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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 3 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 3 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 3 – Discussing a New Ad Campaign


Ted works for an advertising agency. He’s presenting to Sam and Lisa, who work for Pacific Beer Company.

Lisa: Ted would like to run some ideas by us for our new ad campaign.

Ted: Please keep an open mind. Remember that nothing is set in stone yet. We’re still just brainstorming.

Sam: I hope that doesn’t mean we’re about to hear a lot of half-baked ideas!

Ted: I think you’re going to like this. Our idea is to use a black bear as our mascot. Our tagline can be: “Strong enough to satisfy a bear.”

Lisa: It would be great if people would associate our brand with a bear — strong and independent. That would really improve our brand equity.

Sam: I don’t want to throw cold water over your idea, but where did you get the idea for a bear?

Ted: Didn’t you hear about that bear at a campground a couple weeks ago? He entered a tent and drank two dozen Pacific beers! What a great endorsement for Pacific beer!

Lisa: I think we’re on the right track with this campaign. The bear should generate lots of buzz. Everybody will be talking about the bear who loves Pacific beer!

Ted: And here’s the icing on the cake: he won’t demand an arm and a leg to plug our product. In fact, we can probably pay him in beer!

Sam: Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. Let’s run with the idea.

Ted: Great. I’ll flesh it out some more and touch base with you in a couple of days.


  • (to) run some ideas by someone

 to discuss some new ideas

EXAMPLE: Our R&D department has some ideas about how to make our products safer. They’d like to meet this afternoon to run some ideas by us.

NOTE: You will also hear the singular form: to run an idea by someone.

  • (to) keep an open mind

 to be ready to accept new ideas and experiences

EXAMPLE: Cathy’s new boss starts next Monday. She’s heard he’s very difficult to work with, but she’s trying to keep an open mind.

  • nothing is set in stone

 nothing is decided yet; things can still be changed

EXAMPLE: If you don’t like the new product design, we can still change it. Nothing is set in stone yet.

  • (to) brainstorm

 to think up new ideas; to generate new ideas in a group

EXAMPLE: When the company started losing market share, the president called a meeting to brainstorm ways to turn around the business.

NOTE: There is also the expression “brainstorming session,” in which a group gathers to come up with new ideas or to solve a problem.

  • half-baked idea

 a stupid or impractical idea or suggestion
EXAMPLE: I can’t believe we paid that consulting company so much money. We wanted them to help us grow our business and all they did was give us a bunch of half-baked ideas!

  • (to) throw cold water over (an idea, a plan)

 to present reasons why something will not work; to discourage

EXAMPLE: Pat presented her boss with a plan to expand their business into China, but he threw cold water over her plan and told her to just focus on developing business in the United States.

NOTE: You will also hear the variation: to throw cold water on.

  • on the right track

 proceeding in a good way; going in the right direction

EXAMPLE: After years of struggling, Apple Computer is now on the right track by focusing on innovative products like the iPod.

  • (to) generate lots of buzz

 to cause many people to start talking about a product or service, usually in a positive way that increases sales

EXAMPLE: Procter & Gamble generated lots of buzz for its new toothpaste by giving away free samples to people on the streets of New York City.

NOTE: “Buzz” is a popular word for “attention.”

  • icing on the cake

 an additional advantage; when one good thing happens, then another good thing happens along with it

EXAMPLE: Alison won $2 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer. And here’s the icing on the cake: her company will have to pay all of her legal fees too!

NOTE: Icing is the creamy glaze put on top of a cake to decorate it and make it sweeter. The cake is already good enough — putting icing on top is something extra which makes it even better.

  • an arm and a leg

 a lot of money

EXAMPLE: Jack always flies business class to Asia. The plane tickets cost an arm and a leg!

  • (to) plug (a product)

 to promote a product; to talk positively about a product

EXAMPLE: American Express often hires famous people to plug their credit cards. No wonder people pay attention to their ads!

  • (to) twist somebody’s arm

 to convince somebody; to talk somebody into doing something

EXAMPLE: Ben didn’t want to go to the company Christmas party this year, but Amy twisted his arm and he ended up having fun.

  • (to) run with an idea

 to proceed with an idea

EXAMPLE: After much discussion, the language school decided to run with the idea of offering a free class to each potential client.

  • (to) flesh out something

 to elaborate on something; to add more detail to a plan; to think in more detail about something

EXAMPLE: I like your idea of moving our manufacturing facility to China, but your plan doesn’t have any details. Please flesh out your plan and present it at our board meeting next month.

  • (to) touch base with someone

 to get in contact with; to make brief contact with

EXAMPLE: “Hi, it’s Andy calling from City Style magazine. I’m just touching base with you to see if you want to buy an ad.”

  • tagline

 a slogan; a phrase used to promote a product

EXAMPLE: Meow Mix, a brand of cat food, has one of the best taglines in history: “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.”

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