“The Government Could Have Used Some Help”: WPP’s ‘Secrets & Lies’ Report Shows The Need To Rethink Language

“The Government Could Have Used Some Help”: WPP’s ‘Secrets & Lies’ Report Shows The Need To Rethink Language
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine
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A new study released by WPP shows an overwhelming need to humanise language and have a real conversation that cuts through, gets people thinking and inspires action.

With 81 per cent of Australians saying buzzwords and jargon make it harder to get to the truth of what brands are selling – it’s clearly time to wave farewell to the ‘unprecedented’ number of ‘pivots’ and that there’s never a good time to ‘circle back’ for a ‘deep dive’ that will ‘move the needle’ on a ‘pain point’.

The ‘Secrets & Lies of Language: The New Rules of the Game’ report by WPP AUNZ presents the compelling need for brands and organisations to rethink their spoken, written and visual forms of language and how technology has changed the rules of this powerful weapon forever.

It illustrates how culturally and linguistically diverse Australia is all-too-often forgotten.

The report also reveals other findings crucial to influencing behaviours and actions in a post-COVID era, like convincing reluctant Australians to roll up their sleeves to take the vaccine.

Crucial elements were:

  • The need to keep it simple:
    • 82 per cent of Australians believe that some industries choose complicated or confusing words that make it hard to understand what the business is selling
    • 78 per cent agree that they find themselves reading about a product of service and wonder why it isn’t written in simple English
    • 87 per cent favour brands or companies that keep it simple.
  • The mighty rise of voice assisted devices can’t be ignored: 
    • 8.7 million Australians access smart speakers
    • Australians increasingly rely on voice assisted devices – 42 per cent to make informed buying decisions, 32 per cent to compare products and 43 per cent to add to shopping carts
    • 40 per cent of Google search queries will be voice this year.
  • How visual language is the easiest and most direct way to win over hearts and minds:
    • 90 per cent are more likely to purchase from companies or brands that use visual language
    • 84 per cent of Australians agree pictures and icons are more powerful than words.

The report is based on quantitative evidence and the findings of research conducted by YouGov, which captured the opinions of more than 4,000 Australians and features recommendations and insights from Australasia’s largest advertising and marketing agency group, WPP AUNZ.

“Language creates cultures, shapes economies and declares purpose.  It can reveal the truth, tell a lie and keep a secret. Its power is broad and unlimited,” said Futurist and Chief Strategy Officer with WPP AUNZ, Rose Herceg.

“Australians clearly want people and organisations to stop using jargon and keep it simple. If organisations and people want to cut through, get people thinking and inspiring action – they need to have a real conversation and humanise the language they’re using”

“Our report also shows how technology has changed the rules of language forever. The enormous growth in the use of spoken language cannot be ignored as devices like Siri and Alexa take over our world and change the business of search algorithms as we know it.”

“More natural than using a keyboard, taking less brain power and creating more opportunity for technology to improve experiences while quietly blending into the background – we’re approaching a place where invisible technology can connect platforms and devices with a voice assistant that gets to know behaviours, preferences and desires.”

“While visual language has an unrivalled ability to influence behaviour with 84 per cent of Australians agree pictures and icons are more powerful than words.”

“It’s the easiest and most direct way for brands and organisations to win over the hearts and minds of their audiences. This kind of simple communication creates authenticity, honesty and will build trust,” said Herceg.

“We also see how using vernacular language is crucial in a country with 217 nationalities and one in three Australians regularly speaking a language other than English at home. When you look at Victoria, that number jumps to one in two.”

“Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australia is all-too-often a side note or an afterthought for brands and organisations. It is time to take a fresh look at what is being done in this space and rethink our communications with Australia’s multilingual communities.”

The report was discussed in a panel on Tuesday morning where Mindshare’s CEO Katie Rigg-Smith, AKQA’s Executive Design Director Ros Horner, Etcom’s Managing Partner Melissa Chaw and Landor & Fitch’s General Manager Trish Folan joined Rose Herceg and David Speers.

It was a wide-ranging conversation focused on the different intricacies of visual, written and spoken language. However, the issues of the government’s vaccine rollout and vaccination campaign were prominent.                                                 

Herceg posited that “the government could have used some help with visual iconography”, and should have had a greater emphasis on colloquial and written language.

This was a point echoed later in the panel by Katie Rigg-Smith, who argued in favour of “no medical language”, instead having a vaccine conversation led colloquially.

Folan also agreed on the need to “create a visual language” around COVID and the vaccine to encourage vaccination.

As Herceg pointed out, though this should have been thought of “six months ago,” before the vaccines arrived.

Other points of conversation included making advertising language accessible for the one-third of Australians who have English as a second language.

Chaw said that, “we need to modernise our approach to language and translation, and businesses are ignoring that fact.”

One of the solutions is ‘hybrid language’, where a few key words are translated but the rest of the sentence left in English.

Secrets & Lies of Language: The New Rules of the Game features recommendations and insights from the nation’s leading agencies and is based on quantitative evidence and the findings of research conducted by YouGov capturing the opinions of more than 4,000 Australians nationally.

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