McCann Melbourne goes guerrilla to coin word for Macquarie Dictionary

McCann Melbourne goes guerrilla to coin word for Macquarie Dictionary

EXCLUSIVE: McCann Melbourne has revealed to B&T that for the past year it’s been engaged in a guerrilla marketing campaign that has given birth to a new word across the globe.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

The word is “phubbing”, coined to describe the uniquely 21st century phenomenon of ignoring the person in front of you in favour of your phone, and has reached more than 300 million people and sparked global discussion around mobile phone etiquette.

Until now, nobody was aware that the Macquarie Dictionary of Australia was behind the whole campaign, as it looks to remind people of importance an up-to-date dictionary and words to explain social phenomena.

The short film, entitled 'A Word is Born' (see below), is the culmination of a journey that began at on 22 May last year at the University of Sydney, when a team of language experts first coined the word “phubbing’”.

McCann said the campaign proves that language is always evolving therefore an up-to-date dictionary is essential.

McCann's executive creative director John Mescall and group account director Adrian Mills devised the strategy in early 2012 with Susan Butler, publisher and editor of Macquarie Dictionary, recruiting the team that created the word.

Following its creation, McCann set up a website,, a Facebook page, and devised a PR strategy.

The release of ‘A Word is Born’ celebrates the launch of the sixth edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, Australia’s national dictionary. The film takes the audience through the journey of the word from the moment of inception to adoption and is the first time this process has been deliberately filmed and documented.

A Word is Born’ is a love story about words, and how incredible they are," said John Mescall. “We live in a highly visual age, but I believe words still hold enormous power. Through this campaign, we want people to fall back in love with words, and the very idea of owning a dictionary."

Mescall said to his knowledge, this is the first time the birth of a word has been captured on film, and then tracked as it spreads throughout the world.

“We suspected this was a word the world needed and it’s been so gratifying to see the difference a single word has been able to make,” he said. “Misuse of smartphones in social situations has been a problem for a while now, but it wasn’t until the world had a word to describe that behavior, that people really starting talking about the issue.

"Our aim is twofold: help the world address a growing social problem, and at the same time, help the guys at the Macquarie Dictionary sell copies and subscriptions. Hopefully, it’s good for the dictionary and good for everyone."