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Guest Times: Do you speak fluent Gibberish?

Vandan Chopra, CEO, Foolish, writes how in advertising, as in music, "stickiness" goes a long way. It’s what helps brands become part of the fabric of popular culture

Vandan Chopra

From Ting, Ting, ti ding to Ooh la la la la le O, and why just ads, from Eenaa meenaa deekaa deekaa, dee daai daamonikaa to Dhinka chika Dhinka Chika – jibberish, jibber jabber, codswallop, or the writer having fun – call it what you want, but once it catches on, it sure sticks. I mean who can forget Macarena, or even the “Ketchup song” a modern day Macarena with lyrics that were nothing but pure gibberish! No. 1 in more than 26 charts worldwide, it was the epitome of stickiness.

In advertising, as in music, "stickiness" goes a long way. It’s what helps brands become part of the fabric of popular culture. Not so long ago, Vodafone did something that had the whole industry sit up and take notice. They created these quirky egg-headed characters named “Zoozoos”. The Zoozoos spoke their own language and expressed themselves by giggling, smiling, frowning interspersed with outbursts of cute meaningless gobleddygook. More than a campaign, it was a phenomenon. It’s the year of the Zoozoos, they said. And the Zoozoos gave the brand a simple, endearing and hugely popular face.


A campaign by a milk marketing board used the line “Drinka Pinta Milka Day”. Why didn’t they just say “Drink a pint of milk a day”? The reason is, it wouldn’t have caught on. If they’d obeyed the rules, it wouldn’t have stood out. But if it’s good enough, it makes its own rules. That’s why the word “Pinta” got into the Dictionary. Because people were using it so much. Anyone can obey the rules, but it’s not fun. And if it’s not fun people ignore it.

The internet’s also big on Gibberish. Take Google, doesn’t mean anything specific, but such a catchy name. Take “I can have cheezburger”, the website that single-handedly flooded the internet with ‘lolcats’. Take a picture of a cat doing something cute, and then make up a caption – something witty that the cat would be saying if cats could talk. And because cats can't spell that well and that they're not good with verbs either, it’ll naturally be half English, half gibberish. Photoshop the caption onto the image, and post your creation on a blog. What you get is lolcats: lol for laugh out loud, cats for cats.


So how does nonsense work?

It engages the viewer; challenges them to make sense. And what might seem as nonsense at first, over time gets accepted. It comes to stand for something. Today, to search the internet is Google. From gibberish, it is now a ‘verb’ used almost effortlessly. Words like scareware, bloggable, onliner, fnarr fnarr, tanorexia, jazz hands, rumour mill or even light bulb moment started out as gibberish, made their way into our conversations, and finally, to the Oxford Dictionary.


But not all gibberish gets easily accepted and established in popular culture. Ads that are not purposely written as nonsensical, far too often get dismissed by the telly watching junta as “bakwaas” and channels are changed before you can say the word go. Ironically these are the same ads that are thoroughly focus-grouped and psychology-tested and committee-reviewed infinitem/absurdum.

Speaking of committees and reviews, this is another place where you can witness an exchange of pure unadulterated gibberish. In fact, it’s one skill you absolutely, positively require if you aspire to be on the client facing side of advertising. Planners, VPs, CDs, swear by the power of nonsense. While a little nonsense might go a long way, words like strategically aligned, correlative, paradigm shift, psychographic, are thrown all over, used, abused and uttered to death.


So, the point is, there is no point in coming to the point because the point of all this jibber jabber about jibber jabber was to say that jibber jabber is also a great way to get your point across. Know what I mean?

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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