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  • Writer's pictureJames Pelz

Our Top 5 Industry Terms That Need to Evolve.



The world moves fast and your needs—even faster. So why do we (the industry in which we work…in) insist on trying to fit these turn-of-the-previous century terms into our modern vocabularies? An even better question to ask is “How does ONE of these outdated concepts even begin to serve your needs?” in this over two-decades-past-the-last-century business environment. Let’s fix that here.


Here's our top 5 terms offered up to every company that need to be re-considered. Let’s rethink how we use these best-used-to-answer-the-question-of-what-you-do-at-a-cocktail-party-when-you-really-don’t-have-the-time (or energy after a long week of strategically planned meetings) to explain that which is what you do do (Are people still going to cocktail parties??!). Let’s not use these to limit what you really do do.


#1. Advertising

Build it and they will come, Worked in Field of Dreams (are you even old enough to remember that movie) but not today. Long gone is the world in where awareness was the first step in the one step dance (is that technically hopping?). Today, the marketplace is over-crowded. Your customer is over-whelmed. Now there is so much noise ad choice that unless you give something more for Joe-Consumer to identify-with and participate-in and entertained-be, you’ve already lost the battle. Matter of fact, if you thought a bigger logo was the best change possible, you might want to check your pulse ‘cause your heart rate might be a bit lower than it should. The awareness business was great when the audience wasn’t over-stimulated, under-trusting and really-good at tuning out your nonsense.


Let’s stop talking about advertising as the traditional one-and done tactic it used to be in 1957 (the year Leo Burnett started working with Allstate, look it up) and realize that awareness is only a first step in the successful scheme to motivate your audience give you their money (see the well-worn Phillip J. Frye meme for more motivation). You’re going to have to be more thoughtful, work a little harder for rewards today—but that hard work can be more rewarding than 1957. Let’s stop thinking of advertising as simply awareness driving because today, that's just not good enough.

#2. Marketing

It’s cute right? The thought that every possible brand-building tool could be lumped into a simple clean category. Need more engagement…marketing. Need a better name, look, logo, message, interactive rate, purpose, insight, answer…marketing. Need to solve that sales slump…marketing. Kind of falls into the same category as breathing in the sense that yes, if you want to continue doing business you might want to do that too.


“Marketing” is a so ever-present term that anything you do with a logo on it is considered marketing (maybe a hat won’t solve your slump in sales). You know what can’t have a logo on it: share of mind—but it does have your branding all over it. It requires you make sure that your brand story is baked into everything you do. If you can answer “Why?” you are using any tactic with how it BUILDS upon your story instead of how it TELLS your story you are well along your way to actually marketing your business. Let’s stop lumping tactics under marketing and let’s work harder to be more brand driving.


#3. Content

Same crime, different criminal. Seems to me that this word is most overused and least understood. So misunderstood, it has lost its meaning and place. Content is not what you make to fill space. It is certainly NOT there to sell Google’s something (and yes, you need Google’s attention, but only as a means to get your customer’s attention—and I’m almost certain Google≠your customer). I’ll argue all day content is king, but you have abused your privilege to use the word and are forcing me to now adapt that argument to something like relative-and-meaningfull-stuff-in-relation-to-your-brand-in-order-to-steal-your-customer’s-attention-away-for-long-enough-so-that-they-might-give-you-money is king.


The solution: give your consumer something new to think about. The keys to this solution: 1. New (somewhere to explore, this isn’t a vocabulary quiz your audience needs to take), 2. Think (I know, we don’t do that anymore), 3. Your consumer (not you). Despite what we knew in 1948 (David Olgilvy’s humble beginnings…look it up) the audience wants to think (despite popular belief). Give them what they want and in trade you will be on their mind and their shopping list. Let’s stop making noise and calling it content.


#4. Creative

Ahhhhhhhhh, I hate this as it is what I do, but it is also so misunderstood that it has lost its meaning too. Seems to be when anyone thinks about hiring a Creative (notice the capitol “C” as in it’s a title, not a sense of self) they hope to hire a special person who will make my mess-of-needs “pretty,” or “edgy,” or somehow “worthy of love and attention” despite the lack of insight, interest, information, intrigue or thousands of other words starting with the letter “i.”


The solution to bring meaning back to the position, look for what the good Creatives already know: they are more insightful, lean on talent, curiosity and experience, surround themselves with smart people and most importantly—they are not wizards. They need as much good information in as any other job out there. And sure, everybody can be creative, but it takes work to get to the proper noun. Let’s stop thinking creative is anything useful without intent.


#5. Account

I have met some kick-ass account people—I just hate the title. It assumes that there is only one group of people (What is the collective for a group of account people? AdAge calls it a Panic.) that understands your business. I humbly offer that the entire f*cking agency is paid to understand your business. If they do not, fire them. If the understanding of the business is down to one person…fire the agency and hire that person. Fundamentally, we should be asking the question “How is it there is one word to both define my business’ role at an agency AND the person in position to serve me at that agency?” The thought that account is serving the account breaks the rule of not using the word in definition of the word.


Want to bring the meaning back to this position it had in 1949 (founding of Doyle Dane Bernbach…you know, look it up)? Make everyone in your organization responsible for the position. If you want to earn the proper-noun status make enabling everyone to be responsible for the position your lot in life. Think of it less as a title and more of a mission statement (I hear you like those). Let’s stop thinking about account as an individual and more of it as an agency-wide movement.


Final note:

James just likes asking questions. Questions lead to better solutions. That, and he isn’t all that enamored by the status quo, nor referring to himself in the third person. He thinks of Stack as being all about engagement, but not in that tired way you are thinking about it now and if people are still going to cocktail parties…can he come?


Good Luck out there. XOXO

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