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

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June 30, 2004
Although people can and do change their minds, some opinions are simply immoveable. This article, from the Wharton School’s Knowledge@Wharton (PA) discusses “stickiness,” the connection between social identity and judgment (and branding):
Advertising copywriter blog link

More evidence that a branding message isn’t about saying “we’re better” or even “we’re different.” It’s about saying “we’re you.”
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June 29, 2004
File this under Committees That Don’t Understand Branding, a very fat file indeed. Here’s the article, about branding Iowa City, from the Iowa City Press-Citizen (IA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Here’s a taste of committee-think in action, should you care to read it:

In 2001, ICAD [the Iowa City Area Development Group] and a consultant completed a branding process for the community that resulted in a brand statement, which included: “REACH for Iowa City: A community with a world-class combination of Recreation, Education, Arts, Culture and Healthcare.”

Included? You mean there’s more? And this has been on the table since 2001?

I don’t know whether to feel exasperation or commiseration toward the branding consultant. On the one hand, one purpose of an outside consultant is to protect the client from themselves. On the other hand, I’ve faced similar committees, with, sadly, similarly stupid results in the end, and not for lack of trying. The line itself, especially that REACH acronym, positively reeks of desperate inclusiveness.
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June 28, 2004
Inevitability file: someone got a book out about “branded entertainment.” Here’s an excerpt from Madison & Vine: Why the Entertainment and Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive, courtesy Ad Age (QwikFIND ID AAP75U):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The author, Scott Donaton, is an Ad Age editor, and the article (bylined by Donaton) has a whiff of self-promotion. And why not – this looks to be an important new book for advertising practitioners. This particular chapter deals with pitfalls in uniting brand-oriented content and entertainment, and the edited excerpt is a terrific read. I liked the recommendation, attributed to Steve Heyer of Coca Cola, that the key to successful brand/entertainment integration is to be “critically incidental.” That’s brilliant. And, I especially liked Donaton’s injunction that “forgetting that the consumer comes first is a surefire model for disaster.” That’s true of everything we do. I think there’s too much advertising-focused marketing these days, and too little consumer-focused marketing.

There are no new concepts in this excerpt, which deals with past examples. But, there’s lots of great stuff, and I’ll definitely read the book to see how Donaton spins his premise forward.

(By the way, for a backward look at how advertising/entertainment convergence worked in the old days, read “Soapland,” James Thurber’s readable and relevant study of the radio serial, collected in The Beast in Me and Other Animals.)
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June 27, 2004
A weekend entry because I read this article about product placement and corporate sponsorship in Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I found the history fascinating, going all the way back to what is thought to be the world’s first sports endorsement deal, between Winchester Repeating Arms and exhibition marksman Adolph “Ad” (good nickname, that) Toepperwein, in 1901. This deal would last 50 years, which would be astounding today, and the close relationship lasted even longer. Winchester also signed Ad’s wife, Elizabeth, who was as good a shot as he was despite having not picked up a rifle until meeting him. The Toepperweins toured together, putting on exhibitions and breaking records. The marriage was by all accounts a happy one, and lasted until Elizabeth’s death in 1945, pointing up another difference between the sports celebrity of yesterday and today.

Toepperwein had a background that primed him to seize upon commercial endorsement as a way to both promote his talent and augment his income. His father was a noted Texas gunsmith, and Ad himself, before he became famous, worked in the media, as a daily cartoonist for the San Antonio Express.
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June 25, 2004
More about the rise of “branded entertainment,” from the Sun-Sentinel (FL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Although the concept is nothing new (radio programs and magazines were doing the same thing 100 years ago), the environment is. Not only are regulations more complex and restrictive, but audiences are more skeptical of all advertising and branding messages, including those integrated into entertainment. Commoditizing product placement within programming is not the answer. Providing brand-centered value to the audience, however, is.
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June 24, 2004
Mass marketing is declared dead like a phoenix, in this excellent article from Media Post:
Advertising copywriter blog link

What we lowly copywriters have known all along has finally dawned upwards into C-level marketing circles: customers are not persuaded en masse, they are persuaded (often in masses) one at a time. Now that the trend is shifting from broad mass-market appeals to focused micro-market messages, dare one hope that we’ll also see a renaissance in copywriting?
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June 23, 2004
Branding a product or service or company often starts with a name. Here’s a good naming primer, from this month’s Inc. Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ve created dozens of company, product, and service names, and it’s one of the more fun copywriting projects. Fun, and a lot of work, requiring all the discipline of creating an ad, distilled down to a word or two. One approach is the made-up or irrelevant brand name, which relies on frequency to build recognition through media weight. Another approach is the explanatory brand name, which combines relevant words or parts of words to build comprehension through semantic meaning. Both of those approaches are invariably well-represented in the concept generation phase. In the end, however, the brand name must connect emotionally, as-is, where-is, which means the budget, lifecycle, and timeline all must be taken into account. Read the jump story too, a Q&A session with naming expert Alex Frankel.
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June 22, 2004
Youth-oriented marketing may be in for a comeuppance (a fine old-fashioned word, that). Here’s a great article looking at the 35+ demographic, from the Kansas City Star (MO):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I printed out this article because I wanted a hard copy to study, highlight, notate, and file, and I urge you to do so too. There’s a lot of good stuff here, from a broad historical perspective on American consumerism to a brief real-life advertising case study. And, statistics like this tidbit: age 40+ households control 91% of the population’s net worth and 65% of the population’s discretionary spending. I’m a creative guy, not a numbers guy, but no one can ignore figures like that.
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June 21, 2004
A town in Oregon hangs its hopes on branding. Here’s the article, from yesterday’s New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link


Big ideas are usually simple. And, being simple, they often appear dumb, or, obvious, or not an idea at all. Yet, there is power in simplicity, should the advertiser (whether a community or a company) have the guts to persist.

I remember a conversation with another freelance copywriter many years ago. He shook his head in disbelief about the direction he had received from the designer on a project. “He told me the concept for the piece was ‘blue.’ Blue! And that was the concept!”

I’ve come to believe that that designer may have had something.
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June 18, 2004
Cigarette maker Brown & Williamson gets into trouble for an ad campaign and promotion that, according to the New York Attorney General, targets children through its use of hip-hop music. Here’s the article, from the The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Let’s get beyond the issues related to cigarette marketing. This case points up the difficulty of capitalizing on trends in advertising. The generation gap, that psychosocial fixture of the 60s and 70s, is gone. More and more, pop culture transcends and confounds demographic categorization. Even though today’s marketing person is inundated with data about everything from media to consumer behavior, in the end it hardly matters any more. Mass market motivation takes place on an increasingly individual level, which undermines the concept of broad demographic appeals. The result is a fragmented and complex market in which the touchpoints may be both single and singular: a 9-year-old inner city kid and a 35-year-old suburbanite, connected only by a love of (for example) hip-hop music.
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June 17, 2004
Introducing (again) the latest old concept to hit print advertising: pre-testing. Here’s the article, from Media Daily News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

First, I’m a big believer in testing at all stages of advertising development.

That said, one key factor that the article doesn’t address is that testing costs have increased to the point of diminishing returns for many print-based ad campaigns. Spending half the media budget on pre-testing is neither feasible nor advisable. The percentage of budget for testing is lower with television advertising because the media costs are higher and the audiences (and, therefore, the marketing messages) are generally broader.

A huge part of what has driven up testing costs, is increased complexity due to the increased influence of advertising researchers who have a deep understanding of research and only a superficial understanding of advertising. The comment from one research director that “you can really produce one of each (print ad) if you want” reveals the fundamental disconnect between advertising practitioners and researchers.

Finally, web-based testing of print advertising, as one company proposes, will produce results as valid as print-based testing of television advertising. The medium is intrinsic to both the message and the audience.

The whole thing strikes me as a strong argument for the reintegration of research, media, account service, and creative in this new-fangled business unit I like to call an advertising agency.
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June 16, 2004
There’s something ghoulishly fascinating about reading marketing post-mortems. Here’s a good one from The Money Programme from BBC News, about Coca Cola’s disastrous U.K. launch of Dasani bottled water:
Advertising copywriter blog link

In reading this, one can see an otherworldly attempt by Coke to separate the product reality from the brand mythology. That is unsustainable: strike one. Then, there was the culturally ignorant choice of bottling location, which allowed the product to be connected with a classic and well-known episode of a very well-known sit-com: a minor detail but, because of its relevance, strike two. As for the contamination issue, that was sheer bad luck, but it was the third strike. Dasani might have survived any combination of two of these. But three was the tipping point, even for a company with the resources of Coca Cola, and within five weeks of launch Dasani was no more.

For another good product failure case study involving a popular U.S. brand in the U.K., see my blog entry for December 3, 2003, about P&G’s Sunny Delight.
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June 15, 2004
A follow-up to my May 20 entry, about the advertising cat-fight between Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Company. After puffing up their fur and taking a few soft-pawed swipes at each other through the courts, both sides are standing down, sort of. Here’s the article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Going negative to taint a competitor works to sell everything from political candidates to financial services, but there’s a nuance to packaged goods advertising that seems to be missing here. Without saying I agree with the strategy, because I don’t, my primary criticism is directed at the execution. Hanging an entire campaign on cleverly deriding a competitor was a ham-handed approach. There’s a way for a copywriter to throw a reader’s internal emphasis on what appears, in all innocence, to be a throw-away line. That may be what needed to happen here to give legs to the campaign.
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June 14, 2004
Back on track (so to speak) with an advertising-related entry. This article, from the Associated Press via the Daytona Beach (FL) News-Journal, looks at online technology that tracks your web browsing behavior to serve up relevant ads:
Advertising copywriter blog link

With that in mind, here’s a counter-link: Ad-aware, a program that identifies, quarantines, and removes spyware, tracking programs, and data mining cookies. I run it daily, and every time it catches and removes about 35 low-grade “threats.”
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June 13, 2004
A totally off-topic entry, but it’s my blog and it’s Sunday. I was re-reading Typhoon, a short story by Joseph Conrad. You can read the full text here:
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Am I alone in thinking that Captain MacWhirr, far from being a simpleton, embodies a Zen-like wisdom in his processes and actions? Did Conrad study Zen? An Internet search turned up nothing, yet to me the connection seems crystal clear.
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June 11, 2004
As a quick follow-up on my entry on Wednesday (June 9), here’s an article about soccer (or football) teams and their brands, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s all about sales. And sales, for a sports team, hinges as much on branding as it does on having a winning season. By the way, if you haven’t yet listened to the Brand It Like Beckham radio programs linked to on the 9th, you should. They’re good.
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June 10, 2004
Copywriting pop quiz: all else being equal, which line is likely to generate more sales?
    1. “Spend $50 and you’ll get a free gift.”
    2. “Get a free gift when you spend $50.”

Formulate your response, then read this article on the importance of testing, from (MA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The weasel term “free gift” (yuck!) aside, I thought the first one was better because it sounded like a more credible offer. Offer #2 seemed to give me something, then snatch it away with a condition, focusing my attention on the weasel instead of the offer.

So, it was no surprise to me that the first line outpulled the second in A/B testing. What did surprise me, was that the first line outpulled the second by a whopping 50%. Testing pays. But, so does honesty.
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June 9, 2004
And now for something completely different: a four-part radio program (or, programme) called Brand It Like Beckham, about professional sports and branding, airing this week on BBC Radio Five Live:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Meetings kept me from tuning in live via Internet, but I finally got around to listening to the archived programs from Monday and Tuesday, and they’re well worthwhile. Each one is about 30 minutes long. Program One focused on individual personalities, while Program Two was about building a brand around teams. There are two more segments to go (airing today and Thursday) and I will definitely be tuning in for them. If you miss it live, look for the “Listen Again” links for the archived streaming audio.
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June 8, 2004
A good article about creativity, from Local Tech Wire (SC):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The only words I will add are not my own. They’re Bill Bernbach’s: “The heart of creativity is discipline.”
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June 7, 2004
After I wrote Saturday’s entry about kids and advertising (scroll down one entry to see it), I read this relevant column by child psychologist John Rosemond in my local newspaper. But, I couldn’t link to it for you, so here’s the same column, from the more search-friendly Sun Herald (MS):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Because I create advertising for a living, I can clearly see the media techniques used in children’s brainwashing – oops, read that programming (still a good term for it, though, on many levels). It’s what Rosemond calls “flicker.” Watch the camera work on any kid’s show, and you’ll see what I mean. Turn off the sound, use a stopwatch, and time the scenes. You’ll see how even so-called educational programming is priming kids to learn in video bites of 5 to 10 seconds or less. I’m no child development expert, but that can’t be good.

Because I create advertising for a living, my own kids simply don’t watch tv regularly (by that I mean it’s typical for multiple weeks to go by without the television being turned on). They see occasional programs (with either their Mom or me watching with them) as treats, and because the rise in media and brand awareness make it socially important for kids to be culturally literate at an earlier age (a four-year-old in pre-school, for instance, probably needs to know the characters in shows like Arthur and Sesame Street, even if they’re not a part of the household routine). I’m lucky, though, because both my wife and I work at home. So, we can be present for our kids in a way that simply isn’t an option for many parents. But that, too, may be more of a choice than some people think.
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June 5, 2004
A rare Saturday entry, because this is extremely important. Here’s an article about advertising, branding, and kids, from the Globe and Mail (Toronto):
Advertising copywriter blog link

When it’s aimed at children, with still-developing brains and brain processes, advertising is more akin to brainwashing than anything else. I've ranted about this many times before (April 16, 2003, May 5 and 6, 2003, November 13 and 21, 2003, and December 5, 2003, to point to a few such entries).

As an advertising copywriter, I think the industry needs to watch its step or it’ll find itself getting regulated or legislated into creative oblivion.

As a parent of two little boys, I think the horrible thing, and the point too many people are missing, is that this brainwashing is happening with not just parental consent, but actual parent approval and cooperation. When it comes to children, the proper response to advertising, as with many negative influences, is parenting.
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June 4, 2004
For Friday, an interesting article about advertising and promoting European Union elections, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Individually, there are some wacky ideas here. Yet, as a whole, this is yet another example of how closely advertising and democracy are connected. In a free-market economy, advertising does not merely present choice; it creates choice, and in the image of the consumer no less. That’s democracy in action.
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June 3, 2004
Blur the line between entertainment, product placement, and spoof ads, and what do you get? A lawsuit. Here’s an article about the fallout from a (presumably) fake Absolut vodka ad that was part of the plot on HBO’s Sex and the City, from Ad Age (QuikFIND ID AAP69L):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The story contains one minor detail I find amusing. The model is suing in part because he says he refuses assignments involving alcohol or nudity. Faux nudity for a fake ad within a work of fiction, however, is apparently acceptable.

The real issue, though, is one of determining compensation for those who bill based on market exposure. Copywriters and art directors generally don’t, but this group includes a lot of people we work with, including photographers, illustrators, directors, models, actors, and voice talent.

Just because something is successful doesn’t mean someone can bill more for it after the fact. But, thanks to the Internet, it’s getting harder to contain exposure, even without introducing the concepts of viral marketing, buzz-building, and marketing-savvy opportunism.

For instance, was sending out a press release pointing out the fake ad part of an integrated marketing program designed to get worldwide exposure? Or was it Fair Use?

Look for more of this sort of thing until the confusion clears.
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June 2, 2004
A search on my alma mater pulled up this insightful paper on rebranding the United States, from Dr. Nancy Snow, an associate professor of communications at Cal State Fullerton and contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think Dr. Snow nailed what went wrong with Charlotte Beers – a focus on tactical rather than strategic thinking, combined with an astonishing but almost complete dismissal of the real world. I ranted about this more than a year ago in my Ad Blog entry in March 2003 (scroll down to the March 19 entry).

However, it’s easy to sit on the outside and take shots at the people doing (or trying to do) the work. I wonder if any one person can really handle the “U.S. Image Campaign” assignment. Beers, a top advertising outsider, couldn’t. Margaret Tutwiler, a top political insider, couldn’t. Today’s geopolitical environment aside, given all the people and bureaucracies involved, each with their own agenda, would you take the job?
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June 1, 2004
It’s savage the marketing guru day. Here’s a ferociously well-reasoned criticism of Al Ries’ branding tenets, from a competing guru at Marketing Profs:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The problem as I see it, is that advertising and branding in the real world is much more fluid than any one guru thinks. A fixed dogma may give one a process to help respond to a real-world situation (e.g. “Ten Steps to a Killer Brand”), but it is the real world that imposes results on the process, not the reverse. All communication, including advertising and branding, is fundamentally a living process (see my April 28 entry for more about that idea), and as such yields little to dogma.
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Backwards in time to May 2004

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

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