Why Adtech Speak Is Like Passing Gas In A Crowded Movie Theater

On this eve of the 10th anniversary of New York's Advertising Week (stay calm and keep your mobile games handy) friends were trying to come up with a conference discussion topic that nobody would ever really want to talk about. I think their winner was "programmatic." I am somewhat torn between "signals" and "engagement."

This will sound really strange, and I ask that you don't hold it against me, but I routinely click through news stories to find and read the press release on which the story was based. It is there where my PR colleagues in arms spew their most obtuse, jargon-filled bullshit in attempts to make their clients sound technologically hip, innovative and essential.  Before Twitter, is was a great way to see what concepts were trending in ad tech since everyone lemming-like uses the latest nonsensical nomenclature. Some choice recent examples:

...which allows data providers to jumpstart data revenues while maximizing operational efficiency...

...the distillation of these signals and the activation of brand-specific insights for leading brands...

...maximize online data distribution and profits by immediately reaching 95% of online media platforms...

...We are the only company that took a holistic view...

...sophisticated modeling capabilities further support data owners by driving maximum scale to make online data more effective for marketers...

...extracting brand signals from the complete consumer journey...

...providers now have the reach, throughput and reliability they need to increase data revenues and profits while maintaining control of their sales channel...

No one knows better than I do that PR folks are often forced into such useless language by client CMOs and CEOs who suffer under the utterly false impression that it is more important to sound cool than to communicate clearly. I think a really convincing vision of hell would be to have to sit and read press releases for the rest of eternity. I can hear the massive “Amens!!!” from reporters around the globe.

Although it isn't included in any of the real life examples above, "engagement" is never far away from the world of advertising. Merriam-Webster has four or five definitions of engagement and the only one that comes closest to how we loosely use the word in the ad business is: something that engages, which itself is defined as, "to get and keep (someone's attention, interest, etc.)." But even that seems too lightweight. A fire siren gets someone's attention. So does a fart.

It somehow seems really vital to the ad business to assure that whatever you are promoting "engages" audiences. Not good enough that they "watch," "read," "listen," "hover," "click," or "view." They have to be "engaged," which, I guess, is some sort of subliminal signal (OMG, I used that word too) that they are really paying attention and not just merely watching, listening, reading, etc. And of course there is no rational proof that any ad engages anybody so we have to invent equally meaningless metrics like "time spent" and "percent completed" and more recently, "like," to give the illusion that down deep inside we know we can engage better than the next guy. All that to move the response rate (another stupid metric) from .001 to .0015.

There are even people walking round with the title of Engagement Director (no really, I swear). And not presumably because they ate Mexican food last night.

5 comments about "Why Adtech Speak Is Like Passing Gas In A Crowded Movie Theater".
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  1. Christopher O'Hara from Krux, September 23, 2013 at 9:33 a.m.

    Embrace it, George. I always thought your adtech PR "farts" smelled pretty good!

  2. Jason Shugars from Martini Media, September 23, 2013 at 1:08 p.m.

    For what it's worth, I'm planning on starting a company called The Programmatic Engagement Signal Platform. If you're interested I can get you a role as Chief Engagement Officer. ;)

  3. Tim Mally from Hivewyre, September 23, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.

    Wow George... I appreciate you for pointing this out in such a clever way. As I was reading your "recent examples," my eyes immediately glazed over. I would also like to point out that "he who smelt it dealt it."

  4. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, September 23, 2013 at 4 p.m.

    Amen, if I had a dime for every time I had to put engage in a release (or farted in a theater) I could afford tickets to Advertising Week.

  5. George Parker from Parker Consultants, September 23, 2013 at 7:13 p.m.

    Remember "Best of Breed?" Seems to have fallen out of favor and been replaced by... "Artisanal" - "Holistic" - "Curate." As for engagement, in "The Hucksters" the soap king got everyone's attention by spitting on the board room table. Perhaps he should have farted at the same time!
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

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