Puzzling new language or a conference call with brand managers? Sounds like Mumbo Jumbo to me!

January 26, 2009

images-3Mumbo Jumbo, The God of Confusion.

Something funny, if not mildly disturbing, occurred while I was attending a breakout session (fear these mightily!) with key account directors, on behalf of a new client, who shall have to remain nameless.

In this roundtable affair, we were to discuss ways the agency could secure new opportunities with this client as well as maximize the ones we already had. A perfectly good basis for a meeting, but I found myself…drifting.

Why? Because my colleagues, God bless them, were speaking in tongues. It is a way of communicating that must be learned in order to understand. And though I’m familiar with it, I struggle.

For example, what exactly are “channels” and “platforms?” I sort of know. I mean I think I know. But in the end, I don’t know. So, I pretend to know. I get the feeling I’m not the only one, especially if there are other creative people in the room. If I’m feeling brave, I just ask what a term means. Invariably, someone laughs nervously –at me for my ignorance and, I suspect, at just how silly this all is.

It’s not rocket science. If I’m paying close attention I get it. But, and herein lies the rub, if I’m not inspired or provoked I cannot pay attention. Brilliant as they may be, my colleagues sounded to me like the dispatcher in a cab, almost foreign. Mumbo Jumbo.

Another example: Why is art and copy now called “consumer facing propositions?” When did this distinction become necessary? Even the word “consumer” has become lost in translation. Is a consumer different from a customer or, for that matter, a person? I think a consumer is a person who becomes a customer but what the hell do I know?

There’s a very funny episode of the Simpsons, in which one of Krusty’s show writers berates a verbose account executive for using the word “proactive.” He wonders aloud if dumb people use the word in order to sound smart. I wonder if smart people do the same thing.


5 Responses to “Puzzling new language or a conference call with brand managers? Sounds like Mumbo Jumbo to me!”

  1. A new buzz word in my industry in “interoperability.” I in fact just submitted an awards/ranking survey with a major national trade magazine that aksed me to rank on a scale of 1 to 10 how important the trend of interoperability will be in the next 3-5 years to our industry.

    I find the word interoperability too long, too hard to spell and too hard to pronounce. I am pushing for a new term – the acronym DYSTTOS which stands for Does Your Shit Talk To Our Shit. Though, I have to admit, it is also difficult to pronounce.

  2. Andy Webb said

    I’m with you, Steffan, call out the people who use silly fad terms. Half can’t define what the terms actually mean.

    Funny, Mr. Wisdumb.

  3. Jhames said

    When brilliant people come together and talk in circles (tongues) it is such a wasted opportunity. I have one, how about when someone is running this type of meeting and you can tell that they failed to set up a format/agenda and hide behind the term “brainstorm session.”

  4. elijahP said

    Well said, Steffan. It is so easy to get sucked into the MBA/geek speak. I catch myself interfacing with my kids that way. Guess it’s just in our collective brand DNA.

  5. JoeM said

    There are two words, however, gaining in stature everyday. They are 1) fucktard and 2) douchenozzle,both courtesy of George Parker. Too many good ad people are turning into either, hence, all the mumbo jumbo.

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