Sunday, December 18, 2016

Those awful advertising slogans - no. 12 - Let's play buzzword bingo

Rather than pick up on any one nauseous ad, I thought this festive offering could be a bit different. We'll be exploring some of the words used by admen to describe products and, perhaps more crucially, the progenitors of the products. And then we can play an exciting game for all the family as we rack up points by seeing how many words we can find in the ads of our choice. Yes, it's time for Buzzword Bingo! [Er. I know you asked me to look into copyrighting this phrase but what with the budgie's cold and waiting in for the gas man* and trying to work out who sent us a rather odd Xmas card, I haven't actually got round to it yet but I'm sure it will be OK: Ed]

  • Passion - you cannot simply want to make something in order to earn a living and pay off the mortgage. You must do it with passion. Apparently people who farm tomatoes or make olive oil have this passion. Or so the ads tell me. I don't believe it.
  • Craft and/or Crafting - nobody in ads ever makes anything. They craft them. The idea is to divorce the process of design and construction by hand (good) from mass-production manufacturing by low-paid (probably Chinese) workers in huge soulless factories (bad). Beer made in small breweries is now routinely described as craft beer. Even though it is brewed in exactly the same way as in large breweries, just in smaller vats.
  • Excellence - Many years ago an influential  business book called In Search of Excellence helped propel this word into the limelight. The company I happened to work for at the time was one of those cited. Whatever it meant then, it is now routinely applied to everything and the the word has been devalued into meaning nothing other than a vague desire to be about as good as most of the rest.
  • Vision - All founders of any business are attributed with vision. The fact that most new businesses tend to fail, even though their owners had as much vision as those that succeeded, and therefore that luck is a key factor, is conveniently ignored. 
  • Natural - ah yes, the wonders of the natural world. Often found linked with Pure. Some natural things are good. Others are deadly. Who remembers when Perrier from a "natural" source was found to be contaminated with pure, natural Benzene? There is no virtue in being natural per se.
  • Pure - The purest product of all is distilled water. Since it tastes of nothing, you don't find it on the shelves (other than for topping up car batteries). Instead you find "mineral water" which contains all sorts of additives but it's all right because they are Natural (see above).
  • Perfection - How many times has something been described as perfect and then been Improved?
  • New / Improved / Just got better - Ad speak for something that is smaller than it used to be but costs more, or where the name has been pointlessly changed (big fee for the ad agency) and longtime customers are irritated (but ignored), or where nothing at all of any importance has happened but the Marketing Director is desperate to show her sceptical colleagues that she is doing something. Important - where something is said to be improved, on no account explain why it wasn't better in the first place. At this time it is fashionable for many perfume ads to appear - look for the strapline "the new perfume from ..." and ask yourself what was wrong with the old ones, because there must have been or why launch yet another into a very crowded marketplace?
  • Premium - adspeak for more expensive than something similar which is sold in less costly packaging.
  • Luxury - see Premium
  • Exclusive - adspeak for expensive. Always misused. Nothing described as exclusive actually is based on exclusion, other than ability to pay, because if it was then all sorts of laws against discrimination would be broken. Genuinely exclusive entities (such as golf clubs) don't advertise. Frequently applied to housing as in "Exclusive Development" when what they really mean is "Development".
  • Executive - The Civil Service used to be divided into three grades - Clerical, Executive and Administrative. In those days executive meant people who carry out the instructions of those making policy (and it was the Administrators who had the highest status not the Executives). It has changed meaning to something that becomes more vague and useless the more one thinks about it. We have imported the phrase CEO (Chief Executive Officer) from the US where previously Managing Director or General Manager were used to denote the bloke at the top but the word Executive is otiose - Chief Officer conveys exactly the same meaning and takes less time to say. You will often find ordinary detached houses for sale described as Executive and you will be none the wiser as to what distinguishes them from other ordinary detached houses.

I think that's enough to be going on with.

HOW TO PLAY BUZZWORD BINGO© [I did tell you it isn't actually copyright yet, didn't I? Ed]

The players flip through a magazine and select an advert each using some suitable method that will cause the minimum of argument.

Score: 1 point for each buzzword.
Score: An additional point if 2 buzzwords are used in the same sentence
Score: An additional 5 points if 4 or more buzzwords are used in the same paragraph.

The winner is the person who first wades through the advertising copy, announces his score and manages not to vomit.

* [I'm the one waiting in, not the budgie. Just thought I'd make that clear. The budgie tends to wait in anyway on account of how we've put him in a cage. Ed]

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