Ad tech is all about making it possible to send better messages to consumers. So it’s a little ironic that the industry has a bit of a communication problem.
As everyone who has worked in ad tech in recent years can tell you, we’re drowning in jargon. If you have even a vague sense of what it means to “leverage your DSP for better ROI on your cross-device RTB units,” then you know what I’m talking about.
We’re all guilty to some extent. All too often we think the use of the latest buzzwords will make our services and products stand out from the competition. That’s a shame because the jargon usually does little more than confuse marketers who deserve a straightforward explanation of how the technology they’re paying for actually works.
In fact, it’s more than a shame. It’s a strategic mistake. Marketers don’t care about the buzzwords nearly as much as we tend to think. When my company recently ran focus groups with marketers in New York and San Francisco, they told us they see the overuse of buzzwords as a sign of dishonesty and desperation.
As technology vendors, we have a duty to get rid of all the jargon and to treat marketers with more respect. We can start by getting rid of these seven annoying buzzwords you’re sure to hear at next week’s Internet Week:
1. Proprietary: This is probably one of the most overused words in the industry and should give pause to any smart marketer. Marketers know that proprietary data doesn't really mean much in an industry where data providers are selling their goods to all. And it’s no longer a secret that some companies that earned their reputations by creating their own data or media networks now sell to their fellow partners or competitors. Of course, some companies still have genuinely proprietary data. But when everyone is throwing the term around, you have to double check that they’re using the word accurately.
2. Cross device: Everyone is excited about the possibility of using data from desktop computers to target customers on mobile devices. But what does cross device actually mean? Are we talking about targeting on phones or tablets, or both? For that matter, are we talking about the ability to target customers on mobile browsers or in an app, or both? Most people use the term before even thinking about the answers to these simple questions.
3. Artificial intelligence: This might just be the worst buzzword of them all–and it’s not just because it makes it sound as though machines are taking over the world. Unless you’re an engineer–or watch too many sci-f movies–you probably tune out almost as soon as the letters AI are spoken. Worse, talking about ad tech as artificial intelligence gives a very misleading picture of what drives the industry. Machine learning and powerful algorithms are, of course, at the heart of great programmatic advertising. But ad tech is only as powerful as the human intelligence that goes into the artificial intelligence. Machines might be able to provide answers to complicated questions, but humans still have to figure out the right questions to ask.
4. Transparency: Here’s another term that has been so watered down that its original meaning has been all but lost. In fact, if a company is talking about transparency all the time, it may well be a sign of a lack of transparency. Every marketer is entitled to transparency in terms of the services ad technology vendors offer to you–that's a given. The problem is that in light of ad fraud, the term has become a catch-all for everything that is wrong with ad tech. It's a bit like the last days of Occupy Wall Street: No one is quite sure what the marketer is fighting for anymore when it comes to transparency.
5. Omnichannel: It's almost insulting to consider this is a relatively new term in ad-tech land. As a marketer, you have reached your customers online and offline for decades. In the online environment, you have used mobile and social for years. Why on earth is the ad-tech industry excited about this? It's because for the past five years or so, ad tech was limited to display advertising. Now ad-tech vendors have shiny solutions for mobile and social. The problem is this isn't necessarily new to marketers.
6. Native: No list of annoying buzzwords you'll hear at Internet Week could be complete without “native.” And, again, it's not because the term is widely used; it’s because no one can really define what it is. This is annoying because it's clearly an attempt by ad-tech companies to repackage advertising in a way to would be more appealing to marketers. The problem is the best native campaigns (call them “native native” because we can use another buzzword, for sure) can't generally be automated. As a marketer, you have been resisting the urge to be fooled.
7. PGNMA: OK, this one is brand new. In fact, I made it up for this story. But I hope it will be as annoying as the other buzzwords and acronyms very soon. That would mean our message is being heard. PGNMA stands for “Please God No More Acronyms.”
Enough is enough.