The great advertising jargon detox is here

Why have we constructed our own language which is meaningless to the very people our industry is built around, asks Bloomberg Media's EMEA head of sales.

Viktoria Degtar
Viktoria Degtar

Engagement, native, agnostic: with the amount of advertising jargon and buzzwords used in the media industry, it's no wonder both media and non-media folks alike can find the industry and its practices a little confusing.

We think we should do our industry justice by cutting down on advertising jargon – and we've taken it into our own hands ahead of Advertising Week Europe.

We spoke about the issues we currently face with media language to Claudine Collins, the managing director at MediaCom UK; Nick Baughan, the chief executive at Maxus UK; Pippa Glucklich, the co-chief executive at Starcom Mediavest Group; Sue Unerman, the chief strategy officer at MediaCom; and Damien Marchi, the global head of content at Havas Media Group.

Firstly, to go a step beyond jargon, we wanted to look more closely at how our language changes depending on who we are speaking to.

We asked the group to describe what they do every day. Then, we asked them to describe their jobs to someone outside the advertising industry – their parents or their kids, for example.

When presented with a different, non-media listener, how did their descriptions of their work change? Of course, there were a few extreme examples.

Nick Baughan said: "My kids think I work in making cheese for some reason that I've never quite understood."

This has to stop. We aren’t doing ourselves any favours – in fact, quite the opposite. Do we really want to work in a world where Baughan’s children think he makes cheese?

Our industry is built around people and groups of consumers. So why have we constructed our own language which is meaningless to those very people? 

As Pippa Glucklich said: "There's that old adage: if you spoke to people the way advertising speaks to people, they'd punch you in the face".

We also wanted to identify what words are the most troublesome – what are the most detested advertising jargon words?

"My personal bugbear at the moment is 'agnostic'. I can't bear anything like 'reach out' or 'offline' or anything that you wouldn't say in normal language," Baughan said. 

MediaCom's Katie Grosvenor can't stand "those Frankenstein-type words where they bring two things together that doesn't actually mean anything... like 'marchitecture'."

For Claudine Collins, "big data", "programmatic" and "thought leadership" are problematic, whereas Sue Unerman calls out the over use of the term "innovation": "People want innovation, but they want innovation that they know definitely is going to work", she told us. However, this isn’t realistic, as "if it’s really innovative, we can’t prove that it’s worked in the past".

We’re officially calling for a #jargondetox and to prove it, our Advertising Week Europe panel will be a jargon-free zone. No buzzwords, just clear answers to questions around the more contentious issues facing the industry.

We owe it to ourselves to get some clarity around our language, to ensure our industries get the credit they deserve. Let’s make this happen.

Viktoria Degtar is the head of sales EMEA at Bloomberg Media.


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