ‘that’s not scoped,’ ‘can it be socialized,’ what makes it ‘shareable’. Unfortunately the list goes on. Darn close to the top of this hot mess is ‘medianostic.’
I have to admit though, sometimes the line between acceptable and rage-inspiring can be blurry. I questioned the use of concepting, but decided it’s ok. I still think if I told the 16 year old version of myself that he would grow up and be concepting for a living I’d get a swift kick in gems. But it’s probably unavoidable and I guess I can live with it. ‘Thought space’ however, needs to be off-limits. The same friend with the witty unicorn poster asked to join my ‘thought space’ on a project. I avoid him now.
Ol’ Skool Douchebaggery
Before I end my rant, let’s take a quick jaunt through the way-back machine. For your consideration, I offer these examples:
Paradigm Shift Delta Sea change
Do people actually know what a paradigm shift is? Do they ‘get’ the term ‘delta’? I’d bet the farm not one of them read ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ much less absorbed the main point of the book (if they had, they probably would recognize the irony of using this term to describe their ‘game changing’ idea). But the point here is that these words largely get spread by their use (mostly incorrect at that), and by other’s trying to infer the actual meaning, inferring wrongly, then perpetuating the cycle. ‘Paradigm’ and ‘delta’ are thankfully kinda’ dated now – I haven’t heard them much lately, thank the goddess. But be warned, if you resurrect them it will not only make you sound pseudo-moronic, they will now also make you sound like a gasping dinosaur. So leave your copy of ‘Samurai Leadership—What American Executives Can Learn From Japanese Management Methodologies’ at home and stop using these bankrupt phrases. By the way, the same can be said of ‘synergy’, et al…
Nice meeting you too.
Ok, last to bat are really just phrases I’ve heard thrown around in the conference room. I’m gracious enough to forgive a lot of the meaningless banter during a client review or conference among peers. Still, wouldn’t you give someone the corner eye for saying they’re going to “open the kimono?” I’d be afraid I’d get fired for saying that! Every time I hear about “the big idea” I think it’s probably not going to be big, likely not even a real idea, per se. The same can be said for “disruptive” and “breakthrough thinking”. When I think of something ‘disruptive’ it doesn’t sound like a good thing, but everyone likes to use it to describe their usually bland work. ‘Breakthrough thinking’ sounds good, but usually disappoints… I mean if you set it up that way, there better darn well be some shattered glass on the floor after you ‘open the kimono’ to the group.
Sadly I’m guilty of saying many of these things, maybe you are too? But let’s not despair, we’ll invent new and better language to describe what we do ‘downstream’.
By Chris Ovdiyenko
Chris Ovdiyenko is a Creative Director at Digitas Health, member of the Paris-based Publicis Groupe (Euronext Paris: FR0000130577), the world’s third largest communications group, second largest media counsel and buying group, and a global leader in digital and healthcare communications.