Tuesday 15 September 2015

Easy statements: how to damage your reputation overnight.

The annoying song blasts from the speakers. Advertisers purposely use annoying tunes, in hopes an earworm will play their song as you sleep. Computer generated cartoons prance about as Budget advertises their insurance product.

Buy the wrong insurance, and when something goes awry, you may be left in the deepest of dark holes. People I know, people you no doubt know, have experienced this. Insurance comes down to trust in a provider to be that safety net. I don't know much about Budget, I am sure I could look them up at the CIPC, the FSB, or the Who Owns Whom database, but their actual business is not what I am discussing here. I will note that the unfortunately ruined people I know were not insured with them, however, with the consequences of any doubt in the reputation of an insurer, their advertisement makes a terrible mistake, which harms their credibility in a field where trust is everything... they make an unnecessary absolute statement, which is easily verifiable as entirely wrong.

It swiftly reminds me of a Nedbank campaign where a well-spoken voice, seemingly of a white male, tells you, and newly wealthy black Nedbank client, Eugene, to be 'more savvy' with your money... The phrase 'more savvy' is far from unused, and does appear in a number of newspaper articles. A search of all major dictionaries via a specialist search engine, only sees the phrase appear in quotations on news media (3 results) in one specific online dictionary, namely Dictionary.com, and in Wikipedia entries. A search for use of this phrase in the Oxford Dictionary of English, however, turns up no results whatsoever, suggesting it is not proper English in regular usage. Oxford Dictionary of English would have us use the generally accepted word 'savvier'... in their advice on word use.

Clearly the advertisers thought they were being clever, and maybe they were: people I met suddenly began to speak of being 'more savvy'... rather than being 'savvier'. As for the Budget advert... the dreadful cacoffiny of the horrendous commercial always ends with the same phrase: 'nothing rhymes with premiums'. Absolutist statements are fine if they are verifiable and correct. Unfortunately, very many words rhyme with premiums. I will list some of them for you a bit later, below.

Either way, many would be loath to do any business with either Budget Insurance or Nedbank... brands in industries requiring extensive trust from their customers... for the simple fact that they made statements which in hindsight should have nothing to do with their ability to do their business.

The world is filled to the brims with armchair experts, and bush enthusiasts. Experts are usually loath to give an opinion on anything they have not researched. The law changes so quickly, that unless you carefully monitor it, or have a specific area of practise, utter caution is often much needed. I pay a lot of money every year for access to up to date information of various areas of law, as do many in my field. A mere ill thought tangent can permanently damage your brand, even if it is an ill-conceived statement which is entirely unrelated to your field... This mistake has been made by many an architect commenting too rashly on car design, or lawyer - on stock picks.

Personally, one of my favourite things to do is to research and authenticate information. When I speak, I have usually read up on what I am saying. Often, I have consulted the word of an expert or two. The process of finding out the truth gives me a bit of a rush, especially if the real answer is unexpected. I have gained access to many specialised search engines, tools, programs and databases, some I have made myself... just to satisfy my own curiosity. A proper fact check via sources not every Joe knows how to access, can be mightily fun to do.

It is, however, essential to do some basic research into what you are saying before you attach your integrity and your brand to an ill begotten mast.

Below are two advertisements from the respective campaigns, and explanations as to some of what is wrong with their presentations.

Nedbank "Savvy"

URL for the video of the offending Nedbank advertisement: https://youtu.be/A4BY8m5A0Vs

The Budget Insurance advert, and below it, words that rhyme with premiums:

URL for the video of the offending Budget Insurance advertisement: https://youtu.be/gEgk5GNxP1I

Take a quick gander at a list of 31 words, which in British (and South African) English, rhyme with premiums (from the phonetics program, PhoTransEdit). I imagine that advertisers couldn't complete their rhyme, and so decided to make up their absolutist claim:

premiumsː ˈpriːˌmɪəmz

compendiums /kəmˈpendɪəmz/
condominiums /ˌkɒndəˈmɪnɪəmz/
craniums /ˈkreɪnɪəmz/
crematoriums /ˌkreməˈtɔːrɪəmz/
delphiniums /delˈfɪnɪəmz/
emporiums /ɪmˈpɔːrɪəmz/
encomiums /ɪnˈkəʊmɪəmz/
euphoniums /juːˈfəʊnɪəmz/
geraniums /dʒəˈreɪnɪəmz/
grahams /ˈɡreɪəmz/
graham's /ˈɡreɪəmz/
gymnasiums /dʒɪmˈneɪzɪəmz/
harmoniums /hɑːˈməʊnɪəmz/
honorariums /ˌɒnəˈreərɪəmz/
hyams /ˈhaɪəmz/
idioms /ˈɪdɪəmz/
mediums /ˈmiːdɪəmz/
moratoriums /ˌmɒrəˈtɔːrɪəmz/
museums /mjuːˈzɪəmz/
pandemoniums /ˌpændɪˈməʊnɪəmz/
planetariums /ˌplænɪˈteərɪəmz/
podiums /ˈpəʊdɪəmz/
praesidiums /prɪˈsɪdɪəmz/
presidiums /prɪˈsɪdɪəmz/
prosceniums /prəˈsiːnɪəmz/
requiems /ˈrekwɪəmz/
sanatoriums /ˌsænəˈtɔːrɪəmz/
sealyhams /ˈsiːlɪəmz/
stadiums /ˈsteɪdɪəmz/
symposiums /sɪmˈpəʊzɪəmz/
trapeziums /trəˈpiːzɪəmz/

Oxford Dictionary is clear on the related forms of the word 'savvy', 'more savvy' is not among them:


savvy (noun)
savviness (noun)
savvinesses (plural noun)
savvy (verb)
savvies (third person present)
savvied (past tense)
savvied (past participle)
savvying (present participle)
savviness (verb)
savvinesses (third person present)
savvinessing (present participle)
savvinessed (past tense)
savvinessed (past participle)
savvy (adjective)
savvier (comparative adjective)
savviest (superlative adjective)
savviness (adjective)

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