Engaging with the flagpole

Are you as sick of jargon as the rest of us?

Engaging with the flagpole

In the run up to a recent conference session with Karen Stacey, David Weeks and Omaid Hiwaizi, I asked around the office for everyone’s favourite, or is that most hated, jargon.

There was a deluge of response. And not all of it is digital technical acronyms.

Jargon falls into four loose and overlapping categories:

Cliché (Let’s run that one up the flagpole and see who salutes it); Tech jargon (DMP, CMP, DSU, DSP and DPS – have I made any of those up?); Frankenstein words (Imagineering); Poached terms, words or phrases that have a perfectly respectable normal meaning in the real world but which we have decided to invest with hidden meaning in media (Engagement – which seems to mean we’re very hopeful that whoever we’re aiming this communication at won’t completely ignore us – this translates to "we had a very high level of engagement with the audience").

We don’t have ideas any more when we can instead ideate or solutionise.  The flagpole that we run our thinking up might sit inside the walled garden (sometimes a good thing, it does sound tranquil, safe and pleasant, sometimes bad, a closed environment with limited sunlight or potential for growth). 

We are such lovers of new stuff that you can re brand the same old stuff with new terminology and get another good few months of it being fashionable.  The plain old advertorial has of course garnered massive respect and price premium since it became native advertising. 

We need to take care that we remain immune to the excitement of the new, and stay rooted in effectiveness rather than fetishizing innovation and rapid change for the sake of it.

Many people particularly dislike sentences that begin with the phrase "Data is the new…"

Oil? Matchmaker? Kryptonite? Soil? Rock and Roll? Take your choice. 

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in meetings discussing the size of people’s data recently.  Although I obviously know that a terabyte is bigger than a gigabyte I keep forgetting whether a yottabyte is bigger than a zettabyte or the other way round.

Once you start being conscious of jargon you hear it everywhere. Overheard recently: "Is scaling of native difficult?" asked one chairperson.  "We’d obviously start with a data storm" stated another. 

Does this matter?  Yes it matters.

First because using jargon allows everyone to misunderstand ever so slightly what everyone else means.  Too much jargon and you end up with different interpretations of what is going on and that benefits no-one.

Second, although there’s always been jargon, the pace of change in general has also accelerated the amount of jargon piling up.

Admittedly, it isn’t always easy to spell out what you mean in words of one syllable. We must try to be simpler and plainer.  Thanks Bloomberg for highlighting the issue and thank you to panel chair comedian Adam Buxton for explaining that the more you use jargon, the more you come across as a dick.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom


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