There you are in the back of a cab, and after discussing the weather, the traffic and the economy, the driver asks… “And what is it you do?”
In the days of yore, to many of us at least, the answers was straightforward: ‘Advertising,’ ‘Design’, ‘newspapers’ or – in my case – ‘edit a magazine’. But these days my response is usually prefixed with an ‘er’ – before saying something like, ‘a website, magazine, events – in fact a hub for the marketing and creative community exploiting both online and offline…’, and this is the point I usually see the cabbie’s eyes beginning to glaze over.
In my head what I now do, and how the industry is changing, sounds so simple. But it is very hard to articulate. The fact is the industry is evolving much faster than the English language.
You’ll find evidence of this in two specific features in the latest issue of The Drum. We report on the pronouncement made by Kevin Roberts, the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, to the Institute of Directors conference that marketing is dead. Then, as part of the Roses Students Awards feature in the latest issue we look at how part of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was translated into ‘text-speak’. The thrust of Roberts’ argument was that the pace and extent of change has rendered many industry conventions redundant: “Marketing is dead. The role of marketing has changed now. There is nothing new anymore. If marketers are just hearing about something going on then it is already old in today’s world. Speed and velocity is everything today.”
But the row his comments generated – the story went viral when The Drum reported it online (in fact, it had more readers in Bogota than Birmingham!) – demonstrated to me that this debate is actually about language.
Few seemed to disagree with his primary premise. However, it is actually what is now meant by terms such as marketing that seemed to generate the heat. Was Roberts actually saying that marketing is dead? Or the meaning of marketing has changed? It seems a semantic point – but just ask any pilot, judge or doctor about the power of accurate, precise language.
Alex Edwards’ entry into the Roses Student Awards, also reflected this theme. In translating the Bard’s elegant words into the language of the mobile phone, and then inviting readers to flip the book and read the real thing, he aimed to give people the power to ‘reject the degradation of the English.’
As part of the text he wrote: “wts in a nam tht whch we call a rose by uva name wud smll as swt.”
Or as Shakespeare put it: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Well said, Shakespeare. I suspect a key challenge for the community is agreeing exactly that.
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