Advertising MillennialSpeak! ‘Say What?’

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By Rick Stanton

Millennials hate advertising so much that many of them who actually are in the business are giving us older folks reasons to hate advertising, too.

I recently was hired by an agency that shall remain nameless to sit in on a meeting to discuss creative concepts, based on research findings.

After the usual introductory banter, we entered into the discussion. About 10 minutes in, I realized that a fundamental hurdle facing today’s advertisers is the development of “new bullshit,” coined largly by millennials, or older ad people pandering to millennials to make themselves seem contemporary.

To wit: At one point in the meeting, one of the agency 20-somethings said to the client, who was probably in his early 40s, and I quote: “How do we connect the pixels that make up big ideas so that everyone in the key channels can see their DNA in the executions?” Say what?

I was so stunned, I asked the speaker to say it again, so I could write it down accurately. What I suspect the person meant was, how do we get consumers to see themselves in the advertising.

In fairness, advertising always has had its own jargon, in no small part to make clients feel like we know stuff they don’t.

‘How do we connect the pixels that make up big ideas so that everyone in the key channels can see their DNA in the executions?’

But most of them caught on, and during the Great Recession we allowed them to turn our business into a commodity where “when and how cheaply can I get it” and “if it doesn’t work in the first five minutes it hits the street, we’re going into review.”

So now we have new jargon to attempt to re-confuse mostly everyone involved. And we don’t have the stock agency titles of old anymore either, like creative director and account executive.

The “new bullshit” includes titles like Integration Evangelist, Millennial Sales Strategist, Brand Ambassador, Futurist, Head of Organic Intelligence, Dynamic Storyteller, 360-Degree Conversation Expert and Lead Designer for Digital Ecosystems—all sitting in the same room obfuscating the real issue they should be talking about to the client: How can and do we get your advertising noticed?

I recently saw a report that said, of all the money spent on all forms of advertising today, 4% of the advertising is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% isn’t remembered at all.

Bill Bernbach (millennials, go to Google) once said: “If no one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”

I really don’t intend to demean a whole generation. God knows, I had my rear end saved a few times by some really smart millennials who worked with me. Thanks Lisa, Molly, Arlana and Mel.

What I do mean to do is make a plea for some common sense and the ability to speak in a language that creates dialogue and understanding and leads to great work. Not more BS.

Most everyone on the planet probably has seen the YouTube video that does a pretty good job of belittling a whole generation. But, in case you haven’t seen it, check it out below.


Rick Stanton is a 40-year veteran of the local advertising business, the last 24 as principal of Stanton & Everybody. You can reach him at rick@stantonandnobody.com.