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Word Freak

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Advertising: Having been supplanted by the trendier "communications" as the generic term for commercial speech, this word was last seen at a lexical retirement community in Boca, playing shuffleboard with hi-fi, trousers, Davenport and Negro.

Brand equity: Like the Argentine currency, a term whose worth has been so devalued through overuse that it has no brand equity left.

Consulting: An entire industry predicated on the safe assumption that no one will have the courage to say, "I don't get it."

Convergence: A classy euphem ism used by MBAs from giant media holding companies to describe practices that would once have landed them in minimum-security prisons for FTC violations.

Copywriting: Not much to it. Just string together sentence fragments. Which can begin with "which." And "and." Or even "or."

Deliverables: Term used by consultants to make things that should be taken for granted sound like things one should pay a consultant for.

E: After a brief and ill-fated career as a prefix, this letter has returned to its humble vocation as a vowel.

Empty suit: Driven almost to extinction in the early '90s by the Office-Casual Revolution, this hardy species donned Dockers and mig rated in herds to the Web marketing sector, where it has multiplied like snails in a fish tank.

Escalade: Rejected by Pfizer as a name for its Viagra product for women, it was embraced by General Motors for its Cadillac line (see "Repurposing").

Focus group: Until modern ortho pedics produces the first functional prosthetic spine, corporate America will continue to cover its prodigious butt and rest its cumbrous weight on this fragile mechanism for decision deferral.

Humor: Once an almost universal fixture in TV ads, this device has been supplanted by poignancy and pathos as the favored emotions to flog brands that have nothing to say.

Illustration: The Sanskrit of the graphic arts.

Interactivity: The technological breakthrough that has finally em powered consumers to avoid commercial messages altogether.

Irony: Despite pervasive rumors to the contrary, irony is not dead. Unfortunately, as regular viewers of David Letterman can attest, it is also not funny anymore.

Jingoism: Charming in a community. Annoying in a politician. Despicable in an advertiser.

Knowledge: Archaic for "data."

Lamination: An industry whose fortunes rise and fall in mysterious counterbalance to those of the ad industry. See next listing.

Layoff: The mechanism agencies have established to replace the antiquated pension system for employees over 40.

Music, original: No longer in general use, this phrase once referred to the practice of paying musicians to create a score rather than lawyers to acquire one.

New media: Neither word really applies at this point.

Omnicom: A name Jerry Bruckheimer probably discarded as too silly for the draconian corporation in a Tony Scott movie.

Photography, stock: The perfect business model. You sell a product you do not own as many times as you like, charge whatever you can get away with, and take no legal responsibility for the outcome. No wonder Bill Gates has been buying up the industry.

Planning: A discipline in which people who are smarter than you help you understand the behavior of people who aren't.

Quantitative research: Like the Holy Scriptures, these are sacred texts that can be twisted to support even the most scurrilous arguments.

QuarkXPress: Now you don't even have to "Draw Winky" to be an art director.

Radio: The state of commercial radio in the age of media monoliths is proof that the more financially profitable an enterprise becomes, the more creatively bankrupt it sounds.

Repurposing: Exemplified by the thinking of late Wendy's CEO Dave Thomas: That's not burnt hamburger; it's fresh chili.

Spec work: The practice by which advertisers not only get free milk without buying the cow, but often enjoy it with a slab of porterhouse.

Synergy: A more succinct way of saying, "You should really let us do the Web site, too."

Television: What people watched before HBO.

Trend monitoring: A business that can justify its existence for only as long as the world continues to change radically every 12 months.

Usage rights: An ingenious system that allows an artist to have his work and sell it, too. See also: Photography, stock.

Vulgarity: The only word for whatever it is that allows the networks to broadcast—during the so-called family hour—a simulated oral sex act for Reebok, a man test-driving a toilet for Lowe's and anything termed a "special" on Fox.

X, Generation: Now that its members are moving slowly enough and spreading sufficiently around the hips to be an easy target, marketers have largely lost interest in this once-attractive group.

Youth marketing: An excuse for creatives in their 30s to tap into their inner 10-year-old in order to make ads purportedly directed at people in their teens and 20s.

Zeitgeist: A word which, when used by Prada-clad marketing consultants, generally precedes an astronomical but factually unsupported spending recommendation.