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Mad Words

Guest Post: Tony Proscio

The Association of National Advertisers, the Madison Avenue trade group, held its convention last week. Part of that event is an annual send-up of the industry’s latest jargon. Here’s how the New York Times reported this year’s installment:


Those who enjoy collecting samples of marketing buzz words and phrases have a field day each year at the conference. This time around, specimens included “thought leadership” and “thought experiment.” “Right-sized nutritional option” described a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Others: “choiceful,” “stakeholder engagement,” “leveraging our leadership to take positive actions,” “purposeful brand growth,” “consumer decision journey” and “change organization.”

Unless you work at the Don Draper Foundation, you may find it a little disquieting to see how many of the favorite buzz-phrases of the philanthropy world are just as trendy among the people who hawk Happy Meals: “thought leadership,” “stakeholder engagement,” “leveraging leadership,” “change organization.” We’ve had ’em for years.

I think we’re innocent (so far) of “purposeful brand growth,” and I’ve yet to see any equivalent of “consumer decision journey” (or, God forbid, “choiceful”) in our world. But it’s probably just a matter of time.

Tony Proscio, a planning, evaluation, and communication consultant to foundation and large nonprofit organizations, is also the creator of the Communications Network’s Jargon Finder.


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