John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
April, 2004

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April 29, 2004
Elsewhere in this website, I discuss (briefly) DaimlerChrysler’s errors in rebranding and the market share and share price costs attached. Things have gone from bad to worse. Here’s an article, from BBC News (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yeah, it took more than a mis-fired rebranding effort to knock the share price down 60% in five years. A lot more. But it sure didn’t help, either.

Does anyone else notice that Chrysler advertising has improved lately? I think the Hemi branding is pretty smart. But, I worry that this may be the last creative hurrah before the brand scrap heap. I mean, leaf through some old advertising awards books, from the 1970s. You know which American car company you’ll see, consistently? American Motors, with brilliant ads by Wells, Rich, Greene. Great creative, that, in the end, utterly failed to save the company. Uh-oh.

The lesson here is not that great creative is a wasted effort. It’s that advertising and marketing people shouldn’t wait until a brand is on its last legs to have the courage to do innovative, breakthrough creative. Great creative should be approved as a matter of course, not a measure of desperation.
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April 28, 2004
It’s a new advertising and marketing paradigm! Woo hoo! Sigh. Here we go again. Read the article, from MediaPost’s Media Daily News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

So the Big Revelation is that “consumers are no longer passive receivers of ad messages, but are active collaborators in the process and actually bring new meaning to ad campaigns, as well as the brands they are intended to instill.” In other words, when it comes to advertising, consumers make a difference. And this is news? Consumers have always been in charge of determining whether an ad worked or not.

About 25 years ago, I wrote, as a final project for a college course in media or communications, a short book called The American Advertising Ecosystem: Life in Advertising, the core premise of which was that advertising (and, by extension, all communication) was a living process. At the time, two professors urged me to publish. I decided not to, first because, as a 20-something kid, the mantle of advertising guru was an uncomfortable fit (this was back when 20-something kids were regarded as kids, with no whiz attached). Second, because, after four years of studying communication theory, I decided that the last thing the world needed was another communications model. Damn! I could have been huge by now. (Or not.) Maybe I should dig that thing up.

Okay, the news bit is that researchers are getting around to measuring consumer involvement in the advertising process and quantifying its effect, which is a semi-good thing.

Still, because response to advertising is fundamentally emotional, one simply cannot create successful ad campaigns by-the-numbers. Even if those numbers are based on measurements of emotional involvement.

Finally, to those who say that an emotional response is one thing and a sale is another, I say that the two are inextricably linked.
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April 27, 2004
More buzz about the reunification of creative and media business units throughout the advertising industry, from the folks at Media Week (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Gee, is it already time to resurrect the buzz-phrase from the mid-1990s, “collaborate or die”? Everything about advertising is cooperative, from creating it to implementing it to getting results from it. And if you don’t believe that last one, consider this: where would advertising be without an audience?
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April 26, 2004
A follow-up to Friday’s entry about pharmaceutical marketing, in the form of an article from the New York Times about the three-way advertising battle heating up between Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra:
Advertising copywriter blog link

A great promotional concept is just one tactic. To capture new market share, the pharmaceutical industry, like everyone else, depends on advertising. However, as the article shows, it has some unique challenges in getting the right message to the right audience.

Next up is this article, about the rise of retro advertising, from the Independent (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

We’re starting to see some of this in the U.S. as well. Thing is, not only is there nothing new in old (or classic) ads, but there’s also nothing new in bringing them back. Holiday ads are one good example of nostalgia-driven branding. Resurrecting an old, well-known advertising idea is one way to overcome the cost of establishing a new ad concept in the marketplace. However, mining the past is no panacea. Do it right, and you reap instant brand, character, and benefit recognition. Do it wrong, and you look like a has-been.
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April 23, 2004
Duh! Now why didn’t you or I think of creating a customer loyalty program for Viagra? You know, buy six, get one free? Here’s the news, from Ad Age (QwikFIND ID AAP55D):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s such an obvious fit, that everyone remotely connected to pharmaceutical marketing is now slapping their foreheads in envy and anguish. Well, congratulations to Pfizer and its marketing team on implementing a great idea. The window of opportunity is tiny, though, so it’ll be crucial to hit the market and hit it hard.
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April 22, 2004
Creating effective advertising for professional service firms is a niche in itself. And, despite being professional service firms themselves, ad agencies are notoriously bad at it. Here’s a terrific article, picked up from Mondaq:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I take exception to the statement in the first sentence (“Your marketing design firm thinks you’re duller than dirt”), on the grounds that any advertising person who thinks his or her client is dull deserves to fail. And, the hypothetical ad campaign examples are largely ridiculous (although I have seen worse in real life). Almost everything else here, though, is right on.
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April 21, 2004
“Advertainment,” a horrible collision between the words advertising and entertainment, seems to be the term du jour. Here’s an article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Contrary to recent buzz, there’s nothing new about branded entertainment. The radio soaps of the 1930s originated the concept, which continued into the early days of television (Westinghouse Theater and the like). I still believe that the future of advertising lies, not in sponsoring content, but in providing content. As for the impending demise of the 30-second television commercial, well, it was always doubtful to me that 30 seconds was long enough to tell anything, let alone sell anything. <Okay, curmudgeon mode off.> What’s exciting, is that we could be entering another golden age of advertising, with new media and new mindsets driving a renaissance in storytelling. It’s a great time to be a copywriter.
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April 19, 2004
How do you build a brand in a commodity business? Here’s a great interview with John Hui, founder of eMachines, from eWeek:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This inside look at the Gateway/eMachines deal is very interesting. People often make the mistaken assumption that high-tech retail and packaged goods retail are more different than they are, and the battle for shelf space shows just how similar retail environments are across all categories. Also fascinating, is that the value of the HP brand name, on the shelf, was initially fixed at $150 per machine, an amount that came down as eMachines built its own brand. Also, when it came time to pick a CEO for eMachines, Hui didn’t even consider someone from the technology side. He wanted a strong retailer.
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April 16, 2004
It’s ironic that Janet Jackson may be remembered primarily as the person who killed sexuality as a theme in American advertising and pop culture. Here’s an article, from USA Today:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think we’re seeing a knee-jerk reaction. At the same time, I feel just fine about giving the boot to irrelevant, exhibitionist commercial sex. Among the companies toning down their advertising are Anheuser-Busch, Victoria’s Secret, and Abercrombie & Fitch. The thing is, there’s irrelevant sexuality (beer) and relevant sexuality (lingerie) and huge gray areas (clothing). The whole issue will eventually sort itself out, and reason will return, reason being a cyclical thing in advertising, just like sexuality. Meanwhile, in real life, sex will continue to be as popular as reason isn’t.
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April 15, 2004
Happy Tax Day! Here’s more about the 4As survey mentioned yesterday, plus TiVo, from The Economist (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This article is better than yesterday’s, perhaps benefiting from the extra day of reflection. Anyway, it seems to me that if TiVo watchers skip 60% of commercials, that means two things. First, they aren’t simply skipping all the ads – they’re skipping ads that don’t interest them. Second, among those ads that do interest them, the competition for mindshare just got 40% smaller. That’s a significant plus for creativity and relevance.
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April 14, 2004
A survey done for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, for its 2004 management conference, shows that consumers are more annoyed than ever before by advertising and marketing. Here’s the article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The trouble with the survey, is that the respondents lied. Plain and simple. Ask any consumer what he or she wants from an ad. The answer will be something like “just give me the facts and stay out of my face,” which is the opposite of actual consumer behavior as it is known on this planet. The catch-all sin of “obtrusiveness” is a red herring, too, with the line between obtrusiveness and attractiveness being largely a question of who’s catching the spillover from marketing efforts aimed at someone else.

What the survey does show, is that consumers are more marketing savvy and branding aware than ever before. But, that’s a problem mostly for those advertisers who don’t understand their target market in the first place.

Here is a quote, and one hopes it’s not a revelation, from the president of the company that did the research:

“... if you have two brands at parity with each other, more and more the one people are likely to do business with is the one that does a better job in reaching them with its advertising.”

Uhhhh, yeah. You know, maybe the real problem, is not that consumers are getting smarter, but that advertisers are getting dumber.
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April 12, 2004
Now that old-fashioned, big, full-service advertising agencies have splintered into post-modern, lean, specialized business units, what’s next? Re-unification, apparently. Here’s an article, about the coming together of media and creative, from the current Media Week (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

One simply cannot create advertising in a vacuum (or an ivory tower, high horse, high dudgeon, or blue funk). Media and research are as much a part of the advertising equation as anything else; without them, you’re just talking yourself into the wrong answers. And, contrary to what the article implies, winning “every major advertising award in the world” reveals little about one’s understanding of the “advertising process.” Indeed, the reason why so many creatively brilliant, award-winning ad campaigns fail in the marketplace, is probably the lack of equally brilliant, insightful media planning and research. So, the ads attracted, intrigued, and persuaded advertising award judges, and that’s about all. Ads function in the real world, and it takes more than specialization (creative or otherwise) to create an ad campaign that breaks through the clutter to deliver a message that matters to someone who cares.
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April 9, 2004
Jeff Candido, the advertising copywriter who wrote the current Las Vegas ad slogan “What happens here, stays here,” made the cover of this week’s Las Vegas (NV) Mercury:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Public acknowledgement of an advertising copywriter is a rare thing. But, there’s another reason I like this article: it shows how advertising is created. You get an assignment. You get together. You think. You look. You think some more. You bounce around ideas. You craft word concepts and visual concepts and incremental concepts and Big Idea concepts. You sift. You sort. You revise, revisit, rewrite. You present. You defend. You sell. Then, a lot of times, you have to keep defending and selling. You work hard. And, when the whole thing is a huge success, you’re already working on another assignment. Because that’s your job. The related story link is also worth following for its reviews of other famous ad slogans.
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April 8, 2004
Online advertising is coming back! No, traditional advertising is coming back! Here are the articles, the first from today’s Raleigh (NC) News & Observer and the second a pick-up from yesterday’s Reuters:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

What’s really going on here, is that the whole ad industry is reviving after a long drought. Ad spending has increased in almost all media. But, that’s not the only thing online and offline media have in common. In both, there’s a renewed focus on context and content. Both have deployed new efficiencies in ad tracking and placement partnerships. And, both are taking business from the other, for reasons that probably have more to do with advertisers communicating the wrong message than using the wrong medium.
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April 7, 2004
In online marketing, plain old text is enjoying a huge resurgence among e-marketers who previously put their faith in graphics-intensive, “new media” advertising. Jaffer Ali, founder of Penn Media (which claims to be the world’s largest e-newsletter network), has written a relevant commentary in this week’s MediaPost:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Key quote:

“Test after test from our e-commerce division proves to us that clicks originating from text advertisements convert anywhere between 5 to 10 times better than graphics-heavy advertisements.”

The thing is, conversion isn’t about “text.” It’s about copy, and there is a difference. Text is a format; copy is a selling tool. The key flaw in the flash-and-dazzle approach may be an over-reliance on graphics to do the entire job of attracting, intriguing, and persuading. While graphics can attract and intrigue, persuasion almost always requires copy – and a persuasive copywriter. Online or offline, conversion is a function of persuasion, which is a function of copywriting.
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April 6, 2004
Bob Dylan is now appearing in television commercials for Victoria’s Secret. The spots also feature one of his songs. Here’s the tidbit, from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The fun bit is Dylan’s prophesy, back in 1965, that he might just sell out for “women’s undergarments.”
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April 5, 2004
Over the weekend, I re-read bits of The Years With Ross by James Thurber. It’s a biography, of sorts, of Harold Ross and a history, of sorts, of his magazine, the New Yorker. It struck me again how bizarre a truly creative workplace is. Here, for the sake of having a link, is a Critic at Large piece about Thurber, from his long-time literary home, the New Yorker:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Own this book. My copy, a dogeared Ballantine Books paperback printed in 1975, came from a used-book store; you can find it new but you may need to order it. It is worth almost any price if only for the previously unpublished Wolcott Gibbs essay “Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles.” This 31-point guide to writing and editing is just about the best thing there is for a writer of just about anything. Upon re-reading it, I realized with a start that verbatim chunks of it found their way into my subconscious and out again in the form of my own How to Write Better Ads. Damn! You’ll find the original roughly mid-way through Chapter VI, “Miracle Men.” More insights on craftsmanlike writing are contained in Chapter XIV, “Writers, Artists, Poets and Such,” with a couple pages dedicated to the use of the comma. And, there’s a great segment in Chapter V,  “The Talk of the Town,” in which Thurber discusses the challenge of writing “taglines,” and how E.B. White (who had been an advertising copywriter) simply had the knack. The good stuff goes on and on; you can dive in on any page and be instantly engaged, as good an example of brilliant copywriting as anything else.
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April 2, 2004
Advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy has started “12,”an experimental ad lab, using intern-level staffing, senior-level direction, and real-world clients. Here’s the article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I wish them success. And, I wish their fee structure would fall into line with professional industry rates. As it stands, there are only two possible outcomes. First, the experiment fails. Second, the experiment succeeds and all of a sudden the par price for an advertising concept is 20% of what it used to be. That’s bad for the ad industry, bad for Wieden & Kennedy, and bad for the people of 12.
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April 1, 2004
Happy April Fool’s Day! It’s a busy day for advertising and marketing stories, but I’ll start with this article, from The East Carolinian (NC), discussing the history of April Fool’s Day, and recounting some famous April Fool’s advertising and publicity stunts:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Of course, consumers these days are so skeptical, that the point of an April Fool’s Day ad may be somewhat moot. Still, it’s a good opportunity for advertisers to have fun and engage customers and potential customers on a different level.

Next, on a serious note, is this article from the Miami (FL) Herald about the intricacies of naming pharmaceutical products:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Key interesting point: U.S. regulators prohibit drug names from containing any promises or competitive advantages, hence the deliberately oblique names. I found the drug naming formula (prefix/primary positioning hint, middle vowel, suffix/secondary positioning hint) particularly interesting, as well as the letter trends (X and Z are played out; K, C, and D are on the rise).

Finally, a follow-up to my entry on March 29, 2004, about competition among wireless service providers, from my hometown San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It is just as I thought. Verizon’s management of cellular phone number portability has directly and positively affected its competitive results, with Verizon winning AT&T customers at a rate of 10:1 for the last quarter. See, everything a company does is marketing, including its management of technology and response to regulatory changes. It’s all marketing.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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