John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
August, 2003

Quick finder (main website):
Home | Services | Experience | Portfolio | FAQ | Advice | About me | Contact

Quick finder (advertising blog only):
Ad Blog main page | Monthly archives | Forward to September

August 29, 2003
Here’s yet another example of rebranding done wrong. Timex has a new advertising campaign with a new slogan: “Life Keeps Ticking,” an empty, irrelevant, flaccid tagline that probably survived focus groups largely on the strength of the word “ticking” related to Timex. Here’s a spot-on critique, from the Chicago (IL) Sun-Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The thing is, the Timex branding strength wasn’t in the ticking. It was in the licking. Timex didn’t need a new slogan, and that sums up the problem with the new advertising push.
Back to the top of the page

August 26, 2003
Does creativity in advertising affect effectiveness positively or negatively? Here’s an advertising outsider’s rant from the Seattle (Washington) Post-Intelligencer:
Advertising copywriter blog link

His argument runs somewhat astray when he tries to apply retail results (or the lack thereof) to non-retail advertising. For example, his comment about the classic Volkswagen print ads:

But even the most clever of ads can’t make people buy a product that, over the long term, they decide they’re not wild about -- like a noisy, uncomfortable, erratically heated car eclipsed by Japanese imports.

Ah, but they did. Those very ads helped fend off increasing competition from increasingly superior products, extending the product life long past any reasonable expectation and culminating in a branding success that continues to this day. Here’s more:

The most effective ads are usually not those that are cutting-edge, award-winning or memorable. Don’t think so? This paper runs one of the most effective pieces of print advertising every week -- the grocery store flier. The average consumer would have a hard time remembering what last week’s flier looked like, let alone one from a decade ago. But you can bet that a lot of average consumers sit down with that ad every week, poring over it and saying, “That looks like a good price on hamburger” or “We’re running low on paper towels.”

The fact is, average consumers remember very well - practically on an instinctive level - what their preferred grocery store’s flyer looks like. They go straight for it, tossing the others into the recycling bin without a second glance. That’s branding. As for those paper towels, part of the buying decision may hinge on what brand paper towels are on sale. Finally, there are significant strategic and tactical differences between advertising groceries, a survival-level need that must be endlessly replenished, and advertising automobiles.

There are many ways besides direct sales for an ad to be effective: building the brand, creating good will, defending market share, and influencing a targeted audience to name but four. Focusing on sales is as good an example of marketing myopia as focusing on advertising awards. Advertising awards and advertising effectiveness are not linked, but neither are they exclusive; furthermore, nothing in advertising is automatic. It’s all the result of plain old hard work.
Back to the top of the page

August 25, 2003
TiVo puts viewers in control of television programming, or at least that’s the hook. Now, the viewing patterns of TiVo users will be made available to advertisers - the very industry TiVo subscribers might be trying to dodge. Or are they? Here’s the article, from MediaPost:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The new information seems to indicate that high-rated, high-CPM television shows are no advertising bargain. This advertising copywriter has a different perspective . The higher the creative standard in the advertising environment, the higher the creative standard must be in the advertising itself in order to grab attention and deliver a coherent marketing message. It used to be a cliché that the best stuff on television was the ads. Not so any more. Most television commercials fall far short of the programming, and that dismal lack of quality brings down the averages in both viewership and effectiveness.
Back to the top of the page

August 21, 2003
A great rant about the appropriation of real-life social injustice in the name of advertising and fashion, from
Advertising copywriter blog link

The irony here, of poverty-chic being affordable only to those with money to spend on the Fake Thing, has long been a part of fashion and fashion advertising. Heck, Levi’s was probably one of the first working-class brands to make the transition into pop culture, and that was pre-Internet and even pre-television.
Back to the top of the page

August 20, 2003
The wine industry is promoting the category with a $500,000 generic advertising campaign, according to this article from the Walla Walla (Washington) Union-Bulletin:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The ads might be “fun,” but the advertising slogan (“Wine. Since 6,000 B.C.”) lacks a compelling reason to buy and seems at odds with the advertising objective, reaching out to a younger market. Still, it could be effective, if backed by enough spending to maintain frequency. The question is, will the Wine Market Council have the stick-to-it-iveness to make it work?
Back to the top of the page

August 18, 2003
The top advertising executive in charge of more than $1 billion in media buying for Chrysler has resigned, according to this article in Ad Age (Quick Find ID AAO92W):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Horrid actual quote from the article:

Chrysler Group spokesman Dave Elshoff declined comment on “human resource issues at a supplier.”

Aaargh! A person manages more than $1 billion in corporate tactical assets, and that is how Chrysler views the relationship? With that attitude, it’s no wonder Chrysler is in deep trouble.
Back to the top of the page

August 14, 2003
Here’s what happened in my hometown when Chevrolet turned a vacant downtown lot into a very active building site for a truck commercial. Scroll down to the second vignette, titled “Too good to be true,” from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The sudden appearance of a partially completed building befuddled nearby construction workers, startled passers-by, and angered ironworker’s union representatives. It went up overnight, and vanished over a weekend, leaving us yokels to comment on the wonder that is modern advertising.
Back to the top of the page

August 13, 2003
Posted today but dated tomorrow because it’s already tomorrow in New Zealand, is this rant defending advertising concepts against overanalysis and increased reliance on technological implementation instead of creative thinking:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Great advertising concepts are great advertising concepts. They may not resolve or even acknowledge all the business issues a client faces, nor should they. That is the only way to ensure that they do resolve the issues related to advertising.
Back to the top of the page

August 11, 2003
My advertising copywriter blog is playing catch-up, since I just returned from a week-long camping trip. So, I was spending time in the woods with my family instead of sitting here getting all worked up about the ad biz. Still, I was delighted - delighted - to come home to this article in my own hometown paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, about those unsung heroes of urban outdoor advertising, sign spinners:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Sign spinning symbolizes what has become my personal definition of advertising: Performance Art, with ROI. Key statistic: some real estate developers report that up to 75% of their walk-in traffic comes from “human directionals.” Here is why sign spinners deliver an effective advertising message:

Hey, those techniques might just work for all advertising media. Someone should try it. Uh-oh, I’m back less than a day, and I’m already regaining my cynicism about the state of advertising creative.
Back to the top of the page

August 10, 2003
Okay, the big news this weekend is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is now running for governor of California. Here’s a good media analysis from the Los Angeles (CA) Times, via the Detroit (MI) News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Will the Schwarzenegger brand be powerful enough to take office? Will Arnold have to resort to speaking to the issues? As an advertising copywriter and a native Californian, I must say that I’m looking forward to this recall election in an ashamed-yet-intrigued-enough-to-be-excited sort of way. When the gloves come off and the ads are protected by the First Amendment, that’s when things will get interesting. Not clever or strategically savvy, I don’t think, but the upcoming 100-way slug-fest promises to be at least tactically interesting.

Okay, here’s just enough substance to justify this blog entry. Entertainment programs can cover Schwarzenegger and exclude other candidates because they are exempt from equal time requirements - the Federal Commununications Commission (FCC) considers them newscasts, so their coverage can be based on “newsworthiness.” On the other hand, the FCC also ruled (back in 1966, when Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California) that stations that aired movies that included a political candidate were subject to Federal equal time rules. So, movies are subject to equal time rules, but entertainment programs are not, an ideal situation for celebrity candidates.

Here’s another thought: will the California governor’s race spell the end of the reality show? After all, it doesn’t get much better (or worse) than this.
Back to the top of the page

August 8, 2003
This should be news to no copywriter who takes a craftsmanlike approach to creating advertising (nor media planners who think strategically about placing those ads). But, a recent study by the University of Michigan shows that sex and violence, both in the advertising environment and in the ads themselves, diminish brand recall:
Advertising copywriter blog link

When will advertisers learn? Here’s a key passage from the article, just to give an idea about what’s at stake in terms of advertising and branding ROI:

“The researchers found that brand recall was 17 per cent higher for participants who saw a neutral program than for those who saw a violent program, and 21 per cent higher for participants who saw a neutral program than for those who saw a sexual program. They also found that violent ads were 20 per cent less memorable than the sexual ads and 18 per cent less memorable than the neutral ads.”

In other words, use sex or violence in your ads and you have to increase reach or frequency by 18-20% to compensate for that “creative” indulgence. That’s a huge chunk of an advertising budget. On the other hand, it also means that advertising copywriters who create ads without relying on the crutch of borrowing interest through sexual or violent themes actually extend the value of an ad budget by 18-20%. Woo hoo! That probably means I should adjust my rates upward.
Back to the top of the page

August 7, 2003
Some advertising icons, especially self-consciously young creations like the Gibson guitar used by Apple iTunes, are ripe for parody. Here’s an article from the Washington Post about how a rival company co-opted the iTunes guitar:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This advertising copywriter holds that a Gibson guitar is an iconic symbol of Gibson, not of Apple. Using someone else’s product as your own advertising icon seems ingenuous at best. Creatively speaking, this is strictly borrowed interest.
Back to the top of the page

August 1, 2003
What follows is a terrific rant by Stefano Hatfield in the Guardian (UK), about the fallacy of attempting to turn minor celebrities into fast food advertising icons:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think this trend reflects advertising becoming entertainment instead of salesmanship. As a result, the advertising industry is filling with copywriters and art directors who are averse to getting their hands dirty in the trenches. You know, actually going out and eating and peoplewatching at KFC or McDonald’s or whatever account for which they’re developing ad concepts. Instead, they sit in their wonderfully creative offices, eating, drinking, talking - and selling - amongst themselves.
Back to the top of the page
Backwards in time to July 2003

My experience as a copywriter.

Main page | Consumer goods | Food services | Free red pen | Healthcare | Hospitality & tourism | Internet | Manufacturing | Packaged goods | Portfolio | Real estate & construction | Retail & restaurants | Service | Technology

Answers to frequently asked questions.

Why should you hire me as your advertising copywriter? | FAQ

Advertising & marketing advice.

Advertising strategy and other lies
An advertising copywriter’s bookshelf: recommended books
Brands and branding: a white paper
Do you make these mistakes in advertising?
Free (yes, free) advertising copywriting resources
Four ad copy traps that ensnare even experienced copywriters
How to become an advertising copywriter
How to write a brochure: advice from an advertising copywriter
How to write better ads
Long John Silver on writing ads
More career advice: what’s it like being an advertising copywriter?
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part I: starting the enterprise
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part II: the entrepreneurial character
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part III: growing the enterprise
The economy (and what to do about it)
The Tightwad Marketing project
Advertising copywriting mentorship
Back to the top of the page

Me, me, me.

Awards & honors | Curriculum vitae | Services

Email me.

Call or fax me.

Phone and fax: (619) 465-6100

Write me.

John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

Back to the top of the page