Five Industry Expressions I Want To Ban Immediately

Once upon a time, in a universe far, far away, I worked on the agency side. While living and working in the ‘80s and ‘90s in swinging London, I was involved in lots of client presentations. To lighten up these presentations, we would give each other challenges: usually a word or sentence we had to somehow incorporate in the presentation. I was once given the task to include the sentence “like elephant droppings in the snow” without its being weird. How I succeeded is a story for another day…

Conversely, we would sometimes challenge each other to avoid certain words (like “GRP” in a media presentation), and the loser had to pay for drinks in the pub afterwards. Anyone who has gone drinking with British colleagues knows that you don’t want to be the loser of that challenge, especially on a Friday afternoon.

Today I want to challenge you with that second option: words to never use again in your presentations and meetings, with punishment if you do. Here are my top five:



5.  “New news.” What does this even mean, as opposed to just “news,” which consequently isn’t new? Using this stupid saying should be punished by paying for lunch or bringing in donuts for the whole department.

4.  “Negative growth.” If it is trending negative, it is not growth. People uttering this should be financially punished, so they can experience some negative growth in their net wallet value. Is $5 per violation fair? Put the money someplace akin to a swear jar.

3.  “First, second and/or third screen.” When I am commuting on the train, my mobile or tablet is my first screen. When I am working in the office, my desktop is my first screen. When I am working on the road, my laptop and/or tablet is my first screen. When I am watching the World Cup this summer, TV will be my first screen, and my tablet or phone my companion screen. When I am on a plane, sometimes the window is my first screen. There is no defined first, second or third. The only screen that matters is the screen right in front of the consumer. Kick people out of the room or conference call when they suggest a “second-screen strategy.”

2.  "Digital strategy." Asking for a digital strategy, or trying to create one, is like saying you’re going to “do” advertising. I like paraphrasing someone much smarter than me (mainly you, Rishad Tobaccowala): It is not about having a digital strategy, but a consumer-centric strategy in a digital world.

Let’s agree that from now on, when prompted, you will say that you don’t have one, don’t want one and won’t develop a digital strategy. If you lose your job as a result, you’re probably better off not working there in the first place.

1.  “Mobile strategy.” If you have figured out what your connection strategy in a digital world will be, you have by default figured out how you will ensure it connects with your consumers regardless of screen and platform (see #3 of the banned words). If the presentation or the plan does not address this, you should first fire the agency and then yourself.

I am working hard to get these words eradicated from meetings and presentations with marketing people.  Now I’m curious to hear which words you propose to ban, and what punishment you would like to level against violators.

8 comments about "Five Industry Expressions I Want To Ban Immediately ".
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  1. Betsy Kent from Be Visible Associates, March 24, 2014 at 1:19 p.m.

    these may not be "industry" expressions, but I would like to ban:

    Please add them to the "do not use" list!

  2. Jeff Robinson from JRC Limited, March 24, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

    Good points re using dumb industry expressions. However, I think the practice of adding "centric" to everything is far worse. I would be much happier working on a digital strategy than a customer/audience/industry/location/media/channel/platform/etc. "centric" strategy.

  3. David Shor from Prove, March 24, 2014 at 2:05 p.m.

    We need to face it that Client-side folks are often a few years behind on terminology, not because there aren't brilliant front-liners who are leading/bleeding-edge, but because there are layers above them that are working with yesteryear's terminology.

    Agencies who want to innovate with words are doing it for pitch-differentiation purposes and to sound smart. Regardless of the terminology/phraseology, opportunities to tell a client they're wrong to use certain words are few and far between. So we professionals simply allow terminology to coexist until the new terminology has percolated up. I'm surprised, for example, that "social media" still exists as its own term, but I'm not railing against that fact.

  4. Dan Barron from Entercom, March 24, 2014 at 2:27 p.m.

    Pre-recorded. Just use recorded

  5. Douglas Bandes from Bandish and Bandish, March 24, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.

    Referring to competent people within our industry as "Rock Stars"... they are not.

  6. Max Kalehoff from MAK, March 25, 2014 at 8:55 a.m.

    Maarten, you just inspired me to create a bingo card in honor of ad-tech and agency jargon:


  7. Rick Monihan from None, March 25, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.

    Agreed on all but 'Second' screen. Since the advent of the computer, I have always kept one in the same room as my TV. It was, is, and shall be a 'second' screen for me 90% of the time. While I watch sports, the tablet/iphone/laptop (whatever I may be using) is an adjunct screen - supplying me with information I can't get from the screen I'm enjoying the game on. Boxscores, data, tweets, other information. If I'm watch a TV show, it supplies data on the show itself, actors in the show, or information on other programming I might like to switch to if the TV program isn't what I hoped for. I recently watched "Philomena" and used the computer to fill in the blanks, correct movie license, and otherwise improve the viewing experience. So yes, there is most definitely a 'Second Screen' and it's not just me. My teen sons utilize this in a similar fashion. So while I agree with you on 4 1/3 of these which need to be banned (though I honestly have never heard the term 'new news'), I absolutely have no problem with the term 'Second Screen' - though it may get overused at some point.

  8. Demos Ioannou from DCI Consulting LLC, March 31, 2014 at 12:12 p.m.

    What about R.O.I.? Unless you are attempting to measure your brands equity - why would you use a metric that is based in manufacturing? I mean if we buy a case-stacker and get rid of three laborers, then you can calculate the return on investment in that machine. "It will payback in 2.3 years!"

    With marketing/advertising expenditures it is difficult to demonstrate a volumetric effect above topline sales, let alone showing that a spend generated profit!

    It's not a true R.O.I. - it's a COST! You can still be successful minimizing cost.

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