Words I hate

“Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language… let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Genesis 11: 5-7

Activation. You mean events, right?

Align. Same as agree. Just sounds neater and tidier.

Analytics. Whatever it is, it’s somebody else’s job.

Anthropology. Big word for watching people. Usually done by people who have no idea who Margaret Mead is.

Awards. Rosé-sodden sideshows.

Brainstorm. See Ideate.

Co-creation. Rarely does any good come of this.

Community. “We’re not in the business of selling people stuff. We’re in the business of enabling and nurturing communities.” Sure, sure.

Consumer. Fictional construct, whose psychology, preoccupations, motivations, and interests bear absolutely no resemblance to yours.

Content. Also known as ‘branded content’. You mean spots? Oh, sorry, long spots. No? Oh, music videos? No? Sorry, you meant online films, right? Sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking about sponsored documentaries. Actually, what are you talking about?

Conversation. What marketers think they’re having with the consumer. What normal people have with the friends and family in their lives.

Crowdsource. Fancy way of saying getting other people to solve your problems for absolute peanuts

Curate. What you do if you have no ideas of your own. Or work in a museum.

Data. Apparently it comes in different sizes. Though people only talk about ‘big’ data, never the small or medium data.

Dead. e.g. “Advertising is dead”. Used by shameless salespeople to convince you that you should be buying their product/service instead. Or by marketing fundamentalists.

Deliverable. A whole new noun that has yet to make it into the dictionary.

Digital. I have no idea what you mean. Do you? TV is digital. Vague to the point of being totally meaningless.

Engagement. An exercise in obfuscation. Guaranteed to leave everybody having no idea what you’re on about. Because you don’t either.

Essence. Do brands have one? Getting to one provides a comforting feeling of control though.

Equity. Big word for brand image. But sounds more investor-friendly.

Fans.  Ever wonder why brands have so few of them? Pointless vanity metric. So, so 90s.

Filmic. It’s a film is it? Well that is a particularly good adjective to describe it then. Like bookic and musicic.

Gamification. Call of Duty is an awesome game. Your app is just shit.

Ideate. No. It’s not about ideas. It’s about politics and buy-in. Which is fine. But let’s not pretend what we’re really doing.

Influencers. If they were really that cool, those DJs wouldn’t be working with you.

Insight. Psychobabble drivel.

Integration. What you do when you want to spend at sub-optimal levels across a wide variety of channels.

Learnings. It’s not a word.

Leverage. Big word for ‘use’.

Lightweight. Invisible and/or spam.

Listening. Pretending, you mean.

Loyalty. Maybe. Just not as we know it. Look at the data.

Marketing. Term for when companies talk to themselves. When people talk to themselves however, we call it madness.

Messaging. Some people still think this is what we do, apparently. So 60s.

Mission. Corporate mumbo-jumbo. Apparently a completely different thing from a Vision.

Monetize. Same as bastardize.

Onion. A bureaucratic, energy-sapping exercise in pedantry. Once done, never used. What you fill in if you have no culture. Perhaps it’s no accident that it’s the one vegetable that makes us weep.

Own. Guaranteed to send everyone off in a fruitless quest. If it’s relevant to consumers you won’t be able to own it. The product of misreading brand image data.

Overwhelmed. Nice way to say you “didn’t do what I asked for”.

Participation. What you expect if you truly believe ordinary people have too much time on their hands

Personality. Precursor to a laundry list of banal adjectives. See also Onion.

Pyramid. See Onion.

Positioning. What you spend a lot of time on if you choose to deny the truth that in the real world for real people, brands are all much of a muchness.

Reach Out. You can text, phone, e-mail, or talk to me, but you’re not touching me.

Relationships. A metaphor with so, so much to blame for. People have relationships with people. Not brands. Deal with it.

Research. What we call something when it’s done too late and for all the wrong reasons.

ROI. Want infinity ROI? Reduce your marketing spend to zero.

Segmentation. Favorite board game of researchers. In which one divides the world up into unrecognizable groups of people and gives them ass-achingly glib, alliterative nicknames, e.g. Spendthrift Smittys and Cautious Kathies.

Social. Prefix that renders everything and anything au courant, e.g. social business, social strategy, social insight, etc.

Storytelling. What planners bang on about endlessly.

Strategist. I’m a fucking planner, alright? What was good enough for King and Pollitt is good enough for me. I like to feel I’m part of the proud tradition they began.

Synergy. See Integration

Temple. See Onion.

Test. What one does when one has no opinion.

Transmedia. The triumph of theory over practice.

Trend. What charlatans pretend to ‘watch’.

TV. The medium that in some quarters dare not speak its name.

Underwhelmed. Nice way to say “yours is a shit idea”.

Utility. What you bang on about if you’ve forgotten that the whole point of brands and products has always been to be useful.

Validate. You mean ass-cover, right?

Viral. Something you think you want, but don’t actually have the balls to do.

Vision. Corporate mumbo-jumbo. Apparently a completely different thing from a Mission.

Workshop. See Ideate.


We call ourselves communicators. We talk about the importance of building ‘authentic’ brands.  Yet we spend much of our time either not speaking the plain truth. Or simply not making any sense.

We are awash with marketing doublespeak.

Please, people of marketing- and adland, could we have just a little more honesty? A little more and clarity?

And lot less self-serving bullshit?


  1. Rod Hirsch (@rodhirschwriter)

    Couldn’t agree more. I got here via Dave Trott’s blog and the Ad Contrarian. Oh, and George Tannenbaum’s wry musings. This is a rock I shall cling to next time I’m on a call with loud Americans pouring customer experience brand social engagement enablement shit in my ear.

  2. @olivierlegris

    I’m pretty sure “experience” can be on the list.

    Aaaa when the consumer experiences the product…

    or also to use in very vague context

    This is a totally new experience

  3. @olivierlegris

    If I can abuse of my power, I would also suggest
    Killer and Future Of

    When something is not good enough to be useful and therefor needs hype to exist
    A killer feature, the iPhone-killer …etc

    Future of:
    When you have no idea what it’s happening and you avoid the subject by pretending you know what is going to happen
    This is the Future of advertising, the future of TV… etc

  4. Phil Adams

    I agree with most but not all of this, which cost you a retweet. I doubt you’ll lose sleep over that.

    One example is Lightweight which you interpret as invisible or spam.

    My agency produces a lot of lightweight ideas for clients for whom we run large scale social media programmes. These are ideas that take an hour or so of Photoshop time to knock up. Most of them get little or no traction, in which case the cost of failure is minimal, bordering on negligible. However, quite a few of them (more than enough to make it all worth while) get significant amounts of traction, lots of reach, lots of reaction, lots of visibility, lots of clicks through to commercially valuable places. When this happens these ideas are anything but invisible. And if they were spammy they wouldn’t get the reactions that they do. When they succeed the benefit to cost ratio is enormous.

    You’ll probably argue that we could use a more plain english term like cheap or low cost instead of lightweight. And you’re right. But I suspect that such language would devalue these ideas in the eyes of clients and make them less likely to happen. Any one lightweight idea in isolation is disposable. But an ongoing programme of lightweight ideas (good ones) has real value. An ongoing programme of lightweight ideas, and the agency behind them, is more likely to be taken seriously by clients than a line in the plan called cheap content.

    Lightweight is the sizzle to the cheap sausage.

  5. the hidden persuader

    Unfortunately every “profissional tribe” needs its own lingo and codes. When I worked at Accenture it was the same with the consultancy community, lots of gibberish and awful ties amongst the BCG’s and McKinsey ranks. As Harry Truman pointed out “If you can’t convince them, confuse them”.

    • Martin Weigel

      Though I think we can rail against the lingo and jargon.
      My hero continues to be Stephen King.
      Who managed to be a brilliant planning mind without ever once resorting to jargon. Everything he wrote was a model of clear and simple English.
      Hey… Ya gotta dream.

  6. Dena

    I was recently in a presentation, during which someone talked about, “social vortices”. It took a few hours for my eyes to roll back into their original position.

  7. the hidden persuader

    360º, media-neutral, total marketing, experience branding, immersive shopping, engaging strategy, beyond-the-line advertising …

    (laughs) It’s a monster we’ve created.
    Agencies and Clients are always looking for the next big exciting buzzword and formula. Therefore this language fragmentation is just the outcome of the market, which is always trying to reinvent itself to become novel and “interesting”.

  8. Kay

    Thanks for telling this story; an insightful validation of the learnings which lead to my trending away from my career as a strategist.

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  10. homer

    I think it’s safe to add “Organic” to this list. Meaning – “without a lick of effort on our part.” As in “We’re fostering organic growth.” Yeah. Sure you are. Have another coffee and congratulate yourself some more.

  11. Sean Clark

    This is both funny and sadly so true. My guess is that it will gain a lot of traction with those in the marcom vertical.

  12. Paul Angeli

    marvellous bullshit bingo . . . . like reading some of the CVs we have to review . . and then attempt to decipher “what do you actually do” . . . oops, just realised my job title is included in the above list!

  13. Steve Sammartino

    Interesting – yet I find it funny when people like you arbitrarily decide what is and isn’t a word – or shouldn’t be used in a new context. All words did not exist at some point. All words have meaning which changes over time. Language is a communication organism which lives and evolves, and therefore, the question should be ‘does the recipient understand the intention?’… My fav’ irony of your article is that it’s stuff like this that keeps people like you and me in jobs careers….

    OK – rant over. My fav’ non word is “agreeance”

  14. Grant

    I love your article! Spot on! “Learnings” is not a word – not when you have “lessons”. And as for “ideate”….blurrrgh! It’s no coincidence that its last three letters are the same as those in “masturbate”.

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