Agency Jargon. Useless Soft Metrics. It’s Time for Food Agency BS Bingo!

We’ve all heard the saying, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS.” If you ever feel like your agency is leaning a little too heavily on the “baffle” side of this equation, then it’s time for you to deploy the Food Agency BS Bingo Card.

It’s the same idea as a standard bingo card but with one important difference.

Rather than just a series of letters and numbers, the purpose is to illustrate how often advertising, social and PR agencies rely on soft metrics or shallow language while completely ignoring the metrics that actually matter to their clients in the food category, like dollar sales, velocity at retail, or market share.

Agency Soft Metrics and Jargon to Watch For

Click Thru Rate

CTR made sense decades ago. But then so did Myspace and Netscape. Guess what? Things have changed. Back then, measurement tools were few and far between, and in the absence of anything better, CTR became a leading metric. CTR still has value as an indicator for optimizations but not as a leading performance metric. These days, your focus should be on the next level of engagement after the initial click. There are a multitude of tools that can optimize campaigns to deliver the metrics that most closely support your specific business goals. Make sure your agency is employing them.


Although diminishing in popularity, “likes” are still being used as a vanity metric by some folks. The most common reason is because “likes” are relatively fast to obtain and offer an inexpensive way to demonstrate (supposed) value. But like the saying goes, when it comes to good, fast and cheap, you can only choose two.


A better TV show than it is a performance metric, even if you hated the show. Of course social initiatives need to acquire friends, but collecting them in mass does not necessarily equal quality. Rather than just tracking the growth of friends, track their retention as a more meaningful measurement of performance. And consider monitoring goals with greater impact on your bottom line, like the number of newsletter signups or downloaded white papers from your social channel. These have greater importance since they are moving your prospects further along the sales funnel.

Marketing Partner

Many agencies like to characterize themselves as being your marketing partner. But are they really? The performance metrics on which they report are one good indication of how seriously they are taking this “partnership” thing. If their metrics don’t ladder up directly and explicitly to the specific KPIs on which you are evaluated, they’re not your partner. They’re a vendor.


Of course your potential customers need to be aware of your product before they can buy it. But there are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of other preconditions to purchase that, like “awareness,” are so distant from the actual purchase decision as to make this metric meaningless. For example, our prospective customers also need to be sentient beings, but we don’t treat that requirement as a meaningful KPI. (Although maybe sometimes we should!)


This word is usually bandied about by people who want you to think that they are smarter than you. They do this so that you won’t challenge them when they try to baffle you with impenetrable jargon or soft metrics masquerading as meaningful results. Beware the agency that cites “expertise” as a mic-drop rather than using it to formulate a better rationale.


This shallow metric is not an important measure of performance. A far stronger metric is engagement, which monitors the degree to which your prospects are actually consuming your content.


Facebook shares, LinkedIn shares, Twitter retweets, etc., can be valuable in some instances, but are not the metrics on which to focus if you are using social channels as a tool for traffic generation. Sure, it means someone is sharing your content. But are those shares driving traffic to your website? Who knows? Instead, you should be focusing on something more closely tied to achieving your desired business results, like the number of visits referred to your site through a social channel.


See “Shares” above. And put a pin in it.


Sounds lofty, doesn’t it? The mind conjures up visions of Hemingway, or at least Sacha Baron Cohen. But why make it so complicated? Why not just try to make a powerful connection between your product and the way your target audience lives their lives? Could be a story, could be a humorous meme, a live experience, or any number of other approaches.


Can someone please tell me exactly how many times a video (or meme or blog) needs to be viewed in order for it to become viral? I have no idea, and I bet your agency doesn’t either. You’ll be better served by focusing on increasing word of mouth as described in Jonah Berger’s great book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” in which he describes the six “STEPPS” for doing so:

  1. Social Currency
  2. Triggers
  3. Emotion
  4. Public
  5. Practical Value
  6. Stories

I’d like to write more on this subject, but my throat is beginning to itch, and my muscles are feeling a bit achy.
STEPPS Agency Jargon EvansHardyYoung


Some agency folks tend to invoke this word with great pride, as in “We have developed a proactive plan.” Way to go! But isn’t that what your agency is paid to do? As in, anticipating future challenges and devising a strategic approach? No extra credit awarded!


Sorry, but what isn’t “Global” these days? This term used to mean that you actually had a meaningful business presence all around the world. Like Exxon Mobil. Or Nike. Today if you have a web site, you have a global presence. That’s why its called the “World Wide Web.” If your agency is flaunting its globalness, you may need to ask them to re-focus their energies on the markets in which you do business. When you make this request, I suggest you speak in an exotic language so the conversation feels more global.

“Well, You’re Not Part of the Target Audience”

This rejoinder is sometimes used by agencies to push through work that the client doesn’t like. In all fairness, the only thing the client has to offer in this situation is the perspective gained by years of focusing on a product and its consumers. What’s that compared to the wisdom of a copywriter who just came up with something clever? And if we were to take the “not part of the target audience” paradigm to its logical conclusion, only butchers could create or evaluate messaging targeting butchers, only bakers could create and evaluate work targeting bakers and only candlestick makers could … well, you get the point.

Big Data

When it comes to data, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a lot or a little. What’s important is how well you use it.

Actionable Insights

I don’t get the “actionable” part. Are there instances when your agency discovers important information that would help your business grow, but they choose not to act on it?


Well, there you have it. Don’t forget to keep your bingo card handy for that next agency meeting. Have some fun, help your agency cut the BS, sharpen their focus and achieve your goals!

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Dennis Hardy President CEO EvansHardy+Young
Dennis Hardy, President / CEO

In the over 30 years since co-founding EvansHardy+Young, Dennis has led teams serving accounts as diverse as California Walnuts, Chumash Casino Resort, Idaho Potatoes, California Raisins, Hughes Markets and several restaurant chains. He is also our resident beekeeper and closely monitors the agency’s rooftop hives.