Advertising is an industry loaded with catch phrases, oblique
artistic references and "inside" trade terminology. These fall into a
variety of categories but share a common purpose:

convince the client that if the work is not up to, or even in the same
area code as, his expectations, it is, in fact, the best thing for him
and his company. In the brief time we have together, I'll try to define
some of these for you so you can become more "hip" about advertising
and less likely to have the wool pulled over your eyes by somebody in
the ad business.

The first "buzz word" I'll translate for you is "rationale".

The key to any agency's success is its ability to develop a rationale.
Here's the way it works: after the ad campaign is prepared and made
ready for presentation to the client, a rationale is developed. You
see, the campaign is usually based on someone's gut instinct or some
research. For instance, Shirley, in accounts payable once bought one of
(insert product name here) and couldn't get the box open. Aha!
Packaging had to be a major priority. The fact that Shirley was a
borderline defective who couldn't open an unsealed envelope was
irrelevant, so the campaign keyed in on packaging.

after all the demonstration artwork, copy, sample radio and/or
television commercials are prepared, a group of staff members is
assembled, usually by one of the agency principals. He'll say something
like, "Okay boys and girls, what does it mean?"

The answer is
supposed to be something artistic that sounds feasible, is wide open to
interpretation and, as in "The Emperor's New Clothes," must be
understood by you, if you don't want to appear to be a moron in front
of your colleagues.

Here's an example. We paid several thousand
dollars to have the top commercial artist in town design a logo. It
really wasn't much. It was a "W" that kind of trailed off into
nothingness. The name of the company was "Winnipeg ___________ I won't
tell you the rest of the name because they're still around and I don't
have a lawyer.

We all gathered around the magic "W" and tried
to come up with something that would impress the boss. "It looks like a
snake," Shirley from accounts payable offered. Ken Williams, our
resident comic, jumped in with, "We only look slimy. Wait ‘til we shed
our skin." The limp comments started flying and the boss quelled the
enthusiasm with a withering stare. Then Allan, the office sycophant,
did his usual goody-two-shoes number. "It's a "W" with a sense of
direction. Move ahead with us. That kind of thing." I wanted to kill
him. Williams stuck his finger in his open mouth and pretended to gag.
The boss smiled beatifically. We had arrived at our rationale.

You'd think the sensible thing to do would be to figure out the
rationale and then make it come to life. Sorry, that just isn't the way
it's done in the ad game. Over the years, I had many similar
experiences but they all followed pretty much the same pattern.

The next "buzz word" or to be more accurate, "buzz phrase" is "value
added." This is often used in conjunction with the strategy of
"Differentiation," which I'll explain next time.

(don't say added value; it may make more sense but it just isn't
Ad-speak) means giving away something with the product. It can be
another product (preferably unrelated) or a service. If you think this
through, you begin to realize that when you are getting something
value-added, it really means that the company has such little faith in
its product or service, that it must give you something extra to induce
you to buy it. It's also important to note the "value" that is added is
in the Company's terms – not the customer's. "Buy this mattress and
we'll give you a TV" or "Buy this TV and we'll give you a mattress."

Customer: "But I don't need a TV (mattress)"

Salesman: "Hey, then you can sell it and make some coin for yourself."

Customer: "Why don't you just take the cost of the TV (mattress) of the cost of the mattress (TV).

This is the cue for the salesman to look at you as if you had just
arrived from the planet Dumkofficus and then leave to take a smoke and
highly caffeinated break so he can tell the other salesmen the type of
wing-nut he's had to deal with all day.

From the ad agency
perspective, value-added is a great concept to come up with when you
don't have anything really creative to take to the client. "Just
imagine how these decorative telephones will sell with a shiny pocket
knife taped to the handset. And this is the best part – the knife will
have your logo on it. In COLOR. Just stack ‘em high and watch ‘em fly."

When you can't think of anything else, use "value-added." Just hope
customers aren't thinking to themselves, "If what's added has real
value, why are they giving it away?"

That's all for this week.
It's time for a bowl of gruel and my nap. After that, I'm going to play
chess with Mr. Johnson. He thinks he's David Ogilvie. Old fool. He
knows darn well I am.