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

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August 31, 2004
Continuing the discussion from yesterday, here’s more about city slogans, from USA Today via Yahoo! News:
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So, Atlanta and Los Angeles are two cities that lack promotional slogans, while Carbondale, Illinois (see below) markets itself under the catchy mantra “Haven’t You Heard?” Hmm. Some cities are missing something. And I don’t think it's Atlanta or L.A.
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August 30, 2004 The Illinois city of Carbondale has a new slogan, conceived by its mayor: “Haven’t You Heard?” Here’s the article, from the Southern Illinoisan:
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This slogan satisfies so many groups with so many agenda, it’s no wonder that it’s as vacuous and empty as any other city slogan. Key quote from the article:

Because the slogan was conceived by (Carbondale mayor) Cole, the use of the ph(r)ase is being controlled by him.

What’s going to happen to the city’s investment in branding, should the mayor not be re-elected? And, who owns the trademarks and usage rights? And, how should revenues be distributed? The potential for trouble looming makes hiring an ad agency (or maybe even a freelance copywriter) sound smarter than ever for slogan assignments like this.
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August 27, 2004
More about advertising characters, from today’s New York Times:
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I’d like to think that this is about more than a return (yes, return, as these trends are cyclical) to nostalgia. The rise of iconic, character-based advertising may portend a return to the marketing disciplines that gave rise to the great ad campaigns of the 1960s. If so, that bodes well for renewed creative strength. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a great time to be in advertising.
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August 26, 2004
Morris the Cat is back, along with a host of other product spokes-characters. Here’s a great article, from the Billings Gazette (MT):
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Now, I’m partial to animal characters. But, I do think it’s significant that some of the most endearing and effective corporate branding in the past five years has been done by the AFLAC duck.
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August 25, 2004
Attempts to injects interactivity into print have reached a new level. Here’s the article about the September issue of Jane magazine, from the New York Times:
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The magazine is running a promotion with an interactive/experiential twist: readers send in cellphone photos of the ads in the magazine for freebies and a chance to win prizes. In the discussion over whether this is a promotion or interactive marketing (it’s a promotion), one key fact gets lost. Good advertising, regardless of medium, is fundamentally interactive. It reaches out to people one-on-one, and compels them not only to read, but to act by buying a product or service or belief. You can’t get more interactive than that. And the layering-on of tricks only diminishes the real connection made through good advertising.
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August 23, 2004
The Olympic Games are playing out now, but the marketing of athletes as advertising icons kicked into high gear months ago. Here’s the article, from the Associated Press, via Greater Milwaukee Today (WI):
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From a cold, advertising-oriented standpoint, this kind of blatant gold-digging is, at best, a short-term gain for the people and companies involved. Their actions erode the purity – and diminish the marketing value – of the Olympics and its winners. For now, though, the Games make their own heroes, and for every lucky tie-in break, there is an equally unlucky one which will most likely not make the news.
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August 22, 2004
Can advertising creative be outsourced to India? The Indian advertising industry is targeting English-language creative outsourcing as an area for growth. Here’s the article, from the Economic Times (India) via Indiatimes:
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If you’re a copywriter or art director, don’t feel too safe in your job. In a few years, it could go the same way as engineering, software design, or customer service: overseas.

Ironically, I’ve had some experience with this from the other side and perhaps other U.S.-based freelancers have too. It occurred to me that some of my own overseas clients might have come to me in part because the weak U.S. Dollar makes hiring me cheaper than hiring local talent. So it wasn’t all about world-renowned creative brilliance? Uh-oh.

And, in a larger sense, could the weak Dollar be a large chunk of what’s behind the so-called advertising recovery in the U.S.?
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August 20, 2004
This article, from Business Week, discusses the rising trend toward online branding campaigns:
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Contrary to popular belief, measuring the result of an online branding campaign is not hard to quantify. All it takes, is some simple pre-and-post testing. The real problem lies in the fact that advertisers are moving so fast, they often neglect the most-basic of reality checks, including, perversely, those that would prove the validity of what they’re doing. The danger, is that unquantified advertising approaches are highly vulnerable to the slightest influence.
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August 19, 2004
Everything old is new again, again. Here’s an interview with Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and author of the book Lovemarks, from LA CityBeat (Los Angeles, CA):
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If, as Roberts says, “emotion is the new frontier of advertising,” it’s only because those who create advertising forgot the basics. Advertising and branding was always about creating a relationship with consumer. And, in that relationship, the consumer was always in charge. And the number-one copywriting tool was always genuine, urgent empathy with that consumer.

Unfortunately, the advertising industry is filled with copywriters and art directors too hip to care. Which is why old-style marketing disciplines are getting re-packaged as new-age creative revelations.

To see what I’m talking about, do a web search for Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising, which was first published in 1923. There are several free PDF downloads and web reprints of this classic book floating around. It’s short, punchy, arrogant, and relevant. And, it often seems like current best-selling books about advertising are simply fluffed-out versions of this or that chapter in Scientific Advertising.
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August 18, 2004
Advertising copywriting is the ultimate writing, reaching an audience of millions every day. And, advertising copywriters must write exceedingly well, every day, for in those millions there are bound to be a few critics. Here’s an interesting exchange about the copy in an ad for Malaysia Airlines, from the Star (Malaysia):
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This may seem like persnickety criticism. But, advertising copy should be held to a higher standard in its use of language, even as it reflects current usage. After all, the point of ad copy is to move people, which requires both power and nuance in writing.

As for the criticisms in the editor’s response, I agree with all of them with one important exception. The editor says, “Delivery is meant for the spoken, not written, word.” While this is semantically true, it is a false assumption in most writing. You must write for the ear as well as the eye.

Which brings us to the headline, originally written as “Behind every dream, is the spirit to fly.” The comma is correctly criticized, although I also agree with James Thurber, who defended a grammatically incorrect comma in a New Yorker story as being essential to indicate a pause (in other words, it was about delivery). I’m not satisfied with the editor’s suggestion, an ellipsis (“Behind every dream ... is the spirit to fly”); it’s too long a pause, and it looks indecisive on the page with such a soft headline. My solution would be a visual pause instead of a grammatical one, using a line break:
     Behind every dream
     is the spirit to fly

This is a how the art director can enhance ad copy.
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August 16, 2004
Everything old is new again. Here’s the first advertiser-produced TV show in recent history: The Days, a family sit-com on ABC, aimed at the lucrative teen market. Here’s the article, from Time Magazine:
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And it’s about time, too. If the entertainment part of the show contains as much thought as the marketing part, it could be a winner many times over for audiences and advertisers alike.
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August 13, 2004
Let the (ad) games begin! This article, from the New York Times, takes a cursory look at the projected ROI on advertising media placements valued at one billion dollars during the broadcast of the Athens Olympics:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The advertising problem here is that counting eyeballs is not the same thing as counting minds. Lots of people can be watching, and the advertising placed in front of them can still pass by, utterly unnoticed or immediately forgotten. Media budget be damned; having your ad ignored by 10,000,000 people is not worth more than having it ignored by 10.

This is where creative makes a huge difference, and why many advertisers increase their creative budgets for the costlier media buys. However, they’d be better served by a more-consistent ad presence – and that goes for strong creative as well as media.
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August 12, 2004
Can the UK mobile telecom company Orange own the color orange? Here’s the article, from yesterday’s BBC News Magazine:
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This is one of those things that used to be a non-issue: Orange would own its trademarked orange for telecommunications and easyJet would own its trademarked orange for air transportation, and never the twain would meet, let alone clash. These days, though, more brands are expanding into other categories. That’s partly because it’s easier to extend an existing brand than to create a new one, partly because media and audience fragmentation has made it harder to build a brand that transcends its niche, and partly because fewer marketing people know how to build a brand from scratch in the first place.
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August 11, 2004
MasterCard keeps rolling its successful, seven-year-old ad campaign, with new ads that feature its partners. Here’s the article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is great creative on several levels. First, it’s a clever way to demonstrate what would otherwise be a commodity service. Second, it’s a powerful endorsement. Third, it’s a natural extension of the “priceless” campaign. Fourth, it is, itself, almost endlessly expandable, with new and different partners (which reinforces the demonstration in the first point). Nice stuff.
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August 10, 2004
Despite the buzz about an advertising media recovery, how hungry are media for ad business? Here’s a horrifying hint, from Media Week (UK):
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Let me see if I have this straight. DaimlerChrysler wanted a fresh advertising campaign. So, rather than hiring an advertising agency, or, better yet, assigning the project to one of its agencies of record, the company ran a contest! And, more than 60 media companies entered, seven of which had the privilege of being shortlisted. First prize: the “2004 DaimlerChrysler Media Award,” a gross ad budget of about $185,000, and a bonus to the winning team of about $1,850. Second through 60th prizes: the satisfaction of having given away strategic thinking and creative concepts costing hundreds of hours and worth thousands of dollars in potential billings, for nothing.

At least in Glengarry Glen Ross, the second prize winner got steak knives.
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August 9, 2004
It was inevitable: hip-hop goes corporate. Here’s the article, from the New York Times
Advertising copywriter blog link

The article cites downloading and downsizing as two key factors in pushing hip-hop producers toward becoming full-service advertising agencies. I’d say that another key factor is complacency among advertising agency creative teams. More and more creative simply follows popular culture, herd-like, with no consideration of whether or not that slice of pop is relevant to the market. And, branding means creating a unique image, not drafting the hip image du jour as a ready-made solution.
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August 6, 2004
As Olympic hype ramps up, it’s natural for an ad guy to wonder: who’ll be the next Olympian to parlay athletic accomplishment into lasting celebrity? Here’s an interesting article, from USA Today via the News Journal (DE):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s a Herculean feat for an Olympian, and not all can turn the trick. Likewise, the Olympics itself has descended into the realm of mortal sin: doping, scandals, political chicanery, and, of course, advertising. The problem, from a marketing perspective, is that the appeal of an Olympic winner lies in the purity of his or her accomplishment. If that purity is tainted, then the marketing value plummets.
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August 5, 2004
Meow Mix cat food joins the list of packaged goods brands seeking to create a more-comprehensive and engaging brand experience by using non-traditional marketing tools, including pop-up stores and events. Here’s the article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I would wager that pet owners are a good target audience for this kind of holistic-experiential branding. I’m less convinced about extending the brand into the wet food category, although the pop-up store is a terrific launch vehicle for it and any other brand extensions including clothing and accessories (both feline and human). Meow Mix could be poised on the brink of becoming a mega-brand. But, as with traditional marketing strategies, its success hinges on sustaining the level of implementation.
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August 4, 2004
The Martin Agency re-organizes its creative department, with more creative directors running smaller teams. Here’s the article, from AdWeek via Yahoo! News (dated August 3 because it’s already August 4 here in Mülheim):
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This is the first major new organizational structure in the creative department since Bill Bernbach put art directors and writers in teams. And, it makes a lot of sense. The limiting factor with many art directors and copywriters who become creative directors isn’t the creative bit, but the direction bit – the part of the job that requires managing people and running a key business unit. As an ad agency grows, the job becomes increasingly managerial and decreasingly creative. This new structure may be a way to accommodate growth while maintaining (or even multiplying) the creative focus a good creative director brings.
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August 3, 2004
Ad news from Germany: American sandwich chain Subway Restaurants pulled its ad campaign here, which featured an obese Statue of Liberty and a reference to the documentary film Super Size Me, after U.S. Congressional pressure and complaints that it was promoting anti-Americanism. Here’s the article, from the folks at Brand Republic’s Media Bulletin:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’m here in Germany, but I missed the ad campaign (my family typically avoids fast food restaurants, no matter where we are). Two things struck me about this story, though. First, that this ad campaign didn’t warrant the kind of pressure that came to bear. Second, that the ad agency’s creative team could have avoided the geopolitical ruckus if it had executed the idea more tightly and pushed beyond the easy conceptual pot-shots.
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August 2, 2004
Here, in one short article about San Antonio (TX) tourism advertising, from Hotel Online, you’ll find just about everything that’s wrong with working on advertising assignments overseen by government organizations:
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A recommendation made by a committee of eleven (eleven!) presumably professional evaluators, getting rejected by a city council with, presumably, no marketing qualifications whatsoever. An agency-of-record forced to fight for an account that it served well, just because of open-bid rules that all but ensure a lack of continuity. The city council, at the last minute, complaining about the lack of speculative creative or strategic planning (in other words, free advice for which the losing agencies will never be compensated); the same people being heavily influenced by vague factors such as “energetic presentations.” It’s a nightmare for everyone concerned, except the city council members, who now get to claim that they’re doing something about marketing the city. Thankfully, not all governmental agency accounts are run like this.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
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