What are words worth?

Words, poor words. Abused on a daily basis in this industry, like some poor serf in a Game of Thrones episode.

You don’t have to be a word-hugger to be driven mad by the injustice of this ongoing assault on innocent, defenceless words. Hell, even the barely literate could be driven to crying/laughter.

Let’s start with ‘Strategy’. It’s just sitting there, minding its own business when along comes some ad/media/marketing exec to throw metaphorical mud in its face, by hyping their “strategy” or “strategic ideas” (usually tactics), “strategic objectives” (they’re just objectives), “strategic considerations” (99% of the time they’re just considerations). Maybe take the honest approach and replace it with words like cunning or convoluted, depending on the context.

Then there’s Engagement. Must admit I’ve punched this poor fella in the head a few times when nobody was looking. Because nobody is ever looking when ‘engagement’ gets abused. It’s a word we all now ignore. See it on a Powerpoint slide and your eyes just miss it, like its invisible. Which it might as well be, because a bit like ‘strategic’, it has been rendered mute by constant abuse. Maybe give it a chance to regain its confidence by not using it for the next three years and replace with words like reach, interrupt, disturb or bribe.

Creative. So there’s people that are called ‘creatives’ (to be fair, usually not by themselves), and most of us still refer to ads as ‘the’ creative. This preposterous enslavement of the word ‘creative’ must end. It demeans them and us, on many levels. Not to mention the 99.9% of ‘creative’ people that don’t work in ad agencies. Let’s just call things what they are eg. copywriters, art directors, ads, spots, messages.

Digital. In 2015.

Insights. They’re not facts, and Roy Morgan’s Asteroid can’t generate them. They’re hard work to find and are the foundation for all good strategies and ideas, so people should stop punishing them like they’re free mints at a planning workshop thingy.

Media Neutral. Two words, I know. But together the hardship they’ve endured is breathtaking. And it’s mainly because they hate each other, they don’t belong together at all. The last thing the world needs is for ideas to be media neutral. The world needs ideas that harness and leverage specific media and their intrinsic qualities. Well, the marketing and advertising world does anyway.

Innovation. Can almost always be replaced by words like reappropriation, questionable, outsourced, irrelevant and award-winning.

Data-driven. The hyphen makes it one word. This word(s) is to ideas, strategies, insights and media plans just like what bums are for people – everybody has one, and it regularly precedes crap. Without being dishonest, the term can be pre-fixed to most things we produce in this industry. And it’s always been the case, but there’s never been a more popular time to give it a flogging than right now. For obvious reasons, but still.

Award-winning. Piling on the hyphen abuse I know (incidentally, award-writing-time is when the hyphen oft-looks for a hiding-place, as word-counts are battled). If you’ve worked in an agency for more than three weeks and can’t attach this commanding epithet to your name then you should just accept that you’re inadequate. But whilst you’re feeling increasingly desperate, don’t be too worried – because this word(s) is so sadistically tortured on a daily basis that it will soon become invisible, just like ‘engagement’ and ‘strategy’ almost are.

Of course, I could go on. But these feel like the biggies. The ones that confuse and obfuscate most often, and frequently provide refuge for scoundrels.

We’re all guilty, but we should try harder to keep it real.

Any pet word peeves of your own?

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