John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
April, 2005

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April 29, 2005
A nifty little archive of British radio and television commercials and short films, from TV Cream:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Most of the archive comes over as audio-only MP3 files, so what you have here are soundtracks to television commercials, seemingly recorded off-air. Still, the John Cleese/Emerson Fittipaldi bit for Texaco/Halvoline works.

For additional links to online archives of classic and vintage advertising, see my blog entries for February 8, 2005, January 3, 2005, and December 28 and 29, 2004.
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April 28, 2005
Okay, here’s why I won’t put my Ad Blog on a feed, and why syndication is now a key branding decision with the weight going more towards nay. The story, from ClickZ News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Now, for many people, this is just a way to profit from their blogs. However, for companies and corporations, newsfeed advertising provides a quick, cheap, easy way for web-savvy competitors to essentially hijack their syndicated content.

Let the blog-spamming begin. Sigh.
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April 27, 2005
In England, they’re starting to pull the covers off kids’ educational products that are really intended to sell junk foods. Here’s the story, from the Telegraph (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I saw the Cheerios book offer referred to in the article, or at least the stateside version of it. At first glance I considered sending in the proofs-of-purchase, until I took a closer look at the book’s copy: an overt, even ham-handed, exercise in branding.

Who’s falling for this? The same people who see Sesame Street as purely educational, forgetting that it’s also a half-hour television commercial for a variety of toys, snacks, software, and home decor. In other words, most people.

The article gets it somewhat wrong in one spot, though, when it identifies Cheerios as being “high in sugar and salt.” I don’t know about the Cheerios in Britain, but the Cheerios we buy has 1g of sugar per adult-sized portion, very much on the low side for breakfast cereals. (By comparison, the organic muesli we sometimes buy has a whopping 8g of sugar per serving.) Probably the Cheerios product the newspaper meant to identify, was one of the many successful line extensions. That’s a story in itself, really, how Nestle/General Mills successfully leveraged the health-friendly Cheerios brand into a host of sugar-laden products. I’d have thought that sugar-frosted, fake-apple-flavored Cheerios was off-strategy for the brand, but that’s apparently just me.
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April 26, 2005
Guess what? Those ads for prescription drugs? They’re actually proven effective at selling prescription drugs! Duh. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the results of a study showing that highly trained medical professionals are just now realizing the effects of highly trained advertising professionals on their industry. There are several articles on this topic today; here’s one from Reuters (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The old “informed consumer” argument may have reached an absurd level. After all, we’ve all read how we’re supposed to be empowered when we see our physicians, right? And we’re the customers, right? So, repeated 30-second exposures to pharmaceutical commercials, combined with our empowered consumer attitude, trumps several years of medical training and clinical experience.

Depressing? It needn’t be. Just ask your doctor for a prescription for a brand-name anti-depressant. You know it’ll work, because they say so on television.
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April 25, 2005
What spiffy technique makes online ads more-effective? According to a new study, the secret ingredient may be good old print ad discipline. Here’s the article, from MediaPost’s Online Media Daily (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This should surprise no one, except those who understand little about how advertising actually works. The post-millennial Rosser Reeves formula is ... the Rosser Reeves formula. You know: attract, intrigue, persuade. Hey, it works.
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April 22, 2005
Profits fall at Creative Technology, maker of computer sound cards and personal MP3 players, as it deliberately pursues a strategy of trading profitability for market share. The question is, will it work? Here’s the story, from Channel NewsAsia (Singapore):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Pretty much everything need to say about this I already have, back on October 28, 2004:

Selling ever-increasing numbers of widgets at ever-decreasing margins is a cash flow death spiral.

I’ve come to believe that trading profitability for market share rarely works on the consumer level, especially in a case like this, where there isn’t much profit to trade. The instant a less-recognized brand begins a price war with the category leader, it does two things. First, it arouses the leader, exposing itself to counterattack from an organization with more equity and resources to spend. Second, it almost automatically places itself in a second or even third tier of brands, as far as the consumer is concerned. Which means it’s competing with both the category leader and the off-brands, with strategy and resources inadequate to take on either market.

Meanwhile, thanks both to manufacturing efficiencies and powerful branding, the Apple iPod juggernaut continues to roll as predicted.
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April 21, 2005
A recent study by internet monitoring company Envisional (Cambridge, UK) reveals that eBay is the most-popular online brand. eBay is not, however, on the list of the five most-prominent online brands, one more illustration of the fact that heavy advertising and promotion do not translate directly into branding. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The most-prominent online brand was Microsoft, which also ranked as the sixth most-negatively perceived. The only brand to make the top-five lists for both popularity and prominence was HP (#2 in popularity, #5 in prominence).

Another interesting point considering the source of the study: of the 14 brands on all three lists, the only non-U.S.-based brand is Mini (#4 in popularity), a division of BMW.
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April 20, 2005 currently powers the e-tailing operations of Toys R Us and Target. Now, the e-tailing powerhouse reaches across the pond, to become the engine for Marks & Spencer, another major retail chain. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Marks & Spencer has had its troubles lately, but it chose the right partner in moving its sales online. A couple years ago, I’d probably have said that the Target brand was stronger than Amazon in household goods retailing; now, I think the partnership has been managed well with both brands benefiting. The Amazon customer experience is a high-tech, high-touch tour de force that translates into positive branding regardless of the storefront.

Oh, and some of the jump stories will reveal that I was premature in saying, yesterday, that the Rover car brand is dead and gone. It looks as if that most British of automotive marques will be carried on ... by the Chinese. First Longbridge, next Detroit?
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April 19, 2005
Dated tomorrow because in some parts of the world it is, comes this article originally from the New York Times, via the International Herald Tribune, about the problems facing the various brands of General Motors:
Advertising copywriter blog link

With the last British mass manufacturer of automobiles, MG Rover, now wiped off the face of the Earth (although there’s a small chance the MG brand may be revived), the challenges facing car companies are greater, not smaller. Another news item today pointed out that DaimlerChrysler will start building some Mercedes-Benz models in China, meaning reduced prices both now and in the future. (What’s the lifetime healthcare cost of a Chinese worker vs. an American or German or even Japanese worker?)

Oops, got off on a tangent there. What I meant to say, was that branding ain’t everything. To build a brand, you have to start with relevant products. And I mean relevance, not to a corporate product positioning grid, but to real customers. Durant’s original concept of a linear progression from brand to brand within the corporate umbrella no longer holds true: these days, marques and models win each sale one at a time. However, his concept of multiple brands with multiple market niches, sharing design and manufacturing resources, strikes me as very relevant today. The open question is, how well can GM execute?
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April 18, 2005
More evidence that some rap music, for all its social relevance, may not be ready for prime-time advertising play. In England, Reebok pulls a commercial featuring American rapper 50 Cent, after a mother complains that it glamorizes gun violence. Here’s the article, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Unfortunately, the rather long-winded quote from a Reebok spokesperson seems to indicate that the company still doesn’t get it, saying that the company is responding to negative feedback from a small number of viewers rather than acknowledging an error in creative judgment.
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April 15, 2005
Happy Tax Day! China, the world’s biggest and richest untapped market, is opening its doors to Western-style advertising, triggering a flood tide of creative opportunity rolling toward the East. Here’s the article, from Business Week:
Advertising copywriter blog link

My question is this: how long before Chinese-based advertising agencies master the art of Western-style advertising and start exporting that to the West along with everything else? I’m no creative protectionist, but there’s danger lurking within this opportunity. Any flood tide eventually rolls the other way. The hope, of course, is that advertising will drive a higher standard of living for the average Chinese citizen. But does social economics really work that way, or have we been deluding ourselves all along about the value of advertising? Some heavier-than-usual thinking for the weekend.
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April 14, 2005
Thanks again to Dylan, who saw this article and thought immediately of me and my hobby-horse. Here’s an article about the increasing influence of children on major household purchases, including homes, vacations, and cars, from this month’s CMO Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This evening, my family went to a Kindergarten open house, as our oldest son will be attending this Fall. One class had read (or been read) The Wizard of Oz, and the kids had been asked to choose whether they thought the events in the story were real or a dream. The results of the vote/survey were posted on a wall. Out of the entire class or perhaps 18 Kindergarteners, only three said the events were a dream.

Okay, that’s part of the magic of childhood, and frankly I’d have difficulty deciding which way to cast my own vote even today. However, it also points up the power of imagination at this age, making advertising a more-powerful danger to youngsters than a lot of people think.
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April 13, 2005
I have two somewhat related stories today. The first is about General Motor’s latest branding effort: gluing chrome GM badges to cars. Here’s the article, from USA Today via the American International Automobile Dealers Association (Alexandria, VA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Badges? They don’t need no stinkin’ badges. What they need, are relevant products. Key internal quote/rationale:

“Research tells us that many of our most outstanding segment-leading vehicles are not associated by the customer to be part of the GM portfolio,” Mark LaNeve, GM’s North American vice president of sales, service and marketing, said in a statement.
Thing is, maybe those customers don’t want their car associated with GM.

Next is this article, which uses the MG Rover crisis to examine the intricacies of launching a retail branding effort to encourage people to “buy British,” from BBC News Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Globalization has complicated the issue of patriotic purchase behavior, as has consumer demand for ever-cheaper goods. In a commodity-driven world, the cheapest parity product wins, a huge competitive edge for places where labor is cheap. Again, the need is less for a branding campaign and more for genuine consumer relevance within the products themselves.
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April 12, 2005
This story, from the New York Times, sort of continues from yesterday’s article, extending the theme of connecting with consumers by creating instant comfort and familiarity. Only this time, instead of using celebrities, the concept hinges on spoofing game shows:
Advertising copywriter blog link

While the TV spots mentioned are fun, and capture the visual energy of the genre, I think most miss a key creative opportunity. The basic game show appeal is one of tension. What’s the correct answer? What’s behind the curtain? Which contestant will win? When the answers are as obvious as the outcomes, there’s no tension, which means the ads don’t engage the viewer as much as they might have if the concepts were pushed further.
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April 11, 2005
Here’s an article about celebrity endorsements and advertising, from  Inc. Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

What I find interesting, is that B-list celebrities may be more effective advertising spokespeople than A-list celebs. After all, with a B-lister, viewers may recall less of the presenter and more of the pitch. Which puts the kibosh, or at least a significant dent, on the value of such data as Q-Factor Ratings.
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April 8, 2005
The death of a brand: British motoring icon MG Rover is officially in receivership, with little hope of continuing. Here’s the story, with lots of analysis in the sidebars, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Rover’s history goes back just over 100 years, but problems related to its current state began long ago, with post-WWII decisions that reduced the company’s ability to compete in the increasingly global automotive market of the 1950s. Since then it has stumbled downhill, finding an occasional lamp-post against which to temporarily right itself before tottering off downhill again. Most of its income-generating assets, such as property and a finance division, are gone, as are high-profile brand names like the Mini Cooper (which was carved off by BMW).

Between the unions, corporate management, and political leaders, going back a half century, there’s more than enough blame to go around. The question is: will the lessons be learned?
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April 7, 2005
Market research hits the road, and learns that you really are what you drive, right down to your political affiliation. Here’s the story, from the New York Times News Service via my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Sweeping Generalizations From Statistically Small Differences Department: Republicans drive large pick-ups and SUVs carrying American brands, Democrats drive minivans and compact cars carrying Asian brands.

It’s a fun read, but the margins are actually pretty small, reflecting likelihoods rather than truths. For instance, the driver of a Hummer is twice as likely to identify with the Republican party (52%) than with the Democratic party (23%). But, those numbers mean that out of any two Hummers, only one (okay, one plus 2%) is driven by someone likely to identify with the Republican party, the other identifying with some other political party (probably not Green, but that’s just a hunch), or none at all. What’s interesting is how advertising can change a brand’s political appeal: 44% of Volvo drivers identified themselves as Democrats compared with 32% calling themselves Republicans. As Volvo’s advertising has shifted to a luxury/performance message, its current buyers have become more Republican. Moving into Volvo’s former market positioning: Subaru.
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April 6, 2005
This is a companion piece to yesterday’s entry about branding to all senses. It’s an article from The Financial Express (Bombay, India), dated tomorrow because it’s a day ahead there, about why advertising so often fails to build a brand:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The need for relevant differentiation applies to both product and advertising. History is littered with the shattered refuse of unique products with benefits that utterly failed to connect with the market, with or without strong perceived branding.
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April 5, 2005
Advertising tends to focus on building a brand through visual distinctiveness. But there’s more to branding than appealing to any one sense. Here’s an article from Media Week (UK) exploring how all five senses can be engaged in a branding effort:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The scent of Crayola crayons, the sound of a Nokia mobile phone, the feel of a Coke bottle – these are inextricable parts of their respective brand experiences. And they’re a big part of how those brands became embedded in the public consciousness.

Branding isn’t one thing. It’s everything. And brand media can include print, radio, television ... and scent, sound, taste, and feel.
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April 4, 2005
A press release, via Yahoo! News, from a research company claiming that its research shows that award-winning print ads are less effective than “regular” print ads:
Advertising copywriter blog link

These are broad conclusions to reach from a test consisting of a mere dozen ads and 200 respondents who may or may not have been part of any of the ads’ target markets, viewing the ads in a laboratory setting.

The study findings are nothing more than reinforcement for Rosser Reeve’s attract-intrigue-persuade formula. And, they reveal nothing more than what most of us have known all along: an effective print ad appeals to a prospective customer in real life and an award-winning print ad appeals to an advertising award judge in a competition. Sometimes, those markets and goals converge. And sometimes, they don’t.

You can no more improve results by dismissing award-winning techniques than by following them.
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April 1, 2005
A new digital cable TV channel is about to be launched, featuring programming aimed at pre-schoolers. It’s backed by the makers of some of the mainstays of children’s programming on PBS, and PBS itself, and will carry those programs plus commercials. Here’s the story, from the New York Times News Service via my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Some people seem to think this spells the commercialization of Sesame Street. What they don’t realize, is that Sesame Street went commercial decades ago, when it started licensing toys, lunchboxes, and other products. Sesame Street and other PBS children’s programs are basically 30-minute infomercials.

This whole enterprise isn’t about the kids, self-delusional statements from the children’s programming “experts” notwithstanding (come on, a pre-schooler doesn’t “need” to watch TV at any time). It’s about marketing to parents through their kids, offering parents a convenient place to plunk their kids, 24 hours a day, in exchange for constant exposure to Big Brand – er, Bird – and its ilk.

That’s why our children very rarely watch TV at home, PBS or otherwise. There are better uses of a pre-schooler’s time.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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