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Paul Simons: the ad industry is in danger of sinking under a mountain of meaningless jargon

MAA’s late business partner Paul Simons wrote this nearly five years ago. He was right to ask the question. Today’s answer is, sadly, a resounding yes.

I convince myself from time to time that I have lost the plot on the rapidly changing world of marketing and advertising. Then I stand back and attempt to assess what I’m being told or read.

I had a mailing from a mid-sized agency that began life doing advertising and, let’s call it, below the line work. Today they are billed as a Digital Marketing Agency. Intrigued I continued reading. Their door step pitch is as follows:

We drive commercial success for our clients by applying XXXXX (a proprietary tool), joined up data, creative technology and content frameworks to the way people buy today – a digitally-fuelled, non-linear and dynamic ecosystem.

A bit of a mouthful for a doorstep sale as it needs time to translate. I still don’t understand the point even after reading it several times. I think someone has sat down with a glossary of terms in vogue today and constructed a sentence. I bet the argument will be something to do with SEO and keywords.

Another example occurred a few nights ago having drinks with friends when Big Data was uttered in a serious way, so I asked for the definition of BD. I was given several minutes of data-central chat that in a nutshell stated the bleeding obvious – there is much more of it (data) these days and it is growing like Jack’s beanstalk. No shit Sherlock.

I am not about to conclude the world has lost the plot (rather than me) based on two examples. However there is a growing opinion that a lot of people are making serious money out of a different coloured snake oil. But the people who quietly utter “a lot of this is pure bullshit” dare not say it out loud in case their work colleagues point at them and accuse them of being dinosaurs who should be taken on to the balcony and shot. It is a bit like the king’s clothes for those who can recall the children’s tale.

I have taken to asking people to repeat things in English without jargon. My reason is to avoid ambiguity – perhaps playing to my senior moments a little. My prognosis for the industry is misery and confusion for a lot of people as they are displaced by newcomers who speak with a different vocabulary, style themselves on internet billionaires, regard broadcast advertising as ‘so 20th Century’ and sacrifice virgins (that’s boys and girls, to be PC and balanced) to the god of data.

The future ‘directors’ of TV commercials will be the print-out from a Millward Brown computer programme that scores each frame out of 10. As Bill Bernbach said: “How do you storyboard a smile?” Oh happy days.

One Comment

  1. “Drive, commercial, success, joined up data, creative technology, content frameworks, digitally-fuelled, non-linear, dynamic, ecosystem.”

    Bingo! I have a full house!

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