Commentary

Moving Past The Echo Chamber Of Our Own Jargon

  • by , Featured Contributor, November 17, 2016

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Online Spin:

GRP. CPM. CPA. DSP. DMP. That is how we talk to each other. That is how we talk to our clients. That is a problem.

The media industry has an echo chamber problem, and it’s holding us back. Not only do we spend massive amounts of time working together, but we also dine together, conference together, vacation together, drink together, commiserate together, marry each other, and on and on. You get the picture. I don’t know whether we are the most insular massive industry out there, but we’re certainly close.

For sure, one of the reasons we spend so much time together -- apart from the obvious fact that our industry requires a massive amount of human communication, interaction and negotiation to operate -- is that people in the industry tend to be pretty interesting, fun and stimulating to hang out with. But all this hanging out also creates a problem. When it comes to market myopia, we’re sometimes not much better than the railroad industry. We love our own products so much we can’t imagine that everyone else doesn’t.

When it comes to confusing shorthand references and nuanced jargon that’s practically impenetrable, we’re not much more accessible than inside baseball (thus, the notion of talking “inside baseball” language). In our digital realm, we’re now using more acronyms than the U.S. military, and ours aren’t nearly as creative (think DSP and CPM versus FUBAR).

This isn’t a column about how we use too many acronyms when we talk. I’ve written that one before. This is about our problem making what we do relevant to the broader leadership in business enterprises, because we talk too much as if we’re talking to ourselves.

CEOs don’t care about rating points, nor do they care about reductions in fees paid to media agencies. They care about sales growth. They care about market share growth. They care about great brand stories. They care about happy customers. They care about ROI.

One of the reasons the media industry finds itself under attack today -- with a record number of media agency reviews, along with calls for even further reductions in fees -- is that many of us find too much comfort in hiding behind our own antiquated and isolated way of doing business, with an inability to translate that into language and metrics that the broader marketing business enterprises can understand and care about.

If the media industry put as much effort into proving the return-on-investment it delivers for advertisers -- proving, and communicating simply and clearly, that the vast majority of advertising expenditures are actually self-funding, given the sales results they drive -- as it does on celebrating and lauding itself at its many hundreds of annual awards shows and conferences, our business would not face many of the challenges that it does today from clients, investors and pundits.

I think solving the problem won’t take much more than just stepping outside of our echo chamber, recognizing that CEOs and shareholders want sales growth and ROI, not GRPs and DSPs. What do you think?

4 comments about "Moving Past The Echo Chamber Of Our Own Jargon".
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  1. Alan Schulman from Deloitte Digital, November 17, 2016 at 2:57 p.m.

    Dave... well said.  As we often say at Deloitte, the language barrier doesn't exist between agencies, media companies and CMOs.  The language barrier exists between the CMO and the rest of the C-Suite.  If we continue to rely on the vernacular of martech, adtech, crm, social measurement, and data science,  CFOs and COOs will continue to glaze over and wonder whether or not we know how to make a true business case for ROI or just go on orchestrating discretionary spend to too many agencies while we wax poetic about discreet measures, KPIs and Data lakes that are growing increasingly less connected to atttributed sales.

  2. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC replied, November 17, 2016 at 3:15 p.m.

    Dave I must have missed this column the first time around. Funny but today at lunch (Pershing Square) a woman next to me said to her friends "my daughter got a job at a digital advertising agency and well, I have no idea what she does" This woman is no different than many people even inside the ad business -- we have made things way too complicated and go out of our way to do so instead of using common language -- that said I have always felt that in regards to driving sales (ROI) we as publishing vendors should not shoulder that responsibility -- our job is to garner the loyal and engaged attention of the consumer, and then make the introduction. That's what we should be measuring -- if the ad failed to move the needle or make the sale or even when it does succeed in doing so, it is neither our fault as publishers or our doing

  3. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, November 18, 2016 at 11:20 a.m.

    Dave., Alan, and Ari:  Would you agree that in many cases those tasked with persuading and reaching consumers are less adept at communicating up the executive ladder?  Have we ignored ROI issues too long, more comfortably nested in our silos of data and funnel stages?   

  4. Andrew Ettinger from Ad Agency, November 18, 2016 at 12:01 p.m.

    I'm not sure that these two things are related. That is, "communicating simply and clearly" to consumers has anything to do with the tech stack or it's accompanying jargon. 

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