Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Advertising Four-Letter Word

There was this thing in a paper about a tourist guide in Seville. The particular paper isn't important and nor is the tourist guide. What is, for my purposes, is what this paper said this guide offers - a guide to the "coolest" places to go.

Anyone who uses the word "cool" or its superlative should be made to sit inside an extremely hot sauna, the hottest that can be found, clad in thermals and a heavy overcoat. And if this purgatory of heat, as opposed to coolness, isn't sufficient to drive away the use of cool forever, then the cool miscreant should also be forced to write out one thousand times, "I will never again use a stupid, hackneyed and utterly meaningless word that is designed to somehow make me (or the thing I'm describing) appear to be hip (whatever this means), down with the kids or down with much older people than kids who appear to labour under a misapprehension that they are still kids".

I have a serious problem with a great deal of what passes for advertising-speak; a problem that confronts me during every waking moment in Mallorca. There really is some nonsense out there, and some of it is cool or coolest nonsense. But I am not about to pretend that I am holier than thou. Father, forgive me, for I have sinned and used or sanctioned some of this rubbish myself.

The local Mallorcan/Spanish restaurant insists on perpetrating a promotional crime that it is pretty much unique to it (oops, unique is a bad word and it can't be pretty much unique anyway), and this is the boast that it is a "specialist in meat". The only good thing to say about this is that it does at least achieve some hint of niching the product offer. I mean, you wouldn't say "specialist in food". Or maybe you would.

This idiosyncratic meat specialism isn't the only oddity of the "authentic" or "typical" Mallorcan restaurant (both of these words also being crimes of overuse against advertising humanity). There is the "artesana" typical authenticity which infiltrates advertising as well. The British, some of them, will be up to speed with the concept of artisan cooking, but local "cocina artesana" often ends up being translated in a more readily understood way, i.e. "handmade". I'm sorry, but unless the kitchens of Mallorca have been invaded by robots, is not all cooking handmade, as in the hands can come in quite useful for the making thereof? Alternatives to this artisan culinary craft are "rustic" and "cocina casera". Rustic? What the hell is rustic? I don't want to eat something that sounds as though it is some bits of old wood that have been marinaded in oxidised iron filings for several years. And as for "cocina casera" - home cooking, in other words - how many restaurants are actually homes? Not that many, I think you'll find.

While the local restaurant can fall prey to the typically authentic, artisanal, rustic, homemade, handmade, specialised-in-meat cliché, it can also, along with many other types of business, commit sins of meaninglessness, hyperbole and the just plain wrong. So, to avoid the fires of hell that should burn under anyone who has dared to use the c-word or the c-ist-word, here are the ten words (or phrase) that, under no circumstances, should you ever use, ever again anywhere near a piece of publicity.

Team, Service, Quality, Friendly, Finest, Caring, Catering to your needs, Value, Experience and of course Unique. There are others, but these are at the top of the list. And why? Well, with some of them, think for a moment. What are the opposites? Lack of service, lack of quality, unfriendly. They are attributes that are givens, or should be. But they are also tossed around with such predictability that they have come to mean precisely nothing.

Of these, the greatest sinner of all is "team". No, no, no. Except for the very rare examples of when a team might really be a team, there is no such thing. As with the garbage that is the "team-player" of recruitment ads (meaning what exactly?), a team can only be a team under very specific conditions. I shan't bore you with the explanation as to what these conditions are, but if team has been used just because it is thought to sound good, then the team almost certainly doesn't exist.  

But if there are words that should not be used, there are a few which could be. And we all know what the most important one is, don't we? It isn't cool, that's for sure. Begins with "f", four letters.

Any comments to please.

No comments: