John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
July 2009

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July 31 2009
I’m outta here! I’m taking a break from advertising, computers, internet access ... even electricity. And the only running water, will be the sound of a tiny creek feeding into the Yuba River. (Or, one of the kids peeing on a tree.) Yup, I get to light out for the territory. But, I’ll be back in the harness, recharged and reloaded, upon my return to sivilization.
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July 29 2009
A new research center backed by media and entertainment giant Disney purports to be unlocking the key to pre-measuring advertising effectiveness. Here’s the story, from Mediaweek:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Among the breakthrough findings so far:

One recent study focused on live ads on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC's late-night talk show. According to Peter Seymour, evp, strategy and research, Disney Media Networks, the research showed that a live ad combined with several companion spots for the same product in the broadcast boost unaided recall to the brand by more than 20 percentage points.

Ooo, frequency works. Ooo, ooo, and credibility rubs off. Next finding:

The lab also measured a new ad format recently introduced on Good Morning America, where a 30-second spot was framed by local weather forecasts for markets around the country. Aided and unaided recall were found to be 24 percent and 29 percent higher, respectively, when the ads were framed by the local forecast than when they weren’t.

Hey! Context matters! It really does!

I look forward (seriously) to some fresh research into cross-media advertising campaigns to pinpoint the exact media weight at which any given campaign breaks out of the background noise. Unfortunately, such a campaign is subject to so many variables, that finding answers could exceed the parsing abilities of even the most-sophisticated laboratory, and the findings, such as they are, will descend into platitudes like the ones above.
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July 26 2009
There is a glut of television advertising time on the market. Here’s the story, from USA Today:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yeah, well, whinging like this only considers one side of the equation: the fact that sales are stagnant and inventory is piling up. What goes unexplored, is the fact that total available media volume has dramatically increased since the last recession, in which there were fewer media options and online broadcast media wasn’t even a factor.

When developers see a recession looming, housing starts go down. When auto manufacturers see a recession looming, they cut production. But when media companies saw this recession coming, they frantically sold, merged, and consolidated while simultaneously spinning off, starting up, and splintering. So the old-line business is down; this could be a new reality for media companies.

Television programming still draws viewers, and television advertising still works, so TV still has value for advertisers. But fixing a dollar amount to that value, that’s what’s changing.
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July 23 2009
Yes, yet another laid-off advertising creative reinvents himself. But this time, the reinvented self is ... a laid-off advertising creative. Here’s the story, from the Melrose Free Press (Beverly, MA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This guy (a copywriter/ACD) went beyond the usual freelancing solution, and created an entire community of laid-off ad professionals. Heck, this sounds like most wanna-be virtual ad agencies, except that its members are more-usefully connected. Anyway, I think this is cool stuff. And I say that as someone who’s been a jobless (but, thankfully, never projectless) advertising creative for nearly two decades.
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July 22 2009
A TV commercial for Hardee’s biscuit holes riles a Hardee’s franchise owner in North Carolina. Here’s the story, from Brandweek:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’d be easy to overlook this as just another conservative vs. creative tussle, except that there’s little to complain about in the ad itself. Yes, the A-hole/B-hole thing could be taken as risqué. Or, it could be a perfectly innocuous A/B demonstration taste-test, which is what makes it such a pitch-perfect send-up of the comparison advertising genre. Also notable: neither the taste-test moderator nor the VO at the end refer to or acknowledge either objectionable term; the script was carefully crafted to put the A-hole/B-hole language entirely with the “ordinary consumers.”

Yes, this is what happens when out-of-market people get to provide input and clout into marketing messages that simply aren’t aimed at them. But, really, this is a tempest in a teacup, which makes me rather suspect that the franchise owner’s real goal in stirring up this forgettable brouhaha was to make waves for his own brand: himself.
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July 21 2009
True luxury brands (not wanna-be lux brands) actually seem to be thriving despite the recession, at least with their core products. A case in point: ultra-expensive luxury brand Hermes. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Note what’s up and what’s down at Hermes. The brand’s core products, like clothing, leather goods, and textiles were up, and by as much as 33%. Brand extensions, like watches, perfumes, and tableware, are down.

Also notable: an industry analyst credits Hermes’ “established brand reputation” for its performance. Hey, whadyaknow, branding actually delivers ROI.
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July 17 2009
A recent study by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (with the gag-like acronym MAAWG,) reveals that fully one-third of the people surveyed acknowledged clicking on a spam email. Holy smokes! Here’s the story, with links to the full MAAWG report, from SecurityProNews (Lexington, KY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The survey covered 800 internet-savvy general consumers in the U.S. and Canada. Here’s a relevant clip:

When asked what is most important to them in sending and receiving email, personal email from friends and family is most important, followed by receipts and/or shipping details, and notifications from banks and creditors falls into third place. Other types of emails, newsletters and marketing materials fall into the final tier.

In other words, even an actual opt-in to receiving high-value, time-sensitive content is bumped three levels below Aunt Claudia’s 186th emailed photo of her schnauzer.

You can read the full report; the summary is contained in Part 1 and the data comes as a zipped file in Part 2. But, as a marketer, this is the important thing to understand: your receipt and shipping notification may be the last piece of email you can send to a customer with any expectation of it being opened. That makes it an incredibly valuable marketing tool. And yet, how many e-commerce marketers follow up the sale with receipts and shipping notifications that include, oh, personalized offers or notes? Surprisingly few, considering human behavior.
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July 16 2009
A new movie, Art & Copy, explores great advertising and the people who created it, while neither demonizing nor satirizing but, rather, humanizing these advertising heroes. Here’s the story, straight from filmmaker Doug Pray, writing in the Huffington Post:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ve long defined advertising as Performance Art, with ROI. So, I especially liked this line: “They defined mainstream culture even as they challenged it.” That simultaneous act of creative destruction and construction lies at the very the core of doing work that breaks through the clutter while remaining contextually relevant.

If you create something that is unexpected, fresh, revelationary – you may well have created art. But to create advertising, you also must make it matter to an ever-changing throng of individuals who are then moved enough to act.

At the end, Pray wonders “... if the act of advertising, itself, is somehow an innately human behavior.” I would assure him that it is indeed innate, like colorful plumage on birds. Advertising, after all, is the world’s oldest profession. Yeah, yeah, I know everyone says some other profession is the oldest. But, you know, she wasn’t a professional until she advertised.
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July 15 2009
Ah, my good old hometown San Diego Union-Tribune, barking after an internet news story a week later. Still, it’s another press coup for hometown guitar maker Taylor Guitars. Here, five full days after I mentioned it in the Ad Blog, is the local story:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is cool because it reveals a little of what happened behind the scenes at Taylor Guitars to capitalize on its momentary pop-culture fame. One of the advantages a smaller organization has, is the ability to move fast and strike while the iron is hot. This is practically a case study showing how to manage a sudden sensation, which is every bit as devilish a situation as handling a sudden crisis.

The other brand highlighted in the song and the music video, United Airlines, comes off as sheepishly doing the right thing after all, which might have been the best of all possible outcomes once the thing gathered steam.
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July 14 2009
Most viral advertising is like a mild cold – you just ignore it. But some viral ads actually break through and achieve mindshare. Here are nine that gamers might consider memorable, from GamePro:
Advertising copywriter blog link

After looking at them, I have a couple comments. First, most extend beyond the 15 or 30 seconds common to traditional broadcast media. This proves, again, the relative futility of attempting to sell in such a small media space, and also disproves the idea that young people have short attention spans. The exquisite direction and evocative feel of many of the pieces (notably, the ones for Resident Evil 5) demonstrate the power of pacing in commercial storytelling.

Second, most are strikingly conservative in their tactical approach. They’re short films, music videos, PR releases (albeit from fictional characters), staged events, and other mostly self-contained marketing tools. The notable exceptions are #9 for Wario Land “Shake It,” at the top of the list, which literally breaks out of its medium, and #2, the “I Love Bees” alternate reality event (it goes way beyond a mere game) schemed up for Halo 2. Cool stuff!
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July 10 2009
A musician gets revenge on United Airlines for allegedly mishandling and breaking his guitar, by takin’ it to YouTube and creating a viral hit. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s a catchy tune, perhaps one verse too long but compared to a year-long quest for compensation it’s very short indeed. The video is well executed too.

But what’s important here from a marketing perspective, beyond the communication platform YouTube has become, is the branding that’s taking place. Hometown guitar maker Taylor Guitars (right down the hill from me in El Cajon) emerges as a hero, both in the song and in the company’s reaction to the video. It offered to try to fix the guitar, and created a related page on its website. The musician has put United’s brand squarely in his sights, right down to the oft-repeated title line: “United Breaks Guitars.” And United Airlines has contacted the musician, not to threaten but to ask permission to use the music video as part of a training program – a carefully calculated and well-managed response.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I worked on a small project for Taylor Guitars through their agency, many, many years ago. I’ve forgotten what it was, but knowing the shop it was probably pretty cool. Although, since I have no samples, it’s also possible that the project didn’t make it to production. My own guitar is a Korean-made Fender DG-11. Ayup. And it’s still an infinitely better guitar than I am a guitar player, so ... there you go.
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July 8 2009
I was watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with the kids (the original one, with Gene Wilder, which author Roald Dahl hated), and we watched some of the DVD extras. That’s when I learned, and this may be old news to many, that the movie production was funded by the Quaker Oats Company! Here’s a link to the IMDB trivia page on the movie:
Advertising copywriter blog link

If you scroll down you’ll come to this

The film was originally financed by the Quaker Oats Company. They hoped to tie it to a new candy bar they intended to bring on the market. When the film was released, the company began marketing its “Wonka” chocolate bars. Unfortunately, an error in the chocolate formula caused the bars to melt too easily, even while on the shelf, and so they were taken off the market. Quaker sold the brand to St. Louis based Sunline, Inc. (which later became part of Nestlé via Rowntree) not long after this ...

So the whole thing was much more than a movie-product tie-in, it was the creation of an entire brand universe sitting at the intersection of fiction and reality. Very cool!

Oh, to continue from yesterday’s entry, the old Ourworld-dot-CompuServe version of my Tightwad Marketing website is now down, which means I managed to get the new one slammed up just in the nick of time. (Mega thanks to my friend Blaise at BrainShine, who offered me a great deal on a hosting package on the server space he owns.) When I called CompuServe customer service, I learned that my old account had been automatically cancelled as well, so ... it’s all over. All those archived weekly chats about photography, all those questions and answers from various forums, my early (and unsuccessful) attempt to set up an Internet horology chapter of the NAWCC – it’s all been deleted. It is not just the end of an era, it’s the erasure of it.
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July 7 2009
RIP CompuServe! Here’s the story, from The Register (London, UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

So, after many years of procrastination, I spent half a day today migrating my old Tightwad Marketing website to a new dedicated home. Fortunately, the old Ourworld-dot-CompuServe website was still up, despite the fact that it should have gone dark July 1. So, I could download some files directly off the website using my browser, instead of having to hunt all over my C-drive for the originals. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be no way for me to access my old website to set up a redirect, so link propagation will be painfully slow.

This means it’s time to cancel my CompuServe account, which I’ve had for more than two decades. Yes, my email address was one of those 12345.123 number sequences, back in the day when just having email was a big deal. I also was a sysop on one of the forums, and held weekly chats, the transcripts of which were archived. Yes, I moderated a chat room way, way back, and frankly I have to say that Twitter, for all the buzz, isn’t a significantly different animal.

I held onto that old CompuServe account all this time as a back-up in case Cox, my current ISP, ever went down in a big way. That’s a carryover worry from the days when Internet connectivity was much more fragile than it is today; even during the fires here in San Diego, I never had a major outage. And, I’m not even sure my current computer has a modem.

Well, cancelling the account should bring the old site down, at least. So long, CompuServe!
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July 6 2009
When big box retailers go under or close up shop, they leave huge holes in the commercial landscape. Here’s a story from the Associated Press via, about these new urban “ghostboxes:”
Advertising copywriter blog link

In past Ad Blog entries, I’ve offered up links to websites about abandoned railway stations, forgotten highways, and derelict urban buildings. I love this sort of thing. But abandoned retail spaces, unlike most other urban derelicts, represent a past state of consumerism. That’s what makes them intensely interesting to me as an advertising professional.

There’s a derelict retail space a short walk from my house. A Fresh&Easy grocery store went into part of the space, but probably four-fifths of what used to be a mid-sized Ralph’s has sat empty for more than three years. The vending machine cage in front of the store sits empty, its wire mesh door swinging to and fro. If you peer through the filmy, dusty sliding glass doors, you can still see the hanging signs – produce, fresh meats, dairy – their colors fading and their designs growing dated.

One day, I’d like to get in there with a camera. Others may think it’s a blight, but I think it’s a fascinating time capsule.
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July 3 2009
The late Michael Jackson had an electric effect on audiences – and on advertising. Here’s a good look at the landmark Jackson-Pepsi deal that set the stage, so to speak, for almost all the music celebrity branding deals that followed, from Billboard:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I remember when this campaign broke, and my first thought at the time was what a massive brand undertaking it was. This campaign pre-dated the other landmark TV commercial of the 1980s, Apple’s “1984” spot for the original Macintosh computer, and in terms of concept it was exponentially bigger. This was the biggest big idea I’d ever seen.

My second thought, as the campaign continued, was that Coca-Cola had essentially abandoned the field, leaving this thrust unparried and unanswered. That lack of response played a critical role in tipping the scales in favor of Pepsi’s success. Pepsi, having laid the groundwork, was practically marketing into a custom-made vacuum that sucked product off shelves. All they had to do, was keep the momentum going and the supply lines full.

Actually, Coke did respond, in a strategic sense. But that response came in the ill-fated form of New Coke. Coke might as well have simply gone tactical with fresh advertising; they’d have spent less and might have held more market share.

That’s the problem with big ideas; some of them turn out to be big flops.
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July 1 2009
There are a few reasons I like this story, from BBC News, about the release of some, um, rare and unusual music recordings from the 60s, 70s, and 80s:
Advertising copywriter blog link

First, I have a soft spot for odd or, at any rate, less-popular music. My disorderly collection includes punk and new wave acts that never quite made the big time, Cal Tjader, albums released by drummers (which sort of includes Cal), Suzi Quatro, and Gregorian chants, and it’s tempting to throw some of Stan Kenton’s later work into the oddball category too. So hearing that there was more little-known rock being released just took my fancy.

The second thing I like, is that the founder of one of the major record labels, if such a niche player can be called major, is a former advertising copywriter! See, we can do things that are socially significant, like restoring to the world the music of 1970s porn.

The third thing I like, is this quote from copywriter-turned-music-impresario Jonny Trunk:

“Everyone thinks it’s lucrative and it’s not. It’s a lot of work to not make a lot of money. So you’ve got to do it because you really want to do it.”

Very much like advertising copywriting (despite outlandish claims to the contrary from those with something to sell to wanna-bes) and a lot of other worthwhile ways to make a living.
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Backwards in time to June 2009

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

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