[Good read] 11 agency buzzwords you need to know by @seanx

11 agency buzzwords you need to know

Wonder no longer! I present you with the client translator of agency buzzwords 2012.


Like art, engagement is something that agencies and clients know when they see it, but no one can actually define it in a meaningful way. What the agency wonk who uses the term actually means is:

“We do not want click-thru on your site, and user experience is an absolute disaster when people get there. Since we cannot change your actual site, we are trying to think of strategies in which people do something with our ad, rather than just look at it, ignore it, or click-thru it. Instead of bringing people to your site, how about we bring your site to them? We want them to spend time with your brand, but in our ad. Let us give people a reason to stop and do something relevant that will make them think pleasantly of us. And then, let them go on their way.

Also, we’ll be able to pull some metrics from this. Will those metrics be relevant? No. What would be ideal is if we could measure how we changed someone’s perceptions about us, but we cannot actually measure that (at least not with the paltry budgets you are putting against this thing). What we will have is the number of people who stop and do something with our ad and whether they do something afterwards, and we’ll definitely take credit for that. We know your CFO is hungry for you to justify the expense of all marketing. Remember, they’ll have no idea what you are talking about anyway, but you’ll have numbers. They lovenumbers.”

Social media

“Dear brand, you are not going to like some of the things that are said about you after we, your agency, force you into some meaningful connections with your consumers via social channels. Did you know that you piss people off sometimes? We did. Well, you are going to have to face those people. And you are going to have to do it in a way that the consumer thinks of you, not how you think of yourself. The consumer does not care about that, they just think of you as Coca Cola, or American Express, so you are going to have to act like that or you are going to look foolish. And this is great because, with this new ability, we can truly gauge what people are saying in a way that we can track.

In reality, most things social should be handled internally at your company. We should not be put in charge of this because as soon as anyone finds out that the persona we created through your social accounts is being handled externally, the gig is up, and everyone will laugh at your company for being so backward.

On the flip side, we know that you have the entire compliance department and every myopic thinking, uptight lawyer in your company in apoplectic shock anytime you mention the word Twitter or Facebook. So, we should both agree you need us, if only to have someone external to blame after this blows up in all of our faces.”


Usually referred to in search marketing, this is the long-tail:

11 agency buzzwords you need to know

Going after the long-tail means that you acquire customers more efficiently because you are paying less for each individual search term, and there is less competition over those keywords. Instead of only buying the keywords “Car Insurance,” which isvery expensive, you buy 100 other terms like “Car Insurance for a Ford Festiva” or “Chevy Volt insurance in New York.” The advantage being that those words cost less per-click to buy and convert at a higher percentage. The disadvantage being that a lot less people search for them, and therefore it requires hundreds, if not thousands, of terms like that to equal the volume of one good, highly searched word.

If you are a client or brand, when you hear the term “long tail” you should think a couple of things. The first is, “Great, I will get more business and it will cost less,” and the second is, “Why is the agency asking for more money if this is more efficient?” Efficiency has a cost attached to it, and your agency wants that money.

It is less efficient for the agency to target long-tail keywords, requires much more management time to do so, and thereby racks up your agency hours. It also quickly becomes a very unwieldy beast, and extricating an agency once they are the ones responsible for monetizing the long-tail can be difficult.

If you are going to “go after the long-tail,” then please do it in a way that is automated and where you control your costs, using tools from Didit or Efficient Frontier. These companies charge a flat percentage, so they make more money only when you are getting those more efficient clicks and converting customers. Whatever you do, do not let your agency persuade you to let them manage it, unless they specialize in search marketing or you really are clueless about digital marketing.


Coolhunting is the agency saying, “We’re relevant to society, and you, at your technologically backward, fashion bereft company, are not. So, why don’t you please hold your tongue, because we were the kids you followed around like puppies in high-school, and that is what you are doing now. We know how to reach the people that influence other people, because they are our friends. We go out for lattes with them at whatever hip new place you have not heard of. You are the beneficiaries of our brilliant meme making. So please sit back, and let us make this ad.”

The problem here is they are almost right. That is why you hire ad agencies, because they are connected to the tastemakers; but do they have to be so arrogant about it? I have worked on the agency side as a creative and on the brand side managing agencies, and I can state, for a fact, that the sheer scope of what the agency does not understand about your business could stun a herd of buffalo. So, just smile and nod because the cool kids attract attention. So, if they are proposing coolhunting, just remember: “Ah yes, we are just trying to go after influencers who talk about our products or services to other people, with something that sounds sexier than ‘word of mouth.'”

Brand extension

“Look, we didn’t come up with this campaign, or this idea, but the only way we know we’re going to be able to sell anything through your bureaucratic process is by attaching to something you are already doing that people have previously approved internally. We are probably experimenting with a new idea or technology, and essentially we are asking for you to fund this experiment. You will never hire us to do your TV spots, so we are relegated to begging for your table scraps, and surviving on the coat tails of your offline campaign.

If we have to make one more banner campaign to go with you offline TV and print, we are going to throw up. But do not ignore us for too long, because all those dollars are shifting to where the people are, and they are not reading anything in that magazine anymore. They are online, so we just plan on sticking around and doing the stuff that no one notices until you hire someone internally who ‘gets’ digital marketing.”


“Here is exactly how we are going to rig this thing so that we can take credit for good performance and simultaneously insulate ourselves to deflect blame if it appears that the numbers do not look good. Do you really think search generates all that business by itself? Of course not, it is the beneficiary of the last click the consumers make. If you added up all of the credit your different agencies were taking for the marketing work you are doing, your company would be as profitable as Apple.”

Think of this like a pie which everyone is not only claiming credit for their piece, but also simultaneously claiming that the two pieces next to their piece are theirs as well. That is the reality of attribution. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions that go into every purchase we make as consumers, and we think that we can actually quantify and track that precisely.

It’s like looking at the entrance to a building and trying to determine why people are walking through the doors. Do they work in the building? Do they just want to go to the bathroom? Are they lost? Are they the maintenance crew? Is the building being robbed? Each is valid, some unlikely; but if there were five agencies, they would all take credit for everyone walking in the door. Why? Because if they do not take credit, they don’t have the story to justify their particular marketing expense.

And you need attribution to protect yourself anytime someone comes around with the tin cup wanting marketing dollars back. So the agency says, “Ever since your company started viewing advertising and marketing as an expense, rather than an investment, this is the game we all have to play. Now shut up, and put the cookie on your website, ok?”

Viral marketing

“As your agency, we know there is actually no such thing as ‘viral marketing,’ but luckily you don’t. Something going viral is the effect of good marketing and planting seeds in the right places to create self-sustainment, in which we do not have to pay for that extra exposure. But ‘viral marketing’ does not mean anything.

Do we actually know why something goes viral and something else doesn’t? Yes, we know, it’s the consumer who determines it. Can we replicate it? No one actually can, and anyone who says they can is lying. All we can do is be smart and increase something’s ‘viral potential’ by planting it in relevant places. Our hope is that it goes viral, and our biggest drawback is you, the client. Usually, for something to go viral, you actually have to take risks, and let’s face it, you are not know for your risk taking. If you were, then you probably understand the dynamics of viral, so why are you still listening?


What? Are you serious? As if we do not already have too many acronyms in our industry, we are going to confuse you further. The agency has just thrown you a curveball. What does it mean? Social features, Local business, Mobile applications. So, if your agency is encouraging you to get into SoLoMo, take a long pause and respond, “So you want us to build an app for the iPhone that encourages our customers to talk about us and offers something relevant that is local to them, right? Why didn’t you say that?”


The agency is simply saying, “Wow, we think we are wasting some money here, and there seems to be a missed opportunity to improve our work for you. It will just require a small investment in a tool that helps automate a process for us. That will free up some of our time to be doing what you hired us for, which is thinking of strategies to help you. In fact, this is one of them.

When you hear “optimization,” it is almost always advisable to listen to the agency. Even if the system does not get “great” results, I have yet to see a system that does not outweigh the cost put toward it. And there is always some good learning by trying them. Really, the agency is trying to help you — if only because allocating hours for tedious tasks is like death by 1,000 paper cuts for them. It’s not why they got into the business, and it’s not why you hired them.

Crowd sourcing

“You are either not giving us the budget we need to pull off anything useful, or you are giving us way too much budget and are dumb enough not to fear the consumer. In either case, we have pity on you. I should only have to utter the words ‘Chevy Tahoe’ and you should go running for the hills. We may say ‘crowd sourcing,’ but you should hear ‘crowd slapping.’ All crowd sourcing means is that instead of us coming up with ideas, you are going to put your brand in the hands of the great unwashed masses. Yes, advertising in not rocket science, but it is a scientific art of influence. Yes, everyone thinks that they can make a better commercial or campaign: ‘Oh, oh, I know, you should have a commercial that (insert insanely lame pun here).’ We do not walk into your company and tell your CFO to invest in gold. Why do you continually believe you have great ideas? If you did, you would be an ad agency, not a client.

If we are advising you to crowd source something, we are not worth the money you are paying us. Essentially, we have admitted we are out of ideas, and if you are saying we should do it, then you do not trust us to come up with ideas, and you have no idea how much damage the crowd can do to your brand.”

Behavioral targeting

Ok, you know how sometimes you surf for something that’s a little sexy or even naughty? Come on, we know that you do. We also know that many people do.

That is how we, your agency, is going to help you, our client, target your new brand of lingerie. We will follow them around the web, and BAMN! We keep hitting them with your brand.

Eventually they may notice, and find it a bit creepy (“Why am I getting an ad for Lingerie on this site?”), but honestly it’s relevant, and you know they are in our target demographic.

Here is the deal: We don’t really know anything else about them. We do not know who they are, where they live, their age, or anything person
ally identifying about them — though we can infer those things.

It is honestly less information than they give filling out any form for a magazine subscription. So, why does it feel creepy? Somehow it feels like spying, but it is not personally identifying information. Rather, it is behaviorally targeted advertising, which is different. So stop freaking out, and let us implement it to improve your conversion rates. And please explain it internally to your company so they stop running around like Chicken Little? Ok?

Sean X Cummings is founder and difference maker at SXC Marketing.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


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