Woe The Digital Sale: 'What's With All These Buzzwords And Acronyms?'

Question from an agency person: “I’m new to the digital world and sometimes I can’t understand anything you people are talking about. What’s with all the foreign language and acronyms?”

Jason says: You mean these? 1st party, 3rd party, 3 screens, 4 screens, cookies, cpc, cpcv, cpe, ctr, data mining, dsp, dynamic, engagement, exchange, html5, hyper-local, long-tail, mid-tail, platform, premium, real time, relevance, ron, rtb, scale, sem, seo, short-tail, social, ssp, transparency, ugc, viral, yield and agag.

(OK, I just made the last one up. It is used when I am about to leave and someone wants a meeting with me. "I am agag -- As Good As Gone. Pronounced “a-gag.” We'll see if it catches on.)

Companies use some of the above words to describe their proposed value, so do your best to get up to speed. However, you also might be hearing some words and phrases that have changed their meanings over the years. For instance, the digital industry has taken these words and changed them completely:



Network: Used to mean something precious of which there were only three. Now, just a bit more than that.

Transparent: Able to see through, right? Not to everyone. Transparency means different things in different stages of the business process.

Premium: Ordinarily, this describes something top-tier, objectively at the top of its field. In our world, it is more like the Supreme Court's definition of porn. You know it when you see it. It is much more subjective and by no means is there a universal definition.

Whether you are talking about print, digital, television, outdoor, radio or body art on a boxer, I still think that the important words remain the same for every advertising channel, so you might want to get to know these:

Targeted reach: Digital is the most measurable of any medium when showing how many people really want to interact with your message. Please don’t think it is just about being in front of them. It is the engagement that matters.

Frequency: This is still the most overlooked, yet important, metric in digital advertising. The amount of money wasted by repeatedly showing the same ad to the same person is in the billions.

Creative: It is finally starting to be recognized for its importance in the process. Without solid "creative" telling your story, you might as well use a sandwich board and a magic marker. For example, picture every single banner ad ever created by a mortgage company.

Peace out. I'm agag. What do you think, Amy? Is Digi-ease useful or problematic?

Amy says: As a self-proclaimed “Jargon Queen,” I can definitely see how all these buzzwords are meaningless to some, crutches for others, but perhaps necessary in certain cases.  Our digital media industry has made mistakes in trying to capitalize on interactivity/engagement and trying to be better than other media -- or so special that we needed a whole new media language.  Hence buzzwords have become the “yada, yada, yada” of the business world of today.

The buzzwords du jour are the trickier of the bunch.  If you are hearing “DSP and yield,” you’re probably more intimidated than when you hear “three screens and social."  The best thing to do when you hear a buzzword you don’t understand is just to ask.  You may be given a legitimate definition -- or you may expose someone for really not knowing what he’s talking about.  Either way, it’s a good way to get clarity.

When buzzwords become part of industry vernacular and are used in the press and at conferences, it means there is some true meaning to the concept. Then the best thing to do is to research and form your own opinion on what a buzzword means for you and your business. A premium network with full transparency might not even exist in reality. And who knows what the lifespan could be for other wacky vocabulary words.  Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

In pondering your question, I realized I love buzzwords because they make it easy to speak quickly -- and I’m a dork. Some media terms will be evergreen, as Jason has stated above. But we are in a world of constant change -- so as buzzwords come and go, we will see what concepts stand the test of time.

The key is to make sure everyone in the room is thinking the same thing.  When you are talking about your engagement rate, just be careful your client doesn’t think it means you keep leaving men at the altar.

2 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale: 'What's With All These Buzzwords And Acronyms?'".
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  1. Leslie Laredo from The Laredo Group, November 3, 2011 at 1:20 p.m.

    If you want to get the definitions to all the digital media acronyms, jargon and techno- media buzzwords, Laredo Group has an extensive glossary with over 600 digital media and marketing terms defined. Available at And yes we are constantly updating this glossary because the industry changes and evolves. Based on Amy's and Jason's comments, it might be fun to add a timeline to the glossary!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 3, 2011 at 3:52 p.m.

    Yup, Jason, things change and have double meanings. Frequency - millions of dollars have been wasted by not having one as well as the repetitive ad nauseum.

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