Nonsense, Forgettable Jargon, And The Branding Problem Of Ad-Tech Companies

You're trying to help companies figure out how to buy or sell ads online—and get people to actually look at them. So why not just say that?

Why do so many B2B companies, especially those in the fiery ad-tech space, talk as if their mouths were stuffed with chewy caramels? That is, their websites and marketing copy, laden with jargon, require a mega large cup of java to get through.

Now, I know these companies are filled with lots of highly intelligent people who can walk circles around the average person when it comes to technology. In fact, they may be too smart for their own good. They don’t know how to write about what they do in a way that’s easy to understand…that stands out…that engages…that begs you to want to know more.

I thought I would have a little fun and took a look at some of the websites of ad-tech companies on the famous Luma Partners landscape. That’s the ever expanding diagram of the ad-tech space popularized by Luma Partners Chief Executive Terence Kawaja that gets more and more difficult to read as more companies enter the space. Names here have been purposely omitted since the purpose of this is not to point the finger but to demonstrate an endemic problem.

Here are examples of how a few ad-tech companies talk about themselves on the homepages of their websites:

We don’t just press a button and let the technology do the work. We drive media campaigns with intelligence and finesses to reach your targeted media objectives. And, ultimately, help brands reach consumers smarter and more efficiently.

X enables advertisers and agencies to Build, Run, Measure and optimze retargeting-driven display campaigns from a single platform. Now that’s efficiency.

Do Better Advertising. Do X.
X’s mission is to help brands execute better advertising. Better advertising starts with good customer insights and X provides the tools to make those insights actionable.

Part of the problem in my experience is that B2B companies are often insular. They are so accustomed to talking about themselves one way that it sounds perfectly normal. It reminds me of what my husband says about his Queens accent. He never realized that he had an accent until he left Queens and people informed him he sounded "funny."

There is also the mystique of jargon and highfalutin’ language. Creating your own nomenclature and acronymns like DSPs, SSPs, RTB, DMPs, and DDM, as the ad-tech world has done, provides a veneer of arcane magic that intimidates the outsider. Ultimately, however, it makes everything more complicated than it needs to be.

On the other hand, B2C companies sometimes indulge in jargon, but it's jargon everyone gets. It’s all part of the fun. After all, how difficult is it understand Starbuck’s Tall, Grande, and Venti designations for the size of its coffee? In that case, it’s good branding and differentiates Starbucks from its competitors.

The best B2C marketing companies also have memorable slogans. Think Nike’s "Just Do It" or Apple’s "Think Different." They simplify while defining the product and ethos. B2B companies, especially ad-tech firms, would be well advised to take a lesson or two from their B2C brethren, and Just Do It!

—Wendy Marx is president of Marx Communications, a B2B marketing and PR agency.

[Image: Flickr user Leo Reynolds]

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  • Zach Servideo

    While I agree with the general premise of the article and dislike when ANY company doesn't clearly and simply say what it does, you fail to mention that B2B ad tech companies are selling to AGENCIES. This is important to note because ad tech cos are spitting the same nonsense ad agencies spit. So, in a way, they're kind of doing the right thing by spitting the same bull sh*t as their agency counterparts. Good article, though. I hope ad tech cos AND creative agencies are listening. 

  • wendymarx

    Hi Zach,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. In addition to selling to agencies, many ad-tech firms in my experience are also selling directly to companies. In any case, the problem exists and I too hope folks are listening.

  • Kerry Armour

    This is just good stuff. Even as a marketer, I've gotten to the point where I am SO tired of all the neutron-star dense media speak. Just tell me what you want to tell me!

  • Stephen Kosloff

    I'd say something smart about this trend but first I'm going to have to cascade it out to some key stakeholders and have them pressure-test it.