Monday, July 30, 2007

I have no idea what you are talking about.....

I've been after an excuse to post that for ages.

Being an ex-English student, I know a little about words. How they can illuminate, beguile, inform and (perhaps most importantly) thoroughly thoroughly confuse people. (Anyone who has ever sat through a Postmodernism or Structuralism lecture knows what I'm talking about).

And it's this last point I wanted to blog about today. Yes, it's time for me to take my spelling Nazi hat off and put the language Nazi hat on.

More specifically, in house language - that is to say, how ad agencies/marketeers talk internally (sparked by reading this article co-written by Gareth Kay).

These days, it seems that both parties have borrowed a turn of phrase from the masters of bullshit. Yes, the management consultant. I've heard the following at various places:

'How can we best incentivise the consumer to purchase the variant?'

'We really need to drill down into this problem'

'So how can we own the sector?'

'All I to break down the underlying paradigm'

Nonsense, isn't it?

How in God's name can we hope to understand real people if we talk in such a bloody stupid manner?

The brilliant Dilbert. Usual rules apply.

Don't worry, this disease isn't that wide spread...yet. That said, I don't want to have to break out the bullshit bingo cards (which we actually did in a former, non advertising job of mine) if I can help it.

And while I'm not wholly convinced by the notion of not calling consumers consumers (in fact, any term you give them won't cover all the bases if you are referring to people who buy your product or service) or not referring to 'brand' because it's been exhausted, there's definitely room in the industry for being as straightforward when talking internally.

Planners, I think (and yes, I include myself in this camp) are incredibly culpable, if they let their heads get away from them. As Rob notes, spending time with just planners isn't healthy - not saying that they aren't lovely, but you lose touch with people who a) don't live in London and b) don't obsess/care about brands and branding. It's a defence mechanism, but one which should be shed - I would hate to be carted out as a planning stereotype, the 'clever one' who is brought in to sprinkle a little intellectual fairy dust on things. And it's not going to happen, if I can help it. I'm going to be straight forward.

Indeed, language is why I like these sites. Both make you acutely aware of the fallacies of misusing words and generally being out of touch with reality.

And yes, there are times that a complex, multi-faceted word has to be used. But if it doesn't, pay attention to Orwell's essay on Politics and the English Language. Speak to me in a language which is used by normal people, and cut out the unneccessary verbosity.

I think the best advertisers and marketeers instinctively get this, and realise that language doesn't have to err on the over-simplistic side; if used correctly, it can create worlds in people's minds. And surely that's what we all want?

NB: The bunny comes from a random story. Check it out. It's bloody interesting.


James Cherkoff said...

One of the lingusitic low points in my professional life was whilst working at a management consultancy. At the end of a long, confusing, unproductive meeting someone piped up and exhorted, "we need a measurable, implementable, deliverable." Everyone in the room started nodding and muttering approvingly. I knew my career was about to move on...

Will said...

James - sounds like my (limited) experiences with Management Consultants.

I suppose it's borne out of fear that if you make it too simple, ANYONE can do it. Which is plainly rubbish.

Daniel Mejia said...

Marketing languague is such a crap, but you can´t even imagine how much worst is when is used in a foreign languague. All around Latin America, you can listen to those executives giving their talks to spanish speaking people in their weird pseudo-english marketing slang... it´s pretty rubbish actually.

gareth said...


I hope you didn't feel I ran into this problem in the article. Great blog

Will said...

Gareth - first of all, thanks for the kind words. And no, I didn't think you fell foul of it at just got me thinking (a dangerous habit that I'm trying to break).

Daniel - I can only imagine mate..well done for putting up with it; though if you ever come across some particularly choice dialogue, you should stick in on your blog. :)

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