John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
June, 2005

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June 30, 2005
A scathing critique of the latest television commercial for Coca Cola Zero, from the Chicago Sun-Times (IL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I don’t know. I think this is a clever concept, anyway, and the self-referential irony may play well to the younger crowd even if advertising curmudgeons won’t get it. The music delivers a nice twist, but the copy falls well short of iconic standard. Notice how the original lyrics were written with no slang, and imagine how the classic Coke “Hilltop” commercial would play today if the tagline was “The Fab Thing.” Yeah, I know, “Everybody Chill” is the brand slogan, but, see, that’s exactly why it’s not a good slogan. In six months, the copy, slogan, song, and everything about this commercial will be dated, if it isn’t already. It already plays like a 40-year-old trying to be 19.

But, where the new spot really falls down is visually. Its “updated” direction and camera work completely misses the original’s story arc: single to small group to large group to environment, monochromatic dress to brightly colored clothes, plain to pattern, all-American faces to ethnically diverse faces. In place of a story, there’s nothing but the visual punchline for which we’re set up from the beginning.

It’s too bad, because with a little more effort, this could have been great. Maybe that’s what makes it so excruciating.
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June 29, 2005
A terrific overview of the problem with pitches, from The Economic Times (India) via Agencyfaqs!:
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For most ad agencies, and even many freelancers, pitching is a way of life. But, it shouldn’t be. What we build is a long-term relationship between a brand and its customers, and both advertisers and agencies are best served by having long-term relationships between themselves.
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June 28, 2005
One big problem with brag-and-boast ad slogans: if you don’t live up to them, they backfire. Here, Sports Illustrated columnist John Rolfe comments on some baseball team slogans that might have been better left buried in an internal PowerPoint presentation:
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Key smart quote: “inspiring rallying cries are best generated by players and fans in the actual heat of battle.” I think that’s true whether you’re talking beans or baseball, which is why I also believe that a copywriter’s best assets include the ability to shut up and listen to the customers, and the ability to recognize a good slogan when it comes out.
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June 27, 2005
A new study by Yankelovich quantifies significant changes in the way kids and their parents relate to each other as families, making buying decisions as a team. Here’s Yankelovich’s press release, via Yahoo! News:
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Some of this appears to be a mere semantic adjustment reflecting what’s always happened in families, but the 5-page topline report (available as a PDF via email, and well worth sending for) reveals fundamental shifts in the fabric of society. Parents are managing the seemingly contradictory positions of including their children in decisions while providing firm boundaries. At the same time, kids are more independent and accepting of individual differences. And, if the study is to be believed, they are happier as well.

The “generation gap” of the 1960s and 1970s has closed to the point of virtual non-existence, which changes the picture for all age-related marketing efforts. The labels “youth marketing” and “senior marketing” are increasingly irrelevant today, as are the demographic concepts upon which those terms were based.

It’s something of an irony, that in this age of ever-tighter niche marketing, the demographic pool within any niche is getting broader. It’s the revenge of the customer! Will marketers and advertisers keep up?
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June 24, 2005
It’s not a new story: advertising providing the soundtrack to people’s lives. But, for more bands, going commercial means breaking into the big time. Here’s the story, from Reuters:
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Sure, this tactic raises the performer’s profile. But, what does it do for the advertiser? Can an off-the-shelf song be as effective as a branding tool as audio branding with a custom tune? I think not, but, as the article points out, there are lots of obstacles to doing it right, not the least of which is that the soundtrack is usually a tactical afterthought, not the strategy.
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June 23, 2005
A defense of pharmaceutical advertising, citing reduced costs and increased consumer awareness of choice, from the Health section of yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle (CA):
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I’ve touched on drug advertising before (June 24 2003, October 12 2004, April 26 and May 17 2005). And, although the economies of scale that can be achieved through gaining market share is an unassailable benefit, I’m not comfortable with the growing misapplication of John Stuart Mill’s argument for a free market of ideas. First, On Liberty was a theory of open political debate, not advertising. Second, a free market of information mandates that complete information be exchanged, something that, in the case of pharmaceuticals, can’t be achieved in a 30-second television commercial. Third, the intelligent interpretation of information about drug choices requires a contextual understanding which the average consumer lacks. Finally, the level of information bombardment is much higher today than it was in 1856, when On Liberty was conceived and written, yet it has made us no more free. In many important ways, it could even be argued that the overabundance of information has made us less free. 

I’m not sure what the answer is, other than that it’s not increased government regulation. 
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June 22, 2005
People sometimes think of advertising award shows as self-indulgent celebrations of the wacky over the savvy. But, these Cannes winners show that creativity applies to strategy as well as to execution. Here’s the story, from yesterday’s USA Today:
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That said, I do have reservations about whether some of these concepts actually worked in the real world. For instance, I doubt that Pontiac’s giveaway gambit on Oprah was more-effective than the same amount of money spent some other way (after all, the underlying message was “we have to give them away,” and nothing has happened with GM’s market share – or advertising strategy – to make me think any differently). And, the clothing company’s “soft porn” DVD giveaway pulled in orders for more DVDs, not clothes.

I like the two TV concepts, which brought an element of playful interactivity to what is often a passive medium. But, my favorite concept here is Chevrolet’s use of Columbian taxi dispatchers to pitch its fleet vehicle on radio dispatch calls – now that’s a neat use of targeted media!
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June 21, 2005
An article from BBC News combining two of my favorite things: advertising and watches. Here’s the story, about rising sales of high-end Swiss watches:
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The resurgence is strong enough that non-watch companies are joining the parade. Fashionable names like Hermes and Dior may not be watchmakers, but they are brands. And branding is a key element in the success of the category, according to Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry:

Much of this success, Mr Pasche said, is down to improved marketing.... “Marketing is very important and brands have done a lot in the last few years to communicate their products more precisely,” he said.
Another notable thing, is that the increase in the dollar volume came without a corresponding increase in sales volume. In other words, marketing and advertising translated directly into higher profits-per-unit. Hey, what we do works, huh?
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June 20, 2005
An amusing story, about the founder and owner of an advertising agency who spends part of his leisure time being a hobo. Here’s the article, from the Duluth News Tribune (MN):
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This guy has far and away more guts than I have. My own past includes many happy summers spent tramping around the Southern Sierras with friends. But somehow, I find lurking bears less fearsome than lurking people, and wilderness less wild than urban environments.
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June 19, 2005
The real estate section of my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune carried a profile of Lawrie Barratt, founder and retired chairman of Barratt Developments, PLC, a homebuilder on an international scale. My heart leapt when I read these words of infinite wisdom from Sir Lawrie himself:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ll just repeat them here, for your viewing pleasure:

When it comes to housing, building is the easiest part, Sir Lawrie holds. To be a success, you have to sell your dwellings. “It’s marketing that separates the men from the boys, the wheat from chaff.”
Ahh! I do like to hear that.
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June 17, 2005
Podcasting is a terrific advertising opportunity, but it’s an open question as to whether or not advertisers recognize it. Here’s the story, from New Media Age via E-Commerce Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I have suggested implementing an advertising solution that included podcasting at least twice in recent weeks. Both cases involved products and services that needed a highly-targeted reach. Both cases involved companies that couldn’t afford traditional media advertising, at least with a frequency that made sense. Both cases were potentially ideal for podcasting. And, in both cases, I was unable to adequately explain the concept to clients who felt more-comfortable dealing with traditional media solutions and the security of printed media kits.
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June 16, 2005
Building a brand, and sales, on $20,000: a success story from Inc. Magazine:
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As much as I love consumer advertising, this shows how thinking beyond it can generate great results. Here, the pitch was to the trade, and the hook was a terrific promotional idea, delivered by a hard-driving sales staff which was the primary message medium.
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June 14, 2005
I like this story about the only (intentionally) non-profit ad agency in the U.S., from Greater Milwaukee Today (WI):
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It’s always great to see the power of advertising used for good causes. While many ad agencies take on pro bono projects for non-profits, SERVE is set up as an ad agency itself, with 75 high-powered volunteers. This could allow the agency to handle non-profit organizations as clients instead of as projects.

The other thing I like about this story, is the discussion of the creative process. Neat stuff!
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June 13, 2005
Proctor & Gamble reduce their television ad spending, and suddenly everyone’s flapping. Here’s the story, from Motley Fool via Yahoo! Finance:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The thing to remember is this: P&G may be a colossal corporation and a major advertiser, but it does little or no advertising. It’s P&G’s brands that are advertised. With increasingly niche-oriented brands, broadcast television has become an increasingly ineffective media buy.

The article talks about product placement on programs as if television were still the only media. The reality is, there are lots of ways to reach brand consumers outside of television, or even mass-media advertising in general. Technology, along with increasing consumer willingness to use that technology, allows ever-tighter targeting with more-relevant messages and offers. For a packaged goods company with the breadth of P&G, that seems like an obvious choice. Which brings up something else no one seems to have noticed: P&G has used brand websites and e-newsletters to carry its message forward for years.
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June 10, 2005
The long-promised market segmentation delivery arrives (finally) to cable television. Here’s the article, from The Boston Globe via (MA):
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I have to give a little boost to the fact that this technology is being driven by market research from Claritas Inc., a company based here in San Diego.

However, this is still market segmentation by allocating multiple budget sets. Six different audiences, six different television commercials to write and produce, six different programs on which to buy time. And, as yet, no way to track which ad on which program aimed at which audience pulled the best results. (Something, by the way, that would be easy as falling off a log – or checking one – with online marketing.)

Also, the reality is that every consumer only sees relevant ads, and always has. For centuries, people have ignored messages that didn’t relate to them. But, until recently, advertisers haven’t had the technology to track exactly how unconcerned consumers are with the vast majority of their efforts.

Okay, micro-targeting is the future of television advertising, and programming as well. But this is just a tiny step forward.
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June 9, 2005
Palestinians and Israelis unite to fulfill a common brief: an ad campaign promoting peace in the Middle East. Here’s the story, from the International Herald Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

What I find amazing, is that the campaign is the result of a collaboration of more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli advertising professionals, culled from agencies of all sizes with a few freelancers thrown in for good measure. Eighty! No wonder it took more than a year to make this happen. Conceptually, the television commercials sound like an idea that emerged safely from a committee: children reaching out to other children. But, they strike the right chords and the execution – the copywriting, art direction, pacing, casting, direction, production – could lift them into excellence.
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June 8, 2005
The world’s largest media company, based on market capitalization, is now Google. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
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Google is valued by shareholders at some $80 billion, against annual sales of $3.2 billion. The second-largest media company, Time Warner, is valued at $78 billion, against annual sales of $42 billion. So, Time Warner’s share price is roughly 2x annual sales, while Google’s share price is 25x annual sales. Assuming Time Warner shares represent fair market value, Google’s sales will start to catch up to its share value when it has increased some 12 times over. At that point, the issues are (a) the sales then will just about justify the share price now, and (b) how much more growth potential will remain to support an even higher share price?

Now, to bring this back to advertising copywriting, here’s what many financial analysts aren’t considering. Ordinary folks do not think of Time Warner. But they do think of Google, often many times a day. So, the spread in corporate valuation – some $70 billion dollars worth of capitalization – could hinge on the value of the Google brand.

That’s one more way strong, consistent branding brings value to the bottom line.
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June 7, 2005
The prize for the best professional use of the rude term “bugger all” goes to this article, about the challenges of maintaining intellectual property rights in the chaos of pitches, from Media Week (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I suppose in a perfect world, advertising agencies would refuse to do creative work on spec, and potential clients would never demand it. Speculative creative is seldom on-target, unless the agency has sunk time and money into its own research, and gets lucky on the client relationship side as well.

The practice of advertisers demanding speculative presentations could also be the root cause of a lot of the attention-getting but strategically unsound creative out there today. Everyone shoots from the hip. No one takes the time to aim first. And, if the shots miss, it’s easier to order up another free creative shoot-out  in the form of an RFP than to take the time to adjust the sights.
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June 6, 2005
Product placement is everywhere, and the U.S. isn’t the only nation that suffers from its effects. Here’s the story about not just product placement, but scripted moments of promotional dialog in soap operas, from Deutsche Welle (Bonn, Germany):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Everything old is new again, and this sounds very much like the early days of the radio soaps, when promotions were constantly woven into the plots and dialog, initially as a measure of audience involvement but later as a secondary profit center. It’s been a while since I mentioned it, so I will again: for a good look at the history (and future) of product placement and advertiser-driven media programming, read James Thurber’s “Soapland,” in The Beast in Me and Other Animals.
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June 3, 2005
Sometimes selling personal ad space works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Some eBay moms are trying to auction off the opportunity to have their adorable children wear the logos and brand names of the auction winners. Here’s the story, from Knight Ridder News via the Billings Gazette (MT):
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However, as several people in the article point out, most kids are already covered in logos so the auction winner doesn’t get anything that really stands out, especially in comparison with some of the other personal ad space stunts (like forehead advertising, for instance). As far as clothes go, I suspect that my own kids (5 and 3) may be two of the few who don’t own apparel on which a character or brand name is the dominant design theme, although that may change as they enter public school and peers become more important in their lives.
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June 2, 2005
It’s the deep, dark secret of creative professionals: how much money do they make? And here to answer that burning question, is the AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries, with the results of the 2005 survey just released:
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A few thousand design professionals (with 251 copywriters thrown in for good measure) nationwide is a pretty small number from which to build out a meaningful cross-section. Key pay factoids: owners and principals are holding steady, web developers are dropping a bit, and the biggest gains seem to be lower in the chain, in production. Which makes sense: good production people are getting harder and harder to find.
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June 1, 2005
Is this a return to guys being guys? Or a return to crudeness? Advertisers targeting young men are increasingly appealing to the reptilian side in an attempt to break through the clutter and build rapport. Here’s the story, from USA Today via Yahoo! News:
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A backlash against political correctness is hardly news; the pendulum has swung at least a couple times since the term was popularized. Neither is the creative on display anything strategically novel (the stuff for Axe seems like a re-hashing of the old Hai Karate ads from the 1970s).
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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