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

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July 31, 2003
Wasn’t I just talking about that classic television commercial featuring a gorilla smashing around a suitcase? Yes, there it is, at the first of this month. Well, then, it’s appropriate to close the month with this article, from the Associated Press via the Atlanta (Georgia) Journal-Constitution:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Okay, two very interesting things about the article. First, it seems that Samsonite’s key corporate asset, as far as the AP reporter is concerned, is the image of a gorilla smashing around a suitcase. That shows the importance of branding. The second major point, is that the “Gorilla” ad wasn’t for Samsonite. It was for American Tourister. That shows the importance of maintaining your brand.
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July 29, 2003
There’s a new lonely Maytag Repairman. Here’s the article, from Ad Age:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Since 1967, we’ve had eight U.S. presidents but only three Ol’ Lonelies: Jesse White, Gordon Jump, and the new guy, Hardy Rawls. Now that’s branding.
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July 25, 2003
Dated Monday, July 28 but posted to the Net today, is this article in Mediapost about Dupont’s latest consumer advertising and branding campaign, which combines their Teflon, Stainmaster, Corian, and Zodiaq brands under the umbrella “Carefree Living”:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The $20 million advertising strategy is aimed at women who work full-time, and have children. Each ad will highlight one of the brands, but will be signed by Dupont. It seems like a coherent mix of consumer brands, a discrete target, with well-coordinated tactics. I like advertising strategies like this, where you hit a single target, with a single message, using a well-assembled team of corporate units.
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July 24, 2003
An article from AutoWeek about the new product-oriented ad strategy for Chrysler:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Branding is a long-term investment. Chrysler management is walking away from their latest brand-building ad campaign after a matter of months. The group vice president of global sales, marketing, and service admits that brand awareness is up, but can’t say if that branding effort affected traffic at the dealership level. What they do say, is that sales are down 4.9%. Unbelievably, it almost sounds as if Chrysler launched a branding campaign with no metrics in place, and is now turning to retail-oriented product ads to move inventory.

In any event, brand advertising and product advertising are not opposites. They work together. The mistakes Chrysler made, was deploying ineffective creative as brand advertising, failing to support that branding campaign with tactical product advertising, and delivering the wrong product mix at the retail level.
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July 21, 2003
The direct connection between psychoanalysis and advertising copywriting (and other elements of pop culture) is explored in brief in this article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
Advertising copywriter blog link

On a superficial level, it’s interesting how many common phrases (“I just need to vent,” etc.) come from psychoanalysis. On a deeper level, it’s interesting to think about how our knowledge of the workings of the brain have affected not just the language but the techniques of salesmanship. Key quote:

“For example, America’s earliest practicing psychologists were employed as advertising freelancers, translating the sensory physiology and direct suggestion of the day (the early 1900s) into product-touting print ads.”

Hmm. Seems to me that not much has changed.

Next up is this editorial from the Rockdale & Newton (Georgia) Citizen, which encapsulates the key argument against using celebrity testimonials in advertising:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The editorial focuses on scandalized sports figures, but it applies to celebrities in all fields. An advertising concept based on testimonials gives up an important element of control over the message, in the form of the person delivering that message. Often, it’s worth it. Testimonial advertising, celebrity and otherwise, has great appeal. However, it has persuasive power only to the extent that the people quoted have credibility to the target audience, in the context of the product or service being advertised. That’s the factor beyond the Q Factor, and one many copywriters forget.
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July 18, 2003
Okay, maybe Krispy Kreme is on my mind because I just got back from Atlanta, Georgia, home of one of the first Krispy Kreme stores. Here’s an article from the New Jersey Star-Ledger, via, about how Krispy Kreme built its brand without resorting to expensive media advertising:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Strong branding based on a consistent customer experience and tightly focused marketing. What a concept.
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July 17, 2003
This is a nice summary of Nike v. Kasky and the implications for advertising, p.r., and website copywriters, from the Sacramento (California) Business Journal. Be sure to read all three pages:
Advertising copywriter blog link

For the time being, press releases, articles, and website copy will have to stand up to the same standards of truth as traditional advertising. That eliminates the opportunity to express an opinion, no matter how well-supported, which, in turn, effectively silences corporations on any open debate of social relevance.

First, I believe that honesty is always the best policy in all advertising. However, this situation leaves corporations doing business in California absolutely helpless against false or misleading statements made in the media by individuals or groups of individuals who have an axe to grind. And, remember, media savvy is not the exclusive property of large corporations; some genuine nutcases seem to have a real knack for getting on the 9:00 News. The short-term result is going to be a cautious silence on the part of corporations, and corporate silence on social issues can’t be good for consumers.
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July 15, 2003
It’s about time: the FTC is now regulating infomercials as advertising, requiring the same standards for television commercials whether 30 seconds long or 30 minutes. Here’s the story, from WOTV News, Michigan:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is a good development, and long overdue. The basic infomercial strategy is to establish credibility through an extended demonstration. If that demonstration is falsified, the viewer is deceived, the marketing strategy is devalued, and a valuable advertising tool is destroyed. I wonder if the FTC will apply the same standards to online advertising films, such as Honda’s “Cog.” Not that it would have made a difference in the creative execution of that online ad, but it could help prevent unscrupulous marketers from using the Internet to dodge advertising regulations. Advertising copywriting is a craft of persuasion, using all the tools of writing and creativity. Lying is neither creative, nor in the long run, persuasive.
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July 14, 2003
Are we seeing the end of category advertising? The Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board loses a court battle to continue collecting $1 per head of cattle sales to fund overall beef marketing efforts. The “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” advertising campaign is the most-visible part of that effort. Here’s a report, from the Iowa Farm Bureau:
Advertising copywriter blog link

At a time when advertisers and the advertising industry are re-discovering that branding is more than a logo and a load of bull by-byproduct, large category marketers (including Florida orange growers) are putting themselves at-risk because of internal divisiveness. The danger - or the opportunity - is that one cattle producer could, by investing intelligently in advertising and branding, become the dominant force in the industry, resulting in further consolidation, and spelling the end of the boutique producer. The larger danger is that the market will simply fade away in the face of heavily advertised competition. At the same time, it is clear that the benefits of category advertising land mostly in the pockets of those producers with the largest distribution. Now, I’m just an advertising copywriter not a dealmaker, but it seems to me that distribution should be factored into the funding contribution.
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July 10, 2003
First up, Britain’s top ten advertising slogans, with “Beanz Meanz Heinz” right at the top. Next, Maurice Drake, the “Beanz Meanz Heinz” copywriter, rants about the state of advertising copywriting today. Both articles are from the (UK) Guardian:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

Only three of the top ten advertising slogans (Avis, Volkswagen, and Nike) will be known to U.S. consumers. More-notably, only two were created within the past 25 years. That shows how long-lived a corporate asset a good advertising slogan can be, and also shows how the years alone add value.

The second article is a response from the copywriter to the Heinz announcement that they may discard “Beanz Meanz Heinz” (see my response by scrolling down to July 7). Key quote, from copywriter Maurice Drake:

“In the 60s as an advertising creative you prided yourself on coming up with what we called properties - something that would enter the public consciousness and stay there. A property is like a house, you maintain it and you do it up every year and it will last.”

Replace the word “property” with today’s “branding” and there you have it.

There’s a bonus buried at the bottom of the second article: a reference to a recent Heinz campaign in which the company threatened to stop making a popular product. It caused widespread media coverage, and increased consumer demand so much that the company was able to double the price of the product while increasing its sales. Wow! These days, such a campaign might be called viral marketing. And, like any good viral marketer, Heinz never fessed up to the whole thing being a publicity stunt.

Contrary to traditional blogging protocol, I’m going to let Drake have the last word because what he has to say reflects my views so well, I can’t tell whose words they really are:

“Creatives used to be quite interested in the business of advertising. They’d be really keen to find out the sales figures because then they’d know whether their campaign had worked. But why bother using your imagination when you can spend £100,000 on special effects? Now you have all these, ‘Look at me, aren’t I adventurous’ campaigns that are full of special effects and are instantly forgettable.”

Okay, I would have said $, not £.
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July 9, 2003
Does HP finally get the concept of branding? Here’s an interview with Allison Johnson, HP senior vice president for global brand and communications, in Business Week:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Through Johnson, HP is saying the right things (for instance, about the iconic possibilities of the HP brand), but there’s still a level of corporate myopia here. They need to simplify the branding message. The answer to the question “What do you want people to think of the HP brand?” should have been about three words long, not two convoluted sentences. The branding message has too much bolted on for tactical effectiveness and too little accountability for the $400 million brand advertising budget. Still, $400 million carries its own branding weight, and Johnson’s analysis of competitive brands is spot-on. I am hopeful, but I also believe it could have been better, both for branding and market share.
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July 8, 2003
Jargon puts a barrier between product features and product benefits, which in turn puts a barrier between a product and its potential consumers. Every advertising copywriter knows this in his or her bones, but now this basic fact has the added weight of a worldwide survey of more than 1,500 electronics consumers, commissioned by chipmaker AMD and reported in the BBC:
Advertising copywriter blog link

However, there are two revealing quotes from Patrick Moorhead, chairman of AMD’s Global Consumer Advisory Board:

“The technology industry must simplify its vocabulary so that consumers around the world can better understand the benefits technology can bring to their lives.”

“The hi-tech industry is spending more than $10 billion a year in the US alone advertising the speeds and feeds of the products, but the industry is not getting the full value of their advertising dollars.”

Hmmm. Looks to me like they still don’t get it. Effective advertising means more than quoting feeds and speeds, and effective advertising copywriting means more than mere vocabulary simplification.

To be effective, advertising must transform product features into benefits that are meaningful to the consumer. And, part of the problem is that in their creative zeal, engineers frequently address needs and wants that consumers simply don’t have.

By the way, I took the BBC jargon quiz (which struck me as very silly) and scored a perfect 7/7. But, there’s a world of difference between knowing what things are named, and knowing how those same things are sold. Within that difference is persuasion and the job of the advertising copywriter. To get the full value from their advertising dollars, what the high-tech industry needs is less technical writing and more copywriting.
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July 7, 2003
Since the 1970s, Heinz has marketed its canned beans throughout Europe with the advertising slogan “Beanz Meanz Heinz.” It is one of the world’s best-known advertising slogans. Now, Heinz announces that it might dump the classic ad slogan, a branding asset into which 30 years and billions of marketing dollars were invested. Here’s the article, which also discusses other advertising controversies, in ic Wales:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Are they really that dumb? Oh, I don’t think so. Their clever little marketing strategy is to stir up renewed interest in the slogan and, by association, the product. The “contest” asking consumers to vote for whether the old advertising slogan should be retained or discarded, backed by the re-running of classic television commercials, is the tip-off. No sane company would willingly walk away from a brand asset as powerful as “Beanz Meanz Heinz,” and no advertising agency worth its salt would recommend it.
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July 3, 2003
These days, municipalities across the nation are outlawing billboards. That makes this story, from the Lincoln (Illinois) Courier, a bit of a change. Professional sign painters are going to Atlanta, Georgia, to restore advertising murals and signs along the old Route 66:
Advertising copywriter blog link

One of the advertising billboards is for Reisch’s Beer: “The Beer That Gives Health and Strength.” Today, any advertising copywriter who concepted a headline like that for a beer billboard would run afoul of a half dozen regulatory agencies and countless activist groups. But, as a piece of nostalgic Americana, it’s appreciated and even cherished on an entirely different level.
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July 2, 2003
Traditional media has discovered Honda's “Cog” commercial and others. Here’s Matthew Kauffman, writing in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Here’s the thing, though. These commercials are not attracting legions of viewers because they’re dumbed-down to fit the perception most advertisers seem to have of the TV viewing audience. No, these are compelling, targeted, specific sales films in which the advertising concepts have space to take flight and the product benefits are the stars. That they are also works of great beauty is appealing, but almost beside the point.

In my May 5 blog entry, I said that one possible cause for the projected “end of the 30-second TV commercial” was that 30 seconds isn’t long enough to sell anything. These wonderfully long commercials show what is possible when advertising copywriters and art directors have the space and time to really sell a client’s product.
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July 1, 2003
Two stories today from my home-town newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. The first is about the widespread use of front groups to build marketing buzz. These groups look like grass roots movements, but are in fact controlled from the shadows by people or corporations or organizations that are difficult to trace:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Such groups have been around forever, but the Internet allows them to thrive and proliferate rapidly. It also allows them to misfire badly, as in the oft-quoted Raging Cow campaign. To me, the whole thing raises questions about the definition of corporate communications as it relates to First Amendment free speech protections, like the Nike case (see my blog for June 26 and April 23), but that’s a blog entry for an attorney not an advertising copywriter. At any rate, it’s a situation in which increased consumer cynicism is a good thing.

Next up is something of a puff piece about the longest-running television commercial in history, the old woman tossing a tire through a Discount Tire Company store window:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This tv commercial has run, off and on, for 28 years. A couple years ago, it was re-done, badly (too slick and not nearly as funny), and it’s something of a relief to see the original back on the air. Here is one advertising copywriter’s opinion about what makes this tv commercial great. First, it has a simple point. Second, it makes that point in a simple visual way. Third, the point is not about price or any other product feature, but about credibility. Fourth, the creative execution is engaging, with a payoff that is both relevant and memorable. Fifth, the company has had the confidence to run the commercial for 28 years.

Name a luggage brand. Now imagine what your answer might have been had American Tourister continued running, off and on since 1972, its tv commercial featuring a gorilla slamming a suitcase around its cage. Advertisers often demand fresh ads for the sake of freshness, which is in itself a bad advertising concept. Unfortunately, the same is all-too-often true of inexperienced advertising copywriters and art directors, so steady growth is replaced by creative churn.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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