08 Nov 2008


I’m outspoken, my language is broken into a slang / But it’s just a dialect that I select when I hang. -Special Ed

I’ve been thinking about the use of slang and LOLspeak in advertising and have deduced a simple rule. The logic is as follows:

Standard language is a strategy for communication. Slang is a tactical response to linguistic strategy – a way to speak within the space, yet occasionally cloak or subvert your content, creating a space of insider/outsider. Sometimes slang will cross the fence from linguistic tactic to strategy. An example would be the words bling or phat. Once slang, now OED English.

So with that in mind, if an advert aims to use slang within a communications strategy – to sound like the target demo and be edgy – the slang must do one of two things. Either contain code that employs a real insider/outsider barrier or (better yet) truly be subversive. Otherwise it does not achieve the desired effect of being decoded.

Two examples of deft slang use are the Gossip Girls poster that says “OMFG” (ie Oh My F*cking God) and the Akademiks “Read Books, Get Brain” poster (ie Read Books, Get A Bl*wjob). The target demo knows what these posters are saying and that if the copy were written sans slang, the adverts would not pass the censors. Equally important, they know that many passerby are clueless to their code, yet your brand is in the know.
(or neck)


  1. 10 Nov 2008 Johanna

    The cool thing about the Gossip Girl thing is that not only does the general demographic get it, but there is a deeper (did I really just use that word when talking about this show?) level of understanding amongst the people who watch it religiously: the entire narration in the series coms from a blog called Gossip Girl that reports on the Upper East Side’s whispers; they use online vernacular frequently in the show. Hu.

  2. 22 Nov 2008 faris


    good to know…

  3. 29 Nov 2008 dp

    That Akademics ad was soooo church. This new McDonald’s ad using a fake R & B song to boost their Chicken McNuggets is also a banger.

  4. 4 Dec 2008 Kiss my black ads

    clever ads. the new McD thing, not so much.

  5. […] UK fashionista fave TopShop just opened it’s first NYC store. Wheatpaste adverts abound. And next to some of the official ads, lurk posters that seem to poke fun at spokesmodel Kate Moss and the brand. Yet they are rather harmless and in keeping with both the brand spirit and aesthetic. So it makes me wonder if the snarky posters are in fact from the agency running the campaign. Are they creating their own point/counterpoint in an effort to further place the brand within the streetscape dialogue? Is it an effort to make TopShop look all the more fresh and that people care enough about it to talk it out? And if so, where does this fall within the rules of slang and advertising? […]