top of page

The Most Popular BS Term of 2020


If you want to get straight to the winner, scroll down to where you see the BIG FONT. Otherwise, let's build the suspense a bit by reading on, shall we?

The internet gives us a lot of lists. “10 Most Creative Uses for Your Pumpkins,” “10 Most Famous Trees in the World,” and “10 Interesting Facts About the Canadian Financial System,” for example. My apologies to all of the cucurbita experts, arborists and Canadian financial system fanatics out there. I see you. Into this rabbit hole (a BS term, by the way!) of data comes a list from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that speaks directly to our BS sensibilities: “The Top Marketing Words of the Year.” Finally! A list that we can write a blog post about!

This is the 6th year now that the ANA has been making this list. Why? Who knows. But let's just celebrate the fact that the ANA gives a damn and is looking for a way to get some SEO at the end of the calendar year just like us, 'mkay?

Past list-toppers for the ANA make people like me salivate. I mean, these are quality BS terms, folks! In 2014, it was programmatic that got the ANA’s nod as the “Marketing Term of the Year.” I don’t even know what programmatic means, but I love it. It does what many great BS terms do: adds some letters to change a particle of speech into a brand new, never-before-used particle of speech. Actionable, ideation, and scalable come to mind as other examples of this practice.

In 2015, ANA’s marketing word of the year was content marketing -- which is exactly what I’m doing with this blog post! Transparency topped the list in 2016, the same year Donald Trump was reintroducing the world to another BS term, “fake news.” 2017 gave us artificial intelligence, 2018 brand purpose and last year it was personalization (see my note above about BS’s tendency to create particles of speech where there were none before).

When it came to this year’s winning marketing term, the ANA did what it does every year: identifies a list of finalists and then asks its members to cast their vote to determine the winner. The ANA’s membership consists of U.S. and international companies like Mastercard, McDonald’s and CVS Health. In short, they’ve seen A LOT of BS, people. Again, why do they do this every year? I don't know. They're marketers. They need something to keep them busy during the holidays.

So, without further ado (and 279 ANA members voting), the winner of the 2020 “Marketing Term of the Year” was…


That’s right. If there ever was a BS term that summed up 2020 it was pivot. I mean, how many times this year did we have to completely change the way we do things? We started stockpiling toilet paper, wearing masks everywhere and watching how-to videos on Zoom for God’s sake. Even advertisers pivoted away from the phrase “in these unprecedented times…” to describe what was going on.

For me, the only other BS term that might have come close to winning this year’s title was “new normal.” Lord knows I heard and said that several times this year. As far as ANA goes, the other top choices in the 2020 Marketing Word of the Year voting were virtual, agility, and resiliency. All great BS terms and all worthy of praise…or should I say worthy of “kudos” (another BS term)? Either way…

We applaud the ANA for giving us this list. It not only makes for quality content marketing for our book, but it gives us hope for new advertising BS in 2021. A year that we trust will be absent of any more commercials telling us about “these uncertain times” and filled with more BS lists on the internet (sanitized for the pandemic, of course).

Bob Wiltfong

101 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page