Much of the decay, decline or ossification of the advertising industry comes I think from the decay, decline, or ossification of how we use language.
To be blunt (which is the point) we no longer communicate.
We no longer find truth.
We no longer worry about the consumer (unless the consumer is a judge at Cannes.)
No. We have become an industry of jargon, by jargon and for jargon.
Let's go back to one of the great essays ever written on writing, from George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."
If I didn't have this memorized, I'd have this pinned somewhere near my ever-diminishing desk-space. If I ran an agency, I'd distribute it to every employee on their first day on the job--and once a year thereafter. Maybe there would be quizzes.
i. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
About once a week, I send a note to a friend in the business who's 15 years or so younger than me. "What does this mean," I ask him. I'll admit, I don't get a lot of the newer language--just like I don't truly know what '23-Skiddoo' means.
What are all these products we're inventing?
Where do I buy them?
What are they for?
The last new product I saw that was vaguely interesting was yogurt in a tube. At least that I could understand.
Earlier this week, Agency Spy, published a post heralding the hiring of someone and his anointment as Chief Creative Officer.
Here's what his own agency said about him: “_____ is a proven leader able to combine technology, data and storytelling in order to help brands build innovative campaigns...[his] entrepreneurial mindset and technology expertise will help our clients push the boundaries of consumer engagement..."
Ack ack ack. Help.
Will someone please tell me what that means?
Does he write? Or does he draw? Does he sell shit? Does he win new business?
Of all the things that make me feel old and washed up in this business, the most pernicious is the nodding.
When people speak in asininities and solipsisms like the above and everyone nods.
I sit there like an old Galician Jew and pound my chest in self-rebuke. What does it mean? What are they understanding that I'm missing?
A friend in the industry 25 years ago once said to me, "taste is a liability."
Now the ability to speak and think clearly is.
If you want to get ahead, damn the torpedoes and full-blather ahead.