June 29, 2017

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You know that joke we in ad tech tell about our parents having no idea what we do for a living? It’s actually not that funny, because it speaks to our inability to communicate clearly what it is we do.

In speaking and writing, most of the ad tech industry falls back on jargon and acronyms. It’s all “leverage this” and “programmatic that,” with some AR or AI thrown in to sound a bit cooler. And then there’s the multitude of tech product names that sound like planets the starship Enterprise might visit. Didn’t Kirk land on Voltari once?

When I hear that kind of talk, I join my parents in wondering, “What exactly do we do?” I bet some brand managers wonder the same thing as they sit through digital ad pitches, getting lost in the alphabet soup and robot terminology.

But this is fixable. When drafting up those PowerPoints, start thinking how to communicate without a total reliance on industry speak. A few simple tips:

Spell out terms before diving into acronyms. Even the most veteran among us can mix up DFP and DMP sometimes.

Define complex terms and products clearly or risk writing this gem, spotted in an industry rag:

“Mobile Device Identifiers, or Mobile Device IDs are a unique identifier which can be used to identify a mobile device.”

If you’re using “device” and variations on “identify” 3x each in one sentence, you’re not telling me what identifiers are. You’re telling me you don’t have a thesaurus, or worse, that you don’t know what identifiers are either. Use your words—all of them—and even try making a comparison to a more familiar object: A Mobile Device ID is like a serial number. It identifies every individual smartphone or tablet in the world.

And then there’s grammar—see same quote above. I’m not asking for New Yorker copy editing skills but, if you start plural, stay plural. Both ends of a clause need a comma. Basics. Read your writing out loud, and you’ll hear what’s wrong instantly.

If you find you can’t break the jargon habit or avoid grammar pitfalls, do yourself a favor. Find your company’s copywriter* and ask for help translating tech talk into straight talk. Don’t get nervous if they go a whole bullet point without an acronym or the word “leverage.” Letting them do what they do just might help you better understand what it is you do.

*If you don’t have one, hire one. They’re also the ones who can spot the typos that could cost millions.

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