John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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April 22 2014
Here’s an easy way to spend a few minutes with Chuck Porter of CP+B, courtesy The Drum (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Interestingly, you may find it quicker to read the text to glean the key points, rather than sitting through the video and experiencing a talking head, inadvertent proof of the power of compelling words on a page over video if the video brings nothing more to the table.

Porter says nothing earthshattering, but maybe if enough top dogs repeat the basics it will sink in at last and advertising in general will gain in relevance, capability, and power. Until then, though, it’s nice to have a secret weapon in old-school empathy and discipline.

Being something of a strategy geek among creatives, I was delighted to hear that Porter had no long-term strategic plan besides doing great work one day at a time. That sounds like a great plan!
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April 21 2014
I have two today about how advertising and branding can drive social change. The first, from The Drum (UK) focuses on perceptions of nations, while the second, from The Guardian (UK), addresses itself to sustainability issues:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

Key snip from the first article, from the late, great Wally Olins, a pioneer of modern branding practices: “...brands cannot be created from nothing. Instead, they must reflect truths about the subject.”

The mistake most brand development people make, is creating a brand that reflects the aspirations of the corporate marketing people, instead of looking deeper, working harder, and drawing out – and expressing – the best of what the brand truly stands for to its customers.

A brand can’t be aspirational; it must be affirmational. It must affirm a belief that’s already held, or it’s just fluff and puffery.

The second article looks at advertising as a potential prompter for improved sustainability initiatives in client companies. Advertising has long been a force for good in many areas, so there’s nothing new about using the power of advertising to kick-start social change. But this new vision places the agency in a deeper collaborative partnership role than is traditional, which is far more exciting than yet another green-issue ad campaign.

Clients aren’t always ready for such a relationship, and even when they say they are they often aren’t. But advertising is all about positioning change as a good thing, whether it’s switching brands of toothpaste or inviting ad agency insights as part of the internal improvement process.

Look: how much consumerism can we excel at? Surely there’s an alternate path that will let us stretch our legs and flex creative muscles in unaccustomed directions. And that can only be good for us, and our work, and, perhaps, the world.
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April 20 2014
Just a weekend quickie to point out this article from BBC News Magazine on “invented tradition” and how one Indian hotelier may have created a colorfully old-world festival on the Ganges expressly to attract tourists:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The invented tradition seems to be a tradition itself, albeit an authentic one. In advertising, there’s the Puppy Bowl, of course. And here in San Diego, retailers and restauranteurs make a bigger deal out of Cinco de Mayo than do most Mexicans. After all, there are enchiladas and cervesas to be sold. And our Christmas-themed Parade of Lights on San Diego Bay, started around 1970, conveniently routes itself for maximum viewing from all our bayfront hotels and tourist attractions from Shelter Island to Marina Park and back to Coronado.

Hey, 1970 was 44 years ago. That may make our Parade of Lights more than twice as ancient a ritual as the Indian festival at Varanasi. And for most residents of San Diego, 1970 is practically prehistoric.
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April 18 2014
Here’s a look at how moviemakers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to break the fourth wall and directly engage audiences, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This shows that audience engagement is an old problem, and 1950s filmmakers were quite innovative in their thinking even if the technology at their disposal was rudimentary. What’s cool, is that only a handful of these ideas – 3D, sing-along jingles, flashpolls, and audience-guided storylines – have been tried by advertisers. The world of cinema, especially alternative, art-house works, may be a rich vein of good stuff to mine. (Speaking of which, why hasn’t Dodge done anything with Vanishing Point as a cultural touchstone? Surely it’s been thought of; I’ve been waiting for a referential ad since the Challenger came out.)

I think it would be interesting to steal another immersive cinematic idea and work it into an ad concept. The obvious play, of course, is integrating the nearly omnipresent second-screen device into the primary screen ad experience, but I’m thinking of something beyond that.

Granted, one advantage movies have over ads is that the audience pays its money in advance with the expectation of watching attentively. With advertising, the money is paid at the end, assuming the ad actually sells anything. And ads have to compete for attention. So it’s a fair question to ask whether adding an immersive layer, assuming it’s relevant, would make an ad stand out or make it recede into noise.

And my answer is that it will depend entirely on the creative.
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April 17 2014
Neuroscientists have turned up more evidence that yes, artists are wired differently than non-artists. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It was a small study, comparing brain scans of 21 art students with those of 23 non-artists. But the scans revealed that the artists had significantly more matter in parts of the brain thought to be associated with visualization and fine motor control.

I wonder what might be found examining the neural differences between musicians and non-musicians or writers and non-writers. I suppose one would expect to find brain differences in areas associated with those skills.

All of which seems to me to make the case for a blended view of practice and innate talent. I think what happens is that there’s a spark of innate ability that gets encouraged and nourished in early childhood and educated and challenged later. With more practice comes more skill, with more skill comes more success, with more success comes more enticement to practice. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.

I believe, though, that that creative spark is part of everyone. That’s why in a group I prefer to do more listening and note-taking than talking. My own creative monologue, I can turn on any time. But I never know what great ideas I’ll be able to lift from others.

After all, to revisit yesterday’s topic, as TS Eliot said, “Immature poets imitiate; mature poets steal.”
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April 16 2014
Taco Bell’s latest ads using actual Ronald McDonalds seems to be garnering a lot of attention, at least some of it based on its alleged recycling of a previously used concept. Here’s the story, from BusinessWeek:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Although it’s tempting to get possessive about ideas, the reality is it’s all been done before. The best you can strive for is a fresh take on the basic idea. And the same-name ad concept has been done a bazillion times, and will be done a bazillion times, in all sorts of different ways.

I was working at an ad agency in Orange County in the mid-80s when I developed my own version of that idea, for First American Title Insurance. The campaign featured branch office locations in smallish American towns that shared names with major international cities. From that, you already know one of the headlines. We can say it together: “We Love Paris in the Springtime.” Yup. Paris, Kentucky and Paris, Texas.

Thing is, another ad ran just a few months after our “Paris” ad broke. It was a larger size and had a much larger mainstream media presence. And it featured a Perris, not a Paris. So its headline was “We Love Perris in the Springtime.” Yup.

We begrudged that interloper campaign its higher budget and broader reach, despite the fact that it was in a completely different category. And we consoled ourselves with the notion that we’d thought of the concept first. But really, we hadn’t; no one can. I think sometimes a particular idea is just in the air, like pollen, and it finds fertile ground in multiple places. That’s why you'll often see similar ad ideas popping up in similar ways. Put enough of them together, and it’s a trend.

I think it’s a sign of a tyro to be possessive about ideas. Ideas are easy – they’re everywhere. But executing those ideas with relevance and passion and inventiveness, that’s where the real work – and fun – begins.

Anyways, our campaign for First American outlasted that other campaign. It ran through the late 80s and into the 90s, and featured many terrific all-American town and cities. Like Moscow. Rome. London. Milan. Athens. Versailles. Researching the towns in the pre-Internet days took phone calls to chambers of commerce, civic groups, and local newspapers. Looking back, I’d say interviewing proud locals and shining a spotlight onto some lovely places were two of the most fun parts of the job.

In advertising, as in life, enjoy the journey. Because that’s the part that will always be your own.
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April 14 2014
As the TV soap opera Mad Men winds to an end, many people in advertising are breathing sighs of relief. Among them are many original 1960s-era advertising professionals. Here are two stories about the real McCoys, one from WTOP (Washington, DC) and the other a more personal story from The Atlantic:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

I won’t miss Mad Men. I eagerly watched the first episode, and sat through the second and, I think, the third, with declining hopes before I switched it off for good. It wasn’t about advertising at all; it was some cockamamie screenwriter’s fantasy of advertising, every bit as removed from the actual craft as Bewitched, and in almost exactly the same ways. I imagine that’s also how working police detectives view most TV detective dramas. The pathetic thing is that there are some who find the fictional little world of Mad Men appealing.

In his book Damn Good Advice (for people with talent), George Lois said, “The more I think about Mad Men, the more I take the show as a personal insult.” And he was there. As was Jerry Della Femina, who talks about real agency life in the throes of the creative revolution in his own terrific book, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor.

Yeah, it’s just a TV show. But the 1960s were a time of huge social revolution. Seismic shifts were taking place in people’s perceptions of gender, race, society, and governance. Moreover, the realities were changing too, albeit slowly. There were massive innovations in media technology and our understanding of how media connects people. What happened in advertising in the 1960s wasn’t just a creative revolution. It was a research revolution, a service revolution, an economic revolution, and a customer relationship revolution, all wadded up together.

Add to that the wonderfully crazy things that happen in a business where reinvention is the order of the day, and it’s a lot of exciting material to leave out of a TV show.
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April 13 2014
Just a quickie to comment on this article from The Tennessean comparing the power of truth to creativity in advertising:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Truth is at the very foundation of creative advertising. Any crook can lie, but lying is a loser’s game. It takes inventiveness and heart to tell the truth in a way that connects with people, grabs their attention, and moves them to take action.

We talk about the need for authenticity. What is authenticity but another word for truth?

The idea that truth is a powerful sales tool is as old as advertising itself; McCann-Erickson trademarked its motto “Truth Well Told” in 1912. That’s 102 years ago.

There’s a reason the classics are classics.
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April 10 2014
This short video, from BBC News’ Picture This, has some terrific insights from New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff on the nature of humor and what makes something funny:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Like cartoons, ads use visuals and words to instantly evoke meanings that reach out and engage the viewer. Also like cartoons, particularly those of New Yorker caliber, ads can provoke outrageous reactions (one of which, lest we forget, is brand loyalty).

Humor, says Mankoff, is “always the right amount of wrong,” and “conflict is at the heart of humor.” The same elements are part of all effective advertising, humorous or not: enough wrong to grab attention and enough conflict to make a person care enough to watch the whole commercial or read the whole ad. Cool stuff!
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April 9 2014
I have competing views on creativity, one with cautions and the other a plea for more of it. The former comes from, and the latter from ClickZ (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

Most of the arguments against creativity strike me as a real stretch, and examples of poor marketing management if anything. For instance, I’ve never known a creative team to begin concepting without a strategic brief in hand. And, I’ve never known a creative director or even an account executive to play mix-n-match with ad campaign concepts. Most clients, too, are savvy enough to know better, and in the very rare cases they aren’t, the CD and the AE intercept and redirect, quickly and decisively.

As for “unbridled creativity” coming up with wildly attractive but fundamentally unusable ideas, that happens all the time. As I said yesterday, it’s what we do. Come on, if at least some of your concepts aren’t illegal or dirty or inappropriate or otherwise untouchable, you’re not having much as much fun as you should have, which means you’re not doing as good work as you could be. They’re good for laughs, those untouchables, and they stretch your brains by challenging norms. Sometimes, there’s a grain of something good in them to be teased out, but usually they stay on the pad. The thing is, only uncreative people get stuck on an idea.

It’s the same thing only different with mobile. As Marshall McLuhan said 47 years ago, “Our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old” (The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, still absolutely required viewing/reading for anyone in advertising, along with the more academic Understanding Media). The problem is, we haven’t quite figured out how to really use this new channel, so we tend to fall back on the same old-media techniques. And the more those techniques are used, the more they become embedded as part of the new model.

So, while I agree that what’s needed is more unbridled creativity, I think it needs to start swinging earlier in the process, at the strategic level. Because that’s where you can really reinvent what good creative is.
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April 8 2014
Here’s a staggering guesstimate of the marketing value to Samsung of Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar night selfie, from The Hollywood Reporter (Los Angeles, CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The numbers say 43 million viewers saw the selfie as part of the televised Oscar night ceremonies. An additional 37 million saw it on Twitter. And untold more millions have heard of it, discussed it, dismissed it, and parodied it in the weeks since.

All of which makes that $800 million to $1 billion valuation seem fairly reasonable, even considering that it comes from the CEO of the firm that engineered the product placement and the scenario around its use on-screen.

But the part that really made it work was the PR machine that made sure that the shot was identified, not with Ellen DeGeneres, not with the Samsung operative taking the photo, not with the Oscars, but with advertiser Samsung. That was the link that made it work as a piece of marketing. And it’s also the link that’s providing fuel for the inevitable backlash, as evidenced by growing outrage over another Samsung-sponsored selfie featuring a celebrity under contract to Samsung and President Obama.

Did that latter one cross the line? Yes, I think it did. But then, that’s what great creative does. Yes, the success of the first may have led to the outing of the second and perhaps eventually to legislation regulating the whole shebang. Yeah, well, when you break rules, more rules tend to get created. Because that’s what people who want to moderate creativity – which is to say, the vast majority of people, really – that’s what they do.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep coming up with fresh ways to market. One step ahead of the rulemakers. Why? Because that’s what we do.
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April 7 2014
Ads using long copy are pretty rare these days. Here’s an interesting look at why that may be so, with examples of great long copy ads from around the world, from (India):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I agree with Josy Paul that long copy is alive and well in other media. After all, what is a website but very long copy broken up into interactive chunks to consumed according to the needs and whims of the reader? Most blog posts run quite a bit longer than the typical print ad. Short-form branded films may be brief next to feature-length films, but next to :15 and :30 TV commercials they offer a huge expanse of space and time. Even social media is essentially conversation – and copy – that goes on and on.

That said, long copy does seem to be on the decline in print, its mother medium. Indeed, in today’s ad campaigns, print seems to be relegated to a supporting role, which lends itself to short copy and references or direct links to long copy tools like websites and videos.

However, I think the very fact that long copy is scarcely used in print means that it’s also a way to stand out. Plus, in most major print media, the long copy format has a more-native look and feel. Those are two reasons why long copy will probably swing back into vogue. Shortly.
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April 4 2014
Much is said about the price of failure. But what’s the value of failure? Here’s one answer, from Fast Company:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Fear of failure can be abbreviated to the single word fear. Period. And, while fearless ideas often end up in the weeds, they equally often soar to the stars. There’s no middle ground for fearless.

I question the value, though, of constant postmortems. Here’s the ideal postmortem: it’s dead. Or, conversely, it flew. Two words. Maybe three if you throw in a heartfelt expletive. And they tell you all you need to know about that concept.

Look: in the beginning there was a lot to be learned from failure. Don’t eat that plant. That animal will kill you. Important, life-saving stuff.

Today, having cracked the what-to-not-eat thing, we’re on to far more-complex challenges, many of our own making. So what lessons of lasting value can you draw from a marketing failure? Very little. If anything. Because that exact challenge in that exact market situation in that exact category against that exact background – all those stars won’t align again. And if they by chance do, there will be new tools, new channels, better ways to interpret data.

Now me, I’m a big believer in data and analysis and studying history. I find them tremendously helpful in moving forward. But, once a moment is past, it lives in the past. And deploying that level of brainpower to extract dubious lessons from yesterday’s problems seems an awful waste of today.

The last word goes to George Lois, a great ad guy who’s had more success than most of us. Here’s what he says about failures: “Onwards and upwards, and never give your failures a second thought.”
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April 3 2014
I have two today about packaging, and how package design is used to achieve two very different outcomes. The first, about UK cigarette packaging being stripped of its branding, is from BBC News. The second, about how sweetened cereal makers use their box fronts to engage children, comes from NBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

With the cigarette packaging, the government’s objective is to discourage use, with graphics aimed at the individual purchaser; with the cereal packaging, the maker’s objective is to attract and engage not the buyer but the buyer’s children.

A branded cigarette packaging ban has already been in place in Australia for a couple years, but it was rolled out with a tax increase so it’s hard to isolate one factor from another, plus (so it’s said) it’s too early to tell if there’s been any change in behavior. The fact that, two years on, there are no announcements trumpeting a reduction in cigarette consumption indicates to me that the effect has been negligible.

I think a lot of this is misguided from the get-go. They’re stop-smoking efforts driven by non-smokers; there’s an empathy gap right there. The campaign runners just don’t get it.

I don’t either, being a lifelong non-smoker. But in my lifetime, smoking has definitely gone from being a majority social activity to being a minority one. That’s what education and consistent messaging and pester power have done. What’s left though, the remaining smokers, are those resistant to such an approach. So it’s obvious to me as a marketer that more of the same won’t make a dent.

What’s needed is a fresh approach. I don’t know what that is, not being a smoker, but, being a marketer, I think the place to start is by talking with the youngest generation of smokers to reevaluate smoking’s underlying appeal. (And my gut feeling says a conscious rejection of sociocultural norms is probably a significant part of the mix, which is why social pressure doesn’t and won’t work.) Once you know what you're dealing with, only then can you map out a marketing strategy with any hope of success.

Now, as to the faces on cereal boxes “looking” at child-eye level. You can download the Cornell paper here, and it’s worth a read.

Although there is an optimal viewing angle for maximum illustrated eye contact, if you move around, you’ll find that most eyes follow you no matter where you are. In fact, in the otherwise pointless video, one of the co-hosts actually makes that observation without connecting it any further to the story. The Trix box test tested eye contact vs. no eye contact in a lab setting, and used college students as subjects – so while it doesn’t validate the idea of using eye angle to target kids in-store, it adds ammunition to the argument that illustrated eye contact matters in marketing materials.

Anyways, if kids aren’t exposed to advertising messages promoting the products, they won’t start viewing those products as desirable, and if their attempts to pester parents fall flat, they will stop pestering. And, contrary to “multiple studies,” in my experience very small children can be taught that product packaging does not reflect reality; I know because I made it into a silly game with my own kids (go to the the Ad Blog November 2003 and scroll down to the 13th). But they have to be taught.

For more about ads and marketing aimed at children, see February 26 2014, February 24 2014, August 29 2012, August 22 2012, August 1 2012, June 4 2012, July 14 2011, June 28 2011, March 1 2011, December 8 2010, June 3 2010, December 7 2009, October 24 2009, July 8 2009, December 17 2008, August 4 2008, July 30 2008, November 13 2007, October 30 2007, October 23 2007, October 18 2007, March 19 2007, February 28 2007, January 15 and 31 2007, December 19 2006, November 14, 17 and 20 2006, October 2, 3 and 27 2006, June 11 and 12 2006, April 4 2006, January 20 2006, November 22 and 30 2005, October 20 2005, June 27 2005, April 14 and 27 2005, March 16 17 and 24 2005, February 17 and 28 2005, December 22 2004, November 15 and 16 2004, June 5 and 7 2004, December 5 2003, November 13 and 21 2003, May 6 2003, and April 16 2003. For entries before October 2007, you have to scroll down to the appropriate entry date.
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March 31 2014
It’s April Fool’s Eve, and marketers are polishing up their latest pranks and prankvertising. Here’s the story, from CorpComms (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Some joke promotions and ads support the brand and its values while appealing to peoples’ silly sides – itself something of tactical marketing value. Those mentioned in the article fall into that category, as do Google’s frequent flights of whimsy. But I suspect many corporate pranks are conceived by a bunch of creatives who think they’re demonstrating how much smarter they are compared to mere customers. They’re not, and even if they were that’s a knuckleheaded approach to marketing if ever there was one.

I think unkindness is always unwise. Moreover, it squanders an opportunity to use silliness to prime people to indulge (see Friday’s Ad Blog entry). For some brands, that opportunity comes but once a year.

At their best, April Fool’s Day ad pranks are inclusive, engaging, and (the hardest part) relevant. Nail all three, and you create something that reaches far beyond April 1.
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March 28 2014
I have two somewhat related articles to ponder today. First up is this one, from NBC News about why why cats sell, a little research backing up my March 18 entry:
Advertising copywriter blog link

So silly-cuteness primes us to indulge, whether in imaginative flights of fancy or simple consumption, while baby-cuteness makes us focus. And, by extension, baby-cute silliness primes us to focus on an advertising message and to indulge. (As a final note, the word of the day has to be “kindchenschema.”)

And that’s why kittens, puppies, and babies in absurd situations work in advertising.

Which dovetails neatly with the next article, about branding happiness, from DNA (India):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It all distills down to the fact that people like to be happy and will actively engage with things that make them happy. Sometimes, those things can be ads and products.

I think it’s great that we work in an industry that can actually make money by spreading a little happiness.
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March 25 2014
It's Tuesday and I have two interesting stories today. The first is something of a sequel to yesterday’s post about the creative possibilities of out-of-home advertising, from The Media Online (SA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think bus shelters are some of the most under-represented media opportunities, especially in a fair-weather city like San Diego. Like a billboard they can dominate their setting, but they do it from eye level. And, with ever smaller and cheaper solar power, sensors, and other technologies, they offer fantastic on-the-ground interactive capabilities.

The next article comes from The Harvard Crimson (MA), and looks at the sometimes opposed, sometimes aligned worlds of advertising and art:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The article digs a bit into the history of advertising, a topic that’s given short shrift too often these days, and turns up some key parallels between the old school and the new.

I think, however, what’s unregarded here is that advertising is itself an art, as distinct from, say, graphic design as graphic design is from sculpture. The magic of advertising is that it adds words and sounds and music and movement to visuals in ways that extend the meaning beyond any single element. Advertising is performance art, with ROI. And while advertising is accountable in many ways, that accountability holds not limits but creative challenges, challenges most other artists seldom, if ever, face, let alone conquer.

Art is a terrific medium of self-expression. But if that’s all it’s used for, that’s a pretty hamstrung and self-indulgent form of vanity that ignores the greater power of art to inform and persuade. Think Guernica, as potent and noisy and effective an anti-war ad as ever conceived, and done purely as a visual assault in black and white.

Now imagine a field in which Guernica equivalents are demanded on a daily basis, a field in which every art is pressed to move the viewer unerringly in one direction. That field, folks, is advertising.
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March 24 2014
I have two for you today. First up is this report from NBC News striking a sour note about Gen-Xers and their economic prospects:
Advertising copywriter blog link

As I’ve noted here before, this age group is traditionally the most-courted demographic segment, with not only ads but entire product and service categories dedicated to meeting its needs. Now, with an entire generation’s economic clout fading, innovators are looking outside this group. And that’s a shame, because there’s a lot of life here.

I think one major obstacle is that advertisers aren’t prepared to attack the issues Gen-Xers face with the same passion and clarity present in, say, this article. That hamstrings our ability to connect, and without that connection it’s impossible for an ad to be as effective as it could be. Marketing to Gen-Xers becomes a self-defeating death spiral of irrelevance masquerading as cleverness.

I’m not saying ads should be written with an angry tone. But in establishing rapport, you always have to start where a person is before you can start moving him or her in any direction. That’s Empathy 101. And that’s what's missing in a lot of ads.

On a lighter note, I saw this great interview with the chief creative officer of Y&R Singapore, discussing the power of creativity. Here it is, from exchange4media (India):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I love out-of-home. I think a billboard is the most-distilled form of an advertising concept. It’s also something of a test: if a concept works as outdoor, then it works; if it doesn’t, then maybe it’s worth tweaking it until it does.

Anyways, it was a treat to read about the great outdoor work compiled in this presentation. I love the idea that outdoor can be an “event” in peoples’ lives. I think that’s true of advertising in general – we do have this power to surprise and entertain people even as we connect them with solutions to their everyday problems.

Add to that all the media channels and technological tools we have – in tandem with today’s economic turbulence generating untapped updrafts – and it’s an exciting time to be an advertising copywriter. Who’d want to be anything else?
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March 23 2014
A Sunday quickie to point out this feature. Forty years ago today, Elton John released Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, an iconic, timeless album. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how it was made, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I find it astonishing that the whole thing – a double album, 17 tracks – was written and produced in two weeks. It was a creative production line, cranking out music and lyrics in the morning and laying down the tracks after breakfast. Yet, given the amount of talent and energy concentrated in a small amount of space and time, it couldn’t have been any other way.

Sometimes, speed is part of the creative process.
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March 22 2014
I just took an online course on medieval life, so I found this BBC Magazine article about medieval adolescence interesting, especially the part about sending the teenagers to live with someone else:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I wonder how apprenticeships of that nature would work in advertising? Actually, I think they probably wouldn’t. Although there’s no doubt the ad industry could use more child-like exuberance, I think the best ad concepts connect that energy to a heart based on personal experience – that’s what gives them relevance and authenticity.

But in ways other than the leaving home part, teens still face similar opportunities and limitations. For instance, they’re still used as a source of cheap labor, working mostly low-paying, low-skilled jobs with little chance of career advancement. In fact, today’s teens are more-disposable to their employers than medieval apprentices were.

I really enjoyed St. Bede’s 8th-century description of teens: “lean (even though they eat heartily), swift-footed, bold, irritable and active.” It’s nice to know that 13 centuries haven’t dimmed the fire of youth.
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March 20 2014
In a speech to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), British comedian Lenny Henry took creative industries to task for the lack of ethnic diversity in workforces and work products. Here’s the story, from The Drum (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Henry has busted stereotypes before: his wildly funny 1990s TV show Chef! cast himself as Gareth Blackstock, Chef de cuisine at Le Chateu Anglais, his own restaurant, recipient of two (“count them, two”) Michelin stars. I guess I should mention that Henry is a large Black man, and 20 years ago, in England, envisioning a Black top chef was, well, groundbreaking. It helps, too, that the first two seasons, anyway, were absolutely hilarious.

The problem is, 20 years later, such a TV show would still stand out as much for the casting of its lead as for its writing.

But that’s TV and film. I think, with absolutely no data to back this up, that advertising has a different external picture regardless of the state of diversity in its creative workforce.

I think diversity in ads is, in contrast, something that creative teams have actively pushed over the years in an unspoken effort going back several decades at least. And, finding little consumer resistance and increasing acceptance, more advertisers piled onto the bandwagon while the trendsetters pushed a little further. Now, if you want to be au courant, it’s almost mandatory to show an inter-racial couple (the visual shorthand for “cool” that took over from “chubby Asian guy” a few years ago) and a gay couple (the visual shorthand for “cool” that’s likely to take over from the the inter-racial couple). If it all comes off as a bit precious, that’s because it’s still not quite the new normal.

Progress isn’t stories about diversity. Progress isn’t groundbreaking diversity. Progress is uncommented diversity.
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March 18 2014
I have two quickies for you today. The first is a look at why small children and animals are so very popular in marketing these days, from The Drum (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Kids and animals have been go-to grabbers since the earliest days of advertising. So their presence in online media should come as no surprise. Even so, the sheer power of small animals seems to suit them to any strategic plan, any creative execution.

I guess the message for advertising creatives is to never stop thinking: “How about a cat?”

At least for now.

Next is this blast-from-the future piece about the world’s first robotically written news article, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The Los Angeles Times (CA) put out the story about an earthquake within minutes of the earthquake itself, and it was entirely written by an automated algorithm based on data from a trusted feed. I think it’s amusing that the original, robot-written article has a stylistically needed paragraph break where the BBC’s presumably human-edited sidebar version does not. Points to the software!

Fortunately, the system only creates formulaic breaking news articles. One wonders what could happen if you programmed in the “think cats” instruction, though. You might create an advertising copywriter!
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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