Throughout my advertising career and I use the word "career" advisedly,
I became familiar with the industry jargon. I'm not talking about the
trade terms such as "Progs," which used to mean "progressive proofs" or
"T-nap" which was a system I have never understood. All I know is, it
was a proof that made your ad look a whole lot better than it would in
its final resting place in the magazine or newspaper for which your
client paid a fortune and was required to indenture his first born.
They don't do T-naps any more. I don't know about progs.

what I'm not talking about. What I am trying to explain in this
all-too-brief dissertation is the kind of language that is used to
impress clients and make them feel that you really know what you're

I picked up this language by osmosis. There's no
lexicon or glossary of these terms. Hell, there isn't even a thesaurus,
although a great many of the words and phrases are so old and hackneyed
that they may have made it into Roget's by now.

Such a term is
"differentiation." It's used in conjunction with a whole lot of other
bafflegab and it follows the rule: "Never say anything to clients in
simple language when you can overpower them with complex
circumlocutionary verbiage." Yes, I did that on purpose.
Circumlocutionary isn't in the MS Word spellchecker. It is, however in
the dictionary.

You would never dream of telling a client that
you have to make up a reason for people to buy the product you're
advertising rather than that sold by competitors. No, you must say (and
marketing proposals are chock full o' this) "We need to develop a
U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition) that will give us product
differentiation and establish our competitive edge." This is ad-speak
for "We have to make up something that will give consumers the idea
that our nail clipper is different from everyone else's nail clipper."

Here are three things to remember when using differentiation:

1. Always use the word "consumer" instead of "customer." That way you
won't feel guilty because you are hoodwinking actual human beings.
Consumers are just statistics. Customers are people.

2. Always
use "our" instead of "your" when you're addressing the client in print
or in person. This makes you appear part of the team, rather than a
predatory consulting business with the sworn, but secretive mission to
milk the client for every nickel of "our" advertising budget.

3. This strategy gets "us" away from the "value added" approach which
is less cost effective. In this case, less cost effective means, "The
agency doesn't get to keep as much of the money because we have to buy
spool-winders or thumb-warmers to give away with the product and that
cuts into the fees."

That's enough about differentiation. The
other words I want to cover, or perhaps I should say, uncover, this
week are "qualitative" and "quantitative." In the ad game, these words
are most often used in conjunction with the word "research".

Quantitative research is done by mail, telephone or in person. No
matter which of these techniques is used, it is extremely annoying to
the respondent. Thousands of people are surveyed. The results however,
as plainly stated by the research companies, are accurate to within
plus or minus 5%, 99 times out of 100 divided by the square root of
infinity and multiplied the number of your birth month. Hard to beat

Qualitative research is another matter. It doesn't
involve nearly as many people so it has some major advantages. You
don't have to hire a bunch of high school students with IQs equal to
their shoe sizes to annoy thousands of "respondents." You don't have to
"cross tab" the results. I still don't know the meaning of the term
"cross tab" but it's something university people do that generates
approximately forty pounds of computer paper covered in numbers which
research analysts look at for many billable hours. Every so often they
say things like, "Aha." and "Hmmmm." This is known as analyzing the
cross tabs.

Qualitative research is done by a couple of
different methods. You can ask Shirley in accounts payable or you can
assemble a "Focus Group." A focus group is a bunch of people, usually
slightly smaller than a jury. These people are locked in a room, given
a sheet of questions about the prominently displayed product and then
starved and deprived of breathable air until they come up with the
answers you want.

I had a friend named Melvin, now deceased,
who once told me that two focus groups he ran came up with identical
results. After viewing a television commercial several hundred times,
the groups each arrived at a consensus that the most important word in
the commercial was "and." Shirley in payables was far more succinct.
She watched it once and said, "It really sucks, you know?"

agency, when it undertakes a research project, has to choose which type
of research will be more meaningful to the client. This determination
is made by the head of the accounting department, who decides, after
exhaustive number crunching, which method will allow the agency to keep
more of the research budget.

One of these days I must do a
column about Melvin. You would have liked him in spite of the unusual
circumstances surrounding his death and the ultimate failure of his
lifelong quest to obtain a copyright for the word "and."