17 February, 2009

What's in a name: The etymology of advertising

Today's a bit of a slow day in Editsburgh, so for fun and distraction I went looking for the etymology of "advertise." Here's a snippet from www.etymonline.com.

c.1430, "to take notice of," from M.Fr. advertiss-, prp. stem of a(d)vertir "to warn," from L. advertere "turn toward," from ad- "toward" + vertere "to turn" see versus). Original sense remains in advert "to give attention to."

The important bit here, I think, is the root meaning. Ad Vertere, "To turn toward." What I'm struck with is how dated a definition that is. It smacks of hand-holding and weak-kneed pleas for attention, and springs from a time when advertising listed features and benefits. Simple presentations intended to bridge the gap between a consumer's need and an advertiser's solution. It's far too passive to describe the realities of our business in the 21st century. We need a strong, active word.

Something like "crevantising". Born from the Latin creare, meaning "to make, produce," and vant, meaning "to lack, wanting", crevantising is a nearly perfect embodiment of our industry. We no longer bring consumers to our clients' products, passively filling existing needs. We create needs. We can sell products that do one thing by extolling wholly unrelated, and largely fabricated benefits. We sell image, not products. It's a major distinction, because the shift marks our transition from childhood into adulthood. We no longer fit the peg to the hole. We drill the hole to match the peg.

So maybe "makihooling" is a better word. Derived from German and Dutch, it's a simple statement of what we do. We make holes. Holes for our clients' products to sell through. Holes in the claims of our clients' competitors. We find the walls that keep our clients from being successful, the walls that keep consumers from listening, and drill the necessary holes to bring those walls down. And there are a lot of walls.

One major barrior is the media rich, message heavy environment we work in, which suggests another term. "Forlocising," from the Latin fortia, "strong, force", and the Old German locian, "to gaze, to see". We actively force viewers to look at our messages. Our clients are forlocizers, by choice and by necessity. Not only do they want to bring their message to as many eyes as possible, as often as possible, they are forced to do it in an already massively populated landscape. As forlocising professionals, it's our job to help our clients cut through the din.

Take your pick. Crevantising. Makihooling. Forlocising. All strong, dynamic words for an industry to match.

Yes, for fun...what do you do?

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