Speak English, morons

In this guest post, Jon Holloway has a short rant about industry jargon

Plain English. Is it really that hard? As an industry we are obsessed with baffling, the whole one-upmanship of this crazy advertising and marketing world is making us all look like clowns.

Einstein was right; ‘if you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it enough’. Does that sum up our industry; do we not care enough to actually understand what we are talking about?

It is so easy to become a social media guru, a marketing Jedi or a digital ninja by spending 10 minutes on twitter, reading a few blogs and some out dated books. Then vomiting them all back up in a random order over unsuspecting people who come to you for advice.

The access to information we now have at any time in any way we need it (or as we might say it, access to the knowledge superhighway in hyper-real-time) means that everyone is becoming more educated, although education in the marketing world is a fluid concept, dispersed between the doers and the bullshitters.

Transmedia – what you mean an idea that isn’t reliant on media channel?

Social media – connected people talking about stuff, probably not about you?

SoLoMo – fuck me, really? Why do we need this crap? Yes everything is social, everything is local and my god, everything is mobile. You must be a genius! Yawn.

At what point in our transition to working in advertising do we stop thinking like normal people on the street?

Share your favorite ‘Ad-English’ phrase and my top choice will win something special.

Jon Holloway is strategy director at The Works Sydney


  1. paul the freelance writer
    30 May 12
    6:31 pm

  2. Leading behaviour change agency, Stop It Now Or You’ll Get A Smack (SINOYGAS), today announced a major campaign designed to change behaviour.

    Experiential activity leveraged by social media will generate virtual flash-mob gatherings that will stage culture jamming-style protests tailored for multiplatform dispersal.

    ‘Contemporaneous storytelling is key in today’s world,’ SINOYGAS spokesrobot Weg Haackesabre said. ‘That’s why ours is virtual. We couldn’t actually do it in reality.’

    The agency will not be post-analysing the campaign, nor disclosing which aspects of behaviour it was targetting. ‘Numbers are so ugly,’ Ms/r Haackesabre said. ‘Culture jamming is never captive to ugly accountability. We’re not selling peanut butter, or cars you know. Hacks do that. In ads,’ s/he added, grimacing.

    Budget is $10 million.

  3. Matty
    30 May 12
    7:20 pm

  4. John, you could have closed-the-loop on this piece – I’m not sure I have alignment. I mean, it’s not like we’re trying to turn an oil-tanker here. Practicing some betapreneurialism and crowd-sourcing among your cohorts could have been an easy solve. THAT is how this piece could have gone from good to great. Maybe just run it up the flag-pole moving forwards and see who salutes in terms of buy-in.

  5. Tom
    30 May 12
    7:23 pm

  6. Packcepts, because people have run out of time to say packaging concepts.

  7. Doughboy
    30 May 12
    7:30 pm

  8. Is this irony or is this piece riddled with English errors?


    Transmedia – what you mean an idea that isn’t reliant on media channel?

    BTW out dated is spelt outdated.


  9. jean cave
    30 May 12
    7:49 pm

  10. Less is more . . .

  11. a
    31 May 12
    8:43 am

  12. these guys send it up well.


  13. Barry White
    31 May 12
    8:46 am

  14. Doughboy I just love it! Your little awesome observation landed you 3 “English errors”.

    Since when does e.g. not end in a full stop?

    Since when do you quote someone’s sentence and not let your readers know? “:p”

    FYI – I don’t know of any good English words that start with BTW.

    I’m sick of reading comments online and coming across this shit. Stay on topic and grow a brain! It’s people like you that slow the world down and hinder progress because all the smart people have stay back and “edumacate” you!

    Get a job.

  15. Schmoopie
    31 May 12
    8:57 am

  16. Technically the Einstein quote is “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

  17. Jason and the Jargonauts
    31 May 12
    9:01 am

  18. Ubiquitous Connectivity

  19. BNT
    31 May 12
    9:15 am

  20. You guys all need to stop drinking the Kool Aid

  21. Adam Ferrier
    31 May 12
    9:21 am

  22. Jon transmedia planning means something like telling the whole of the story across many mediums. Not trying to tell the whole story in each medium. Got a better name for it (what you’ve suggested above is longer and not accurate).


    Ps its a derivative from the term transmedia storytelling

  23. Jon holloway
    31 May 12
    9:36 am

  24. @Schmoopie Technically you are right :)

  25. Doughgirl
    31 May 12
    9:48 am

  26. Doughboy, you must be so much fun at parties.
    I don’t think it’s just advertising or marketing suffering this. And I don’t think it’s a recent trend either. People have always used overcomplicated words to sound smarter than they are.
    Perhaps it’s a trend of education, whereby meeting a word count is valued moreso over actually getting your point across in a simple and clear way.

  27. Jon holloway
    31 May 12
    10:05 am

  28. @Adam Ferrier, agreed, and I know where it comes from, and is a fair point.. Wasn’t the point I was trying to make, but note to self to be more accurate in future :)

  29. DD
    31 May 12
    11:02 am

  30. More accurate or more pregnant!?

  31. AdamS
    31 May 12
    11:05 am

  32. We singing from the same song sheet on with this article… now we just have to leverage the synergy.

  33. AdamS
    31 May 12
    11:06 am

  34. *We’re

  35. bob is a rabbit
    31 May 12
    11:40 am

  36. This comment thread is a case of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ – how ’bout we share some jargon-wank and all have a laugh rather than point out each others errors.

  37. Devil's advocaat
    31 May 12
    11:53 am

  38. Also, you could learn too f***ing spell.



    This month we’re really going to break through the clutter with this campaign and deliver some paradigm-shifting news that, at the end of the day, should capitalize both on our core competencies and on your hunger for change.

    Things in advertising lately have been all-business, all-the-time. So we’ve decided to spin-up a new communications initiative that I’m calling – and this is a real game-changer – Adwording.

    Our messaging this month is all new and standards-based. It’s a bit of a thought experiment right now, but we’re going to run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it. If we can get buy-in from a majority of our 300,000 key stakeholders then we may just make Adwording a tentpole of our core messaging strategy and a key differentiator of our value proposition.

    Make no mistake – this is some real blue-sky thinking here. We wanted to keep you in-the-loop so that, moving forward, we’re all singing from the same sheet music.
    We hope to leverage your interest in what’s new at our organization and align that with our propensity to eat our own dog. FOOD! Dog food. Sorry, I’m still getting the hang of this.

    See, that’s an example of what we call “pushing the envelope”. Also “bad business practice.” It’s really just a matter of us honing in on which levers we need to pull to enhance the end user experience, and which levers are really just avenues to fostering user detachment.

    PS Ecosystems. Feedback loops. Transmedia.

  39. New Media
    31 May 12
    12:07 pm

  40. People who set up their own thing, have 1 – 3 employee’s and call themselves:
    CEO, Social Media Expert, CSMO (Chief Social Media Officer), UEAD (User Experience Architectural Director); are all FIGJAM…

  41. Alison_F
    31 May 12
    12:22 pm

  42. CAN’T…
    think of a relevant example that will deliver the ROI required to push the brand beyond the normal boundaries that have effectively been established by our creative forefathers!

  43. Really?
    31 May 12
    1:40 pm

  44. New media – are you serious about “employee’s”?

  45. Logic
    31 May 12
    2:33 pm



  47. Nick
    31 May 12
    3:09 pm

  48. It’s the job titles that get me, as you pointed out in your article those that self-style themselves as ninjas, gurus or Jedis; one of my favourite is the person on LinkedIn who has called herself “The Queen of Social Media” however my favourite by far is a life/business coach helping businesses with Twitter since only Nov 2010 who calls herself “The Queen of Twitter”

  49. Ninja Jedi Guru
    31 May 12
    3:23 pm

  50. I met a lady the other day who sold herself (personally and on LinkedIn) as an “Internet Visionary”, upon investigation she had been in her “visionary” role for about 4 years…

  51. bob is a rabbit
    31 May 12
    3:26 pm

  52. This thread is going gangbusters.

  53. Jörn Sanda
    31 May 12
    3:36 pm

  54. Transmedia??? Isn’t it a case of simply telling a good story, and it’ll be retold across whatever medium is best for the storyteller and the audience?

    Reminds me of that whisper marketing fad, where marketing gurus contrived promises that people would talk about products in social places.

    Never understood that concept, because the social places I frequent are filled with pretty good live music, so when I’m pontificating about mUmBRELLA’s ‘quantum leap progress in real-time knowledge aggregation ‘to my mates, I fail to remember to whisper. And then a flash-mob of gen-yers forms celebrating this child of a baby boomer! (If only it would form and they would flash…)

    My all-time favourite nomination is: ‘cross-vertical’
    On enquiring what it meant I was informed in terms that reminded me of ‘horizontal’

  55. ell wolf
    31 May 12
    3:42 pm

  56. FML guys! Stay on topic FFS!


  57. jumpshot
    31 May 12
    4:45 pm

  58. Guilty as charged sometimes. No surprise my inner child wants to kick me in the arse.


    “the whole one-upmanship of this crazy advertising and marketing world is making us all look like clowns.”

    When I showed my inner child the above thread, she said that’s not the kind of circus she was talking about… and kicked me in the arse.

  59. Harry Black
    31 May 12
    5:04 pm

  60. Barry White – sinze wen dose “because all the smart people have stay back” knot have a “too” in it ?

    Soz Baz – could’nt help my self… smiley face

  61. Butt-boy
    31 May 12
    5:14 pm

  62. Contemporaneous – it’s a combination of contemporary and anus – for use when talking about arses in the now.

  63. Jon holloway
    31 May 12
    5:31 pm

  64. Who said there wasn’t any creativity left in the world? 😉

  65. audrey
    31 May 12
    8:22 pm

  66. anyone who uses the word ‘gamification’ can gamifyTFO.

  67. John Grono
    1 Jun 12
    7:27 am

  68. Thanks for the heads-up.

  69. Jayess
    1 Jun 12
    10:16 am

  70. Jon (not John),Doughboy,Barry White, et al you seem to have got it all.
    I could not find anyone suggesting this could for “our new platfom” but the quintessential elements seem to have been covered.
    Well done,can we get back to the work we were doing to improve our collective productivity goal
    Otherwise we could low perform on our KPIs and reduce the (already stated )ROI

  71. dk
    1 Jun 12
    10:52 am

  72. Solutionising



    Meal occasion


    All words clients have used in meetings.

    All words I’m not really fond of.

  73. Clown 2,425
    1 Jun 12
    12:50 pm

  74. There’s lots of things that make us advertising people look like clowns, Jon. Things like most of the advertising. And really serious PR photos. One day you’ll grow to accept that we are all clowns. Then we hope to see you smile.

  75. Jon holloway
    1 Jun 12
    2:29 pm

  76. @Clown 2,425 – I look like a clown in all photos, this one took 15 shoots, 3 art directors, make up and many months of photoshop editing.. finally, I look normal, yet miserable.. Madness

  77. Aidan
    1 Jun 12
    11:01 pm

  78. Ha- great post and comments,recently had a bet with a colleague as to how long it might take to hear “end to end solutions” at a trade exhibition, answer was in few minutes…

  79. fleshpeddler
    2 Jun 12
    8:49 am

  80. and let’s try not to steal ideas for out column from the ‘Words Douchbags Say’ facebook page

  81. Trevor Trevorsen
    2 Jun 12
    10:06 pm

  82. @Butt-boy. Love it. Freakin’ hilarious.

  83. Gary
    3 Jun 12
    2:50 pm

  84. lets just park that, we can take it offline later and just put it on the back burner

  85. Matthew
    3 Jun 12
    9:57 pm

  86. I hope I win Jon –

    social currency content platform.

  87. eaon pritchard
    4 Jun 12
    9:40 am

  88. Another, more simple, and even more infuriating misuse of language is the continued use of words like ‘digital’ ‘social’ and ‘transmedia’ as nouns.
    These are adjectives.

  89. Schmoopie
    4 Jun 12
    10:13 am

  90. ‘Digital’ and ‘social’ are ‘skunked’ words. They’ve been used wrong-like enough that their meaning changes.

    Like hopefully, presently, decimate, anxious, disinterested and nauseous.

    Also called ‘pedant catchers’.

  91. Dan
    4 Jun 12
    1:38 pm

  92. For all those who like to criticise pendantry, trying reading one of Don Watson’s books. Suggest ‘Bendable Learnings’ and ‘Weasle Words’. Both will encourage you to speak and write so you can be understood the first time. After all, we are in the communications business!

  93. Thomasr
    4 Jun 12
    1:51 pm

  94. Baudrillard uses the term “Transmediade appropriation” to denote not discourse, as the dialectic paradigm of expression suggests, but subdiscourse. Reicher implies that we have to choose between predeconstructivist textual theory and neocapitalist cultural theory- as we see here in Jon Holloway’s article .

    And while this piece could be seen as a simple case of raging against the perceived wrongs of the modern (or indeed post modern) ad/digital industry, if one examines semantic transmedia one is faced with a choice: either reject predeconstructivist textual theory or conclude that the industry is capable of significance. It could be said that many deconstructions concerning mythopoetical transmedia paradox may yet be discovered.

  95. Peter Pedant
    4 Jun 12
    2:21 pm

  96. Dan, I preferred his book “Weasel Words”.

  97. Dan
    4 Jun 12
    6:15 pm

  98. Guilty as charged Peter P!

  99. Natasha
    4 Jun 12
    10:30 pm

  100. “Lets focus on managing the clients expectations and caveat it”

  101. Renée
    5 Jun 12
    4:51 pm

  102. Masstige

  103. Rasher
    6 Jun 12
    1:25 pm

  104. Reading through the comments, I’m astounded that we’re so far up our own arses that nobody has called out the word ‘space’ as insufferable wank. Same goes for ‘price point’ rather than ‘price’ and the inexorable use of the word ‘diarize’ – I don’t care that it’s in the dictionary, saying it still makes you sound like a cock.

  105. Mike
    6 Jun 12
    3:55 pm

  106. Solution.

    Advertisers seems to have a ‘solution’ for everything.

  107. Mig Caldwell
    6 Jun 12
    4:20 pm

  108. a certain formerly-KKK-run chicken house heralding the term – and accompanying website – “goodification” springs to mind…. Makes me realise just how dire the situation must be in terms of sourcing unique domain names…
    But then, the other day, I saw a beauty salon with a painted proclamation that promised cheap and painless “Eyebrown Waxing” and have often wandered past the “Phone Assessories” outlet near my work, so perhaps innovation should be recognised for “all intensive purposes” in an abbreviated world of spellchecking abbreviations…

  109. Shanghai
    8 Jun 12
    8:05 pm

  110. Almost anything that requires ‘verbing’ nouns …

  111. Harry
    12 Jun 12
    10:11 am

  112. Speaking of reading blogs and vomiting it up pretending to be an expert…

    This article sounds very similar to one written by Dave Trott a week earlier.


    Pot calling the kettle black?

  113. Kate
    12 Jun 12
    3:34 pm

  114. @Nick #24, I take it she’s never met the REAL Queen (of Twitter)… https://twitter.com/#!/Queen_UK

  115. James Robertson Justice
    12 Jun 12
    4:09 pm

  116. Harry’s comment is a bit harsh. The article by Dave Trott was aimed at people posing as “creativea” to enter the induatry. This thread concerns the over use of jargon by those in the industry.

    All industries have jargon that is used as “shorthand” When I was performing surgery I would ask my assistant for a “piece of steel with a cutty bit on the end and a sort of scissors but blunt”.

    We lost many patients before we got on the same page by saying scalpel and forceps.


  117. James Robertson Justice
    12 Jun 12
    4:14 pm

  118. I meant “creatives” and “industry”

  119. Harry
    12 Jun 12
    4:31 pm

  120. @JRJ I think the two articles are discussing different manifestations of the same problem – the use of jargon in an attempt to sound more intelligent.

    This piece even misquotes the misquoted Einstein quote in Dave Trott’s piece.

    Seems to me, a bit audacious to then call your readers “morons”.

  121. James Robertson Justice
    12 Jun 12
    7:49 pm

  122. Harry

    I did not know about the Einstein misquote.

    My point was that jargon is part of any job and advertising is no exception.

    As long as it is used by those that know what it means and are using it to convey an idea I don’t have a problem with it.


  123. CT
    14 Jun 12
    2:09 pm

  124. Yippee. Some new words to add to “wank word bingo” for my next meeting. Interesting also to note that many still confuse education with intelligence. Ho Hum.

  125. jean cave
    14 Jun 12
    3:09 pm

  126. Someone said to me “Jean you are such a trendsleeve”.

  127. Doug
    14 Jun 12
    3:45 pm

  128. Every (pseudo-)profession tries to develop its own jargon to confuse outsiders and exclude the out-crowd. That’s how they justify the high charge rates.

    Doctors do it with Latin, IT with acronyms, and marketers are just the latest group to seek respectability through in-house language. Or should I have quoted ‘Thieves’ Cant’ as an example?

  129. jean cave
    14 Jun 12
    3:53 pm

  130. the public
    15 Jun 12
    12:48 pm

  131. “Identify relevant and compelling hooks for the audience, create content around the hooks and integrate it into their social repertoires”

    “Target influencers with engaging assets to act as platforms for conversation”

  132. krangsquared
    22 Jun 12
    2:03 am

  133. I just learned of the phrase “manage the optics” — which I guess is related to properly “spinning” something.

    Kill me. No wait, let me kill whoever came up with that

  134. Are we aligned on that?
    25 Jun 12
    10:10 pm

  135. Compelling behavioural research into digitally penetrated subsets show strategically aligned paradigm shifts incentivise opthalmic influencers through extra-syllabic group sessions using sexually suggestive linguistics.

    Basically, sex sells.