John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
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February, 2006

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February 28, 2006
In-search trademark protection is beginning to crystallize with Yahoo’s recent decision to limit bidding on competitive trademarks. Here’s the story, from Information Week (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The “shelf space” analogy doesn’t hold up, because products in a store are shelved by category, not brand name. Compared to a store shelf, the internet is a mish-mash of stuff scattered pell-mell all over the Earth. The safest assumption must be that someone searching for a particular name-brand product is seeking information about that name-brand product, and the most-useful outcome for the searcher, and for the community at large, would be to deliver it. To me, this is a strengthening of intellectual property rights, and a step in the right direction for brand owners.
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February 27, 2006
Product placement on television shows is going digital. Here’s the story, from Reuters via Yahoo! News:
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I don’t think this changes much other than back-end billing and possibly some geographical segmentation (for example, one could have Hellmann’s mayonnaise appearing in shows broadcast East of the Rockies and Best Foods mayonnaise appearing in the same shows in the West). Of the two, the back-end billing is the bigger change, because it should take into account how long a placement lasts in syndication. Actual product placement is forever, like the Ford automobiles on The Andy Griffith Show. Virtual product placement is temporary. Will fees for digital product placement go down? They should, because the value is lessened.

Not that I think there’s much value there to begin with. Like the article says, the digital product placement was “hardly noticed by millions of viewers.” Not being seen by millions is the same as not being seen by tens, only much more expensive. Also, strategically, if the product placement is such an afterthought that it can be painted on-screen as opposed to integrated into the storyline, then where’s the character interaction? And, following that line, where’s the audience interaction? If you’re going to put your product on a show, I think the money would be better used for this thing called advertising.
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February 24, 2006
More about the relatively lackluster U.S. Olympic Team, and what it means to marketers and advertisers, this time from the Chicago Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Here’s what I find interesting, beyond the obvious stuff about post-mortems on personalities and endorsement deals: the casual reference to Lenovo as an Olympic sponsor.

Lenovo is the Chinese company that bought IBM’s personal computer business a couple years back. Less than a year ago, marketing gurus discounted Chinese companies’ ability to build international brands (Ad Blog, July 21 2005). Less than four months ago, I predicted that Lenovo would knock off HP to challenge Dell in the US market within 18 months (October 2 2005). And today, in an article in a major metropolitan newspaper, the brand name Lenovo can stand almost-but-not-quite on its own, the company’s core business being defined in a later explanatory paragraph.

Time is fast running out for Team America, in more ways than one.
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February 23, 2006
The much hyped U.S. Olympic Team has fewer winners than expected, in part due to hubris. From a marketing perspective, that means fewer potential sports celebrities to make. Here’s the story, from The New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’m rooting for snowboarder Shaun White, a local boy from Carlsbad, to be the face of the 2006 U.S. efforts. In addition to having to work his way back into the running to secure his medal, he’s been gracious, telegenic, and well-spoken; two positive attributes more than most of the medalists we seem to be fielding this year.
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February 22, 2006
Not everyone sells out to advertisers. Here’s an entertaining and enlightening look at the many, many independent rock music artists who have turned down Hummer ad money, from the Associated Press via the News & Observer (Raleigh, NC):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Two things are clear. First, Hummer’s strong brand is as much an obstacle as a benefit in this case. Second, you can’t buy love.

In my opinion, though, Hummer and its agency are spot on-target to continue trying to tap this market. For all its alleged toughness, a Hummer is essentially a fashion item. As such, it’s essential for the advertising soundtrack to be fashion-forward, no matter how often you get knocked back to the start in the process.
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February 21, 2006
And now for a change of pace. Here’s yet another look at the development of the Aflac Duck, from the Chicago Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’m a sucker for stuff like this. First, because it shows how a company took a creative risk (using humor to sell supplemental insurance), simplified the message (just kept driving the brand name home), and succeeded in real numbers (not just web traffic or buzz, but market share and sales).

Other top non-animated animal mascot/spokescreatures were listed. Seeing Nipper, the RCA dog, on that list made me think about why I haven’t seen him around lately. After all, Nipper is still part of the RCA branding. What’s more, he’s still relevant. He’s all about audio accuracy (“His Master’s Voice”), which is a smart play today, with digital technology driving more self-recording, self-publishing options. However, in 1991, Nipper was joined by Chipper, another dog, dividing the interest and diluting his strength as a mascot.

But, that’s not the main problem. The main problem, is that RCA itself has become something of a secondary brand in the home entertainment market it pioneered and once dominated. The mascot hasn’t become irrelevant; the company has.
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February 20, 2006
Carrying over from Friday’s entry, London tries legislation to prevent ambush marketing at its Olympic Games in 2012. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I don’t believe that commercial expression is as important as personal expression, so it deserves lower levels of protection. I agree with restricting the use of key icons, such as the Olympic rings logo, and key phrases, such as “London 2012.” However, the proposed restrictions lay claim to too many generic words, like “summer” and “gold” and the year “2012.” Those are just words, and they are not the Olympic brand.

But, there’s a larger issue here, related to social rather than commercial freedoms. To preemptively restrict all words that could be related to the event has the effect of curbing personal expression. And it’s no good saying that the rule will be enforced intelligently – another way of saying selectively – that’s simply adding unequal enforcement to an unfair rule.
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February 17, 2006
Olympic officials and volunteers are working hard to keep the Games free of advertising. Yes, advertising. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think the crackdown on runaway logos is smart marketing, and not just because it protects the official sponsors (who, for the record, are very nearly as restricted). It also protects the Olympic Games brand, as an icon of multi-cultural, non-pro-sports, everyday heroes.

On January 12, I said the Olympic Games had gotten too commercial, and that, those horses having fled the barn, one solution was to open the advertising up so all horses could join the race. Olympic officials, tasked with preserving the essence of the Games, came up with a different solution. A solution, thankfully, better than mine.
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February 16, 2006
The Winter Olympic Games are hot. Online gaming is hot. So, putting the two together in an interactive ad campaign seemed a natural fit. Here’s the story about Visa’s Olympic advergaming effort, from BusinessWeek:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It looks like Visa hit its target market, and built itself a good list through registrations. I think it’d be a mistake, though, to look at short-term ROI on this marketing effort, particularly since this entire category is still unsteady on its feet and the target market is still very much in motion. The real value will come long-term, in marketing to the list and in ongoing efforts linked to all subsequent Olympic Games. Visa could make itself a de facto part of the Games, in the same way that Budweiser made its silly (but immensely popular) “Bud Bowl” a part of the Super Bowl for many years running.

The one criticism I have, is that the game’s use of the Visa credit card seemed bolted on, rather than built in. The next version – and the Summer Games in Beijing are just 30 months away – had better present a significantly more integrated brand experience, or it’ll get tagged as a mere gimmick.
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February 15, 2006
Here’s an article, from the Macon Telegraph (GA), which could almost be titled “How To Be Creative,” by an ad agency creative director:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This article nails what it takes to be a professional creative. That is, not someone who gets lucky once in a while, but someone who can make a living at it. Voracious readership (and re-readership), for example, is an essential part of my being, and that of other creative people I know. Also, the constant squirreling away of odd bits of information, which get lumped together until they meld or bake or fester into something potentially new and useful.

I sometimes get emails from people who have come up with An Idea, and they’re scared to death of the thing. They have two impulses, which they struggle to act on simultaneously: how to publicize “their” idea, and how to protect it. That’s not the way advertising or any other creative industry works. Creative professionals may have problems. But generating more ideas is not one of them.
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February 14, 2006
Happy Valentine’s Day! And here, from BusinessWeek is a look at one of the day’s busiest companies in the hotly contested floral delivery sector:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I don’t know that I’d identify FTD as 1-800-FLOWERS’ closest competitor. I’d have said ProFlowers, but then, ProFlowers is based right here in San Diego. Anyway, I’d like to know what, if anything, 1-800-FLOWERS had to do with getting its name used as the punchline of a joke in the March 2006 issue of Reader’s Digest (p. 89, right at the bottom of the page). That issue was delivered the week before Valentine’s Day. Whether intentional or coincidental, the mention was perfectly placed and flawlessly timed.
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February 13, 2006
Here’s another article (the first was on November 7 2005) giving a glimpse inside hot Florida-based ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, this one from the Miami Herald (FL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is a good read. And, internal culture or not, the two things that differentiate this agency are the willingness to take creative risks, and the relentless focus on the consumer. Key creative concepts: that traditional advertising operates too far away from the consumer, and that impact increases the closer to the product you can work.
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February 10, 2006
Gateway has had its problems. And now, after a mere two years, just as its new retail strategy seems to be coming together and generating profit, it’s giving its CEO the boot. Here’s the story, from my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

See, this is the problem with publicly traded corporations. There’s no commitment, even at the very top, because the directors are driven by short-selling, short-sighted shareholders who demand massive rewards for the hard work of pressing a button on E-Trade.

How does that affect advertising copy? It means that branding, instead of being a long-term investment, is used as a short-term turnaround tool. And that advertising, rather than being used to support the brand, is used primarily to drive retail sales. That puts retailer advertising into a discounting mode, which in turn eats away at profits all the way around. No one wins. And another brand bites the dust.

I’ve talked about Gateway before (April 19 2004, September 14 and 17 2004, and an article about brands and branding). Despite the lurches in marketing direction, nothing beyond a realignment of distribution channels has changed in two years. I don’t mean to diminish that; shifting Gateway from being a retailer to supplying retailers was a colossal achievement.

But, in the end, what does the Gateway brand stand for? Making it mean something relevant is the key marketing challenge upon which Gateway’s long-term survival hinges. Unfortunately, it may be impossible, these days, for corporations to think long-term any more.
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February 9, 2006
Is the use of Spanglish the next new wave in advertising copy? Here’s the story, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX) via Middle East North Africa Financial Network News (Amman, Jordan, and Delaware):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I guess this latest incarnation made the leap into the big time with Taco Bell’s Yo Quiero Taco Bell campaign, the one with the Chihuahua. The use of a foreign language as an attention-getting device goes back forever, though. Nearly 50 years ago, there were print ads for Berlitz language instruction that practiced immersion and interactivity before interactivity was a buzzword. And, about 50 years before that, there were ads for lessons that taught you how to be a cultured person who could order meals in French and sprinkle Latin phrases into your conversation to impress others. The use of the foreign language, while used to get attention, was also relevant.

Toyota’s bilingual = hybrid argument is a bit of a stretch, I think.

I have, in my file of ads that never got produced, a TV storyboard for an upscale Mexican restaurant. It started out with your usual assortment of yuppies (this was in the 1980s, when yuppies were big) eating out and chatting. As they ate, and as the camera lingered over beautiful plates of food being eaten, their conversation evolved from English to Spanish. The tagline was (NAME OF RESTAURANT) ¡Auténtico!

I remember arguments over whether the tagline should be changed to ¡Authéntico! to make it more immediately understandable to non-Spanish speakers. I felt the word, particularly when spoken, was understandable as it was, and to make up a fake-Spanish word would be at odds with the concept of authenticity as the differentiator. But what killed the idea in the end, was budget. Hiring several yuppie-looking actors (you know the 80s mix: White Male, White Male, White Female, Black Male) who could credibly speak both English and Spanish, while eating, plus a food stylist, proved to be too costly for the restaurant. Too bad. I still sort of like this concept.
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February 8, 2006
Here are 50 tips for starting and maintaining a career as a working creative, from Computer Arts (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Although the article is aimed at illustrators, the advice is just as sound for art directors, graphic designers, and copywriters. I would particularly endorse the counsel to “work hard and be nice to people.” That alone can put you on a lot of people’s short lists.
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February 7, 2006
BMW gives the traditional audio book a clever, branded twist. Here’s the story, from gizmag (Victoria, Australia):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The stories are written and recorded to fit the average 40- to 45-minute commute, and each features a particular model in the BMW range. Authors range from the established genre writers to up-and-coming talent. And, the audio books will be available for free download from BMW’s website.

This is a digital-age version of what Ford did two years ago, by arranging for the Ford Fiesta/Focus to figure prominently in a then-new novel by chick-lit author Carole Matthews (Ad Blog entry March 1 2004). I think this effort at merging automotive real life and popular fiction is better integrated into the experience. You needn’t drive a BMW to enjoy listening to the stories, but if you buy into the idea of using the downloads as commute filler, you will be at the wheel of a car. And, I’m sure each story is written to make the sponsor’s car as alluring as any other seductive character.
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February 6, 2006
Super Bowl data is coming in, and the returns are not encouraging for advertisers. According to Nielsen Media Research, viewership was down 4% from the 2005 game. The buzz, outside of the obvious planted stories, seems mostly either uninterested or negative. Many articles reflected viewers’ disappointment in the advertising, like this one from MSN Slate:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Following that blistering ad review comes two pieces well worth a look. The first, from The Business Journal (Youngstown, OH) has TiVo’s list of the most-replayed commercials. The second, from Forbes, is Jack Trout’s commentary on the rise of utterly meaningless slogans:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

Findings from TiVo: that all of the ten most-replayed ads used humor. And that this was the first year in which a part of the game had as many replays as the most-popular commercials.

I agree completely with Trout’s criticisms of meaningless ad slogans (and David Ogilvy’s similar criticisms, and Claude Hopkins’ before that). Sloganeering is usually a waste of space and resources. A slogan may be an example of clever copywriting, but without sound strategic thinking and a long-term plan, it’s a lousy example of savvy marketing.

The thing is, at their best, slogans really do work. Trout’s short list of the greats prove that. The problem is, with today’s short corporate attention spans, will anyone commit to keeping even a great slogan any more? Sometimes, the hardest thing to convince a client to do, is nothing, when nothing is the right thing to do.
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February 5, 2006
It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the much-hyped day of great expectations. Oh, and there’s a football game on too. Here’s a refreshing take on the ad hype, from the Baltimore Sun (MD):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I watched about 20 minutes of the broadcast, then turned it off. The coverage was over-produced to the point of making it impossible to follow the game, and the commercials were either predictable or dumb or inappropriate for watching with small kids. So instead, I took a walk.

We live near a trailhead, and I saw several groups of people ascending and descending the mountain nearby. Although the groups included women, they were mostly men. A little further, a broadside of basketballs burst from a house, followed by a full-choke buckshot blast of teenagers. They started a game of basketball, one hoop above a garage door, the other across the street on a freestanding rig. As I walked by, they were joined by several other kids, and the air was filled with shouts, basketballs, and one tennis ball. The tennis ball belonged to a second knot of teenagers, further on, who were playing streetball. A block or two further, a small herd of younger kids on scooters pumped past, working their way to the top of a hill. Across the street, a group of men stood around a truck. The hood was up, and the men listened attentively to the motor rumble. Someone reached in and made an adjustment, and the rumble dropped a note or two. People were out gardening, building fences, welding cross-struts to trailers. Someone was playing a drum set. I walked maybe a mile before I heard the first Super Bowl party. It sounded almost incongruous.

So, who represents the cutting edge now? Those watching the Super Bowl? Or those not watching the Super Bowl? It could be a media event in transition, with ever-decreasing relevance. If so, it’s not about the event itself. It’s about other, more-personally directed media options displacing the Major Media Event in people’s lives.

I could be completely wrong. My neighborhood could be an anomaly, or everyone could have been watching the game on various hand-held devices. The numbers tomorrow may show a huge audience, a big success, and proof of the power of advertising on the Super Bowl. But, even so, it sure felt good to see all those kids playing a ball game instead of watching one on TV.
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February 3, 2006
First, a quickie from BBC News, sort of an obituary for the Western Union Telegram, which ceased service on January 27:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I suppose this is the first real casualty of media proliferation. I hate to see it go, but the essence of it as a potential direct advertising tool vanished when the company stopped hand delivery. So, I suppose it was never really a possible media play in my generation; besides which, a FedEx envelope would accomplish much the same sense of occasion and urgency.

Next up, are ten “rules” for creating a great Super Bowl ad, from USA Today via Red Orbit (Tyler, TX):
Advertising copywriter blog link

These are good guidelines for creating attention-getting ads, period; a view supported by the insights from creative giants like Jerry Della Femina, Bob Kuperman, Linda Kaplan Thaler, Richard Kirshenbaum, Phil Dusenberry, Cliff Freeman, Jeff Goodby, and Steve Hayden.
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February 2, 2006
I don’t normally call attention to press releases, but this one, a summary of Super Bowl media and marketing, has lots of interesting data to chew on. It comes from VNU, an information and media measurement company, via a PRNewswire release to Yahoo! Finance:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Some of the data merely confirms what I knew, or thought I knew. For example, that sales of soft drinks, beer, and chips rise significantly before the game. And, that the game’s viewing audience is becoming increasingly gender-neutral in scope. On the other hand, I was mildly surprised (perhaps you weren’t, but I was) to see that traffic to advertiser’s websites increased dramatically in the days after the game, showing that television viewers will remember and use URLs days later when motivated. Cool! Now, the challenge is to motivate viewers in ordinary advertising situations, when you have neither a sense of occasion nor an element of mobthink upon which to hang your hat.
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February 1, 2006
From the Tucson Citizen’s Tucson Business Edge (AZ) comes this story, forecasting the future of advertising media:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Prognosticators typically do a poor job, unless they’re deliberately mystically vague about their predictions. When I was a kid, the 21st century included such things as household robots, personal submarines, and flying cars. None of which, sadly, are on the practical horizon. However, those same forecasters missed pivotal events like the rapid spread of the household computer.

The problem with forecasting the future, is that most of us can only extend present-day models of thinking. Hence “Car” + “Future” = “Flying Car” (or “Robot Car” or “Alternative Fuel Car”) instead of something truly revolutionary like the Internet replacing cars entirely through telecommuting, pushing more jobs overseas and leading to the rise of third-world economies. The real future, when it arrives, is always so much bigger than predicted, and so much less dramatic.

The idea that a grocery cart will tell me that I’m low on soap is a linear extension of old media thinking. The future holds infinite possibilities and a great number of probabilities, only a tiny handful of which are direct extensions of the current model.

Whatever the future of advertising, it looks like a great time to be in it!
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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