I think most of us have come to the point at some time in our lives where you just feel like quitting and becoming the proprietor of a village shop or something. I know I certainly have and very often this has been prompted by encounters with a particular breed of pompous asses for whom our business seems to provide a safe haven.

My wife, who is a country girl at heart, holds the view that everybody in advertising is a poseur, which may be an over-simplification, but I know where she is coming from. There are far too many people involved in marketing and advertising who are just up themselves! Like the new young Marketing Director of my friend’s client, who I mentioned in an earlier post, seemed to think that, fresh out of college (well, almost), she was going to tell a thirty-year veteran of marketing about branding!

Arseholes take many forms. There’s the one who thinks up new words to describe something that we’ve all been doing for decades and drops them into conversations or presentations with the unspoken challenge to anybody listening to question what they mean. Invariably this is a ploy that the presenter thinks will enable him to establish his superiority, but which, he fails to realise, because we are all in the communication business, just proves he’s crap at his job! There’s also the dress-code ponce who seems to see any presentation as a fashion contest. I actually had one of these tell me once that he’d scored in a presentation because he’d “out-dressed everyone else”! It’s important to hit the right note with your dress code in these situations, we’ve all witnessed “death by suit” at some time, but Armani armageddon isn’t the objective.

Those of you who follow my posts will know that I recently had a bash at trying to standardise marketing nomenclature – a bit of a challenge I admit and not one that I felt was guaranteed to succeed in anything, but maybe making a few people realise that marketers reduce their credibility in the business world by failing to agree on pretty much any basic terminology. Unsurprisingly, while it got a load of views and downloads, nobody contributed to that project, so I have to conclude that marketers generally like to baffle each other (and probably themselves!). We have a saying in England that someone “calls a spade a shovel”, which is a reference to the way some folk are very blunt, direct, don’t dress things up and more than anything use simple basic language. I like people like this, you know where you are with them. I never find their bluntness insulting (which I understand, if you are a bit insecure, you might). I was talking to a Czech government minister a few weeks back and at one point I suggested that Czech government policy on start-ups was miss-aligned. He rocked in his chair “You British” he said “you have such a way with words!” I took it to mean that I was myself sliding into the mire of politically correct ambiguity and quickly re-phrased. I won’t tell you what I said but he agreed! I’ve been tempted a few times in the past to adopt a kind of inverted snobbery about this stuff, particularly when I’ve encountered particularly extreme offenders. There are few things more satisfying the just-sucked-a-lemon look on a poseurs face when you tell them, as Sir John Hegarty told the audience at a recent conference, that what they are doing is “shit!”.

My one-time colleague and ex-agency chief John Ward, probably inspired by the same arse-holes we both rubbed shoulders with in the past left adverting and set up The Slog, an hilarious and highly controversial, political blog dedicated to, as he says, “deconstructing bollocks”. John takes on heavy-hitters these days and through his myriad of extremely well-positioned political connections explodes political myths and reduces statements of the rich and influential to the meaningless pap they really are.

Anyway, here’s one for John. I’m sure he’ll appreciate this. It’s Austrian designer Stefan Sagmeister lampooning those idiots who describe their work as “Storytelling”. I’ll leave it to you to decide where you stand on this.

Phil Darby
August 8, 2014

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