IT'S USUALLY THE CEO OR SOME OTHER BIG SHOT. He crinkles the work between his thumbs, scrunches up his face and says, “Why the hell does it have to be so... creative? Why don’t you just say in big letters, ‘If you need flanges, Acme flanges are the best damn flanges you can buy.’ Just say that and you won’t need all this... frou-frou.”

So that’s what it’s come to. The seven best years of my life as an undergraduate (hey, just kidding), and my entire profession gets dismissed with a single word—which probably isn’t even a word, and if it is, it’s one that was invented to describe drapes. When a top executive says that, you feel like your business masculinity has been questioned—real men sell over a double scotch, only wimps need frou-frou.

The next time some big cheese says this, remind him of what he gives up when he clears away the frou-frou and simply tells the world “We’re good, buy us.” Of course, a brag like that doesn’t contain any actual claims, or support points. So Facts—strike them off as frou-frou. Nor does it say anything about answering the customer’s needs—it’s all about you. So Benefits, and Knowing Your Customer—those must be frou-frou too. Can ‘em.

Being an assertion of simple superiority, it doesn’t begin to get at the complexity of inner reasons why someone chooses a brand, what they aspire to be, how they want to look to others. So Human Psychology—frou-frou, flush it. And being such a plain statement of faith in yourself, it lacks Charm—that’s frou-frou—or the Impact of Surprise—pure frou-frou—or any way of Standing Out From Your Competitors or Attracting Attention—frou-frou through and through. (Let your ads stand out and pretty soon people around the office will be wearing shirts in colors besides white. That’s where the slippery slope of creativity leads.)

Sure, to a CEO our work may seem like just so much lace and filigree—next to manufacturing, and finance, and other such rugged pursuits. But just let him go into battle without it, and he’ll see for himself, too late, that the only armor he really has... is this frou-frou we do.

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