Tuesday, February 6, 2024


I've been fired a few times in my life and I've always been staunch about how I talk or write about it.

For starters, I hate the pablum-ization around the English language when it comes to being fired. I dislike the phrase "laid off." I dislike "let go." I really hate "downsize," "right-size," or "recalibrated."

The reason I hate those phrases has nothing to do with their sound or their euphony and everything to do with their pro-corporate manipulation.

Being fired is painful. 

It's scary.

It's emotionally wrenching even if you hated where you were working.

If you've ever read anything about depression and loneliness you know that cutting people off from their sense of place and belonging, stripping from them their purpose is more than just financially painful. It sends many people into a real tailspin.

When we adopt language and say we were laid-off, it semantically takes the pain out of what's happened.

It's like saying I was dunked into the water rather than I was keel-hauled. Or spanked rather than whipped.

Using anodyne language--the language of the firer--gives the firer a public relations victory. You didn't have your financial and emotional legs cut out from under you. You were downsized.

As the kids say, fuck that shit.

A few summers ago while so much of the country was in lock-down and a nearly equal quantity was in disease-denial, agencies came up with a new locution to assuage their reputations. They started furloughing people.

That is, they fired them for a period of time hoping they could bring them back at a lower hiring cost than finding new people altogether. They cut salaries. They protected themselves at the expense of their workers.

These people weren't furloughed. They were fired. They were hurt. The company's actions caused pain and they tried to bolster their reputations by using anodyne language to mask that pain.

Now, WPP, which has the PR and semantic sophistication of a brain-damaged toad, has concocted new phrases to protect themselves from backlash over their inhuman behavior and their dire financial performance.

Firing $221-million worth of people is called an "efficiency opportunity." Firing people is called getting rid of redundancies.

My god, "Daddy, how can I be an efficiency opportunity when I grow up?" You want an efficiency opportunity, Mr. Read? Fly coach, walk to work, grab a Sabrett's for lunch.

"I saw an efficiency opportunity and I took it."

Read's language above sounds like that of the Pentagon during Vietnam or Dick Cheney calling waterboarding and other tortures, "enhanced interrogation." It's positively Soviet. Why not just say, as South American dictatorships used to, that "seven creative teams have been disappeared"?

Truth in our modern world, especially during the era of AI and digital fakery is the central problem of advertising. It's possible truth has always been the central problem of advertising.

How can advertisers tell the truth and be believed when so many advertisers engage in puffery, flim-flam and outright deception?

If I were, heaven forfend, a WPP client, I'd think very long and hard about a corporate entity that so pathologically engages in deception. Rather than take their medicine like a big kid.

What they do to the least of us, they'll do to you.

Liars lie.

It's their business model.

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