John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
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June 2008

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June 30 2008
I have two quickies today. First, that Australian guy who was auctioning off his life on eBay found that buzz did not translate into bids. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press, via
Advertising copywriter blog link

The winning bidder got a house filled with stuff for the price of the house, which may not be such a bargain. After all, not everyone wants all that stuff. One of the things that makes us unique as consumers is that by and large, we want our own stuff. Even if it’s the same stuff that everyone else has, or that we think everyone else has, we want the experience of buying into it because by buying A, the rejection of B and C is implicit within the choice. Consumerism isn’t just about what a person gets; it’s also about what a person rejects.

And, on that negative note, here’s a piece about how advertising is tapping into consumer anger and frustration, from ABC’s ever-chipper Good Morning America:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yeah, well, it’s all about establishing almost-instant rapport. To make the sale, the ad can’t start in the middle (“look what we’ve got for you!”). It has to reach out to consumers and start in the same place they are. And, right now, there are a whole lot of people who are not in a happy place.

That’s true, by the way, whether you’re selling a hot dog or a brand.
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June 27 2008
This is cool: a media research company says it has identified key factors to creating advertising that wins awards at Cannes based on bio-sensory analysis. Here’s the story from Centre Daily Times (State College, PA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

While a lot of this sounds like a geek’s-eye view of Advertising Concept & Copy 101, the fact is that this is, once again, scientific validation of the emotional approach used successfully for centuries to create effective advertising and build brands. People choose with their hearts, and the data is piling up in favor of an intuitive, emotionally resonant approach.

What’s also important, though, is the “speed of engagement” factor. This is kind of a page from the traditional hard-sell model, engaging within two seconds instead of five. In other words, delivering emotional resonance doesn’t mean letting the connection unfold over the course of the ad. It means hitting fast and hard, right at the heart of the customer. Then, engaging the brain side at just the right moment, in what they call the “cognitive jolt.”

What was not measured in this particular study, was whether the high-scoring ads were more effective in the marketplace. However, the connection between what is engaging and what is effective in advertising is solidly established; after all, an ad that fails to engage will fail to persuade.
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June 25 2008
Finally, a response to Mad Men, the TV show set in an ad agency in the 1960s in the form of an exhibit at the New York Public Library. Here’s the story from the Associated Press via amNewYork (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Mad Men is a fine series, but it’s no documentary, or even a mockumentary. Its portrayal of life in advertising is as entertaining – and as realistic – as another TV show set in an ad agency in the 1960s, Bewitched.

Which is why I think it’s great that the featured ad in the article is Shirley Polykoff’s Does she ... or doesn’t she? for Clairol. As an industry, advertising was an equal right pioneer, something that’s easy to forget these days. Look at Polykoff, Mary Wells Lawrence, Phyllis Robinson, Janet Boden, Rita Selden, Jane Trahey, Diane Rothschild, heck, Bernice Fitz-Gibbon nearly a half-century before them. (Speaking of Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, here’s a quote from her that rings true 80 years or so after she said it: “No ad is ever sought out and read by anybody except the person who wrote it or the one who paid for it.)

Anyway, there are plenty of collections and exhibits of great ads. What’s nice about this one, is that it celebrates the people who created those ads in the first place
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June 24 2008
Credit card company VISA wants businesses on Facebook to promote its online services, so it’s offering advertising credits to the first sign-ups. Uh huh. Here’s the story from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

And here’s the problem: like MySpace, Facebook was never built as a place to conduct ecommerce, particularly business-to-business ecommerce. The B2B stuff might be tolerated, but it will never be accepted, which means long-term engagement levels will remain low. I guess this is a sign of corporate desperation, as more companies turn their efforts toward attracting business customers; after all, US consumers are pretty much tapped out despite the economic stimulus checks. In fact, consumer confidence in June hit a new low, according to one survey (Advertising copywriter blog link).

The thing is, though, you have to go where the customers are. And, no matter what the raw numbers say, qualified B2B customers – decision-makers currently considering a need for professional or financial services – won’t be found on consumer social networking sites. Nice idea, but the wrong media channel.
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June 23 2008
As the focus shifts in China from damage control to Olympic celebrations, sponsor brands look to make the most of the attention. Here’s the story from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

At the end of the article, someone points out that an Olympic sponsor has never yet had its image damaged by the actions or policies of the host nation. But there is always a first time. The whole media environment has changed; today, viewers’ access to content is exponentially greater than it was just four years ago. That brand damage has not happened in the past is no assurance that it will not happen now or in the future.

However, once the Games get going, it’s all about the competitions and national pride. Olympic sponsorship is all about the afterglow.
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June 20 2008
I have a companion piece to yesterday’s look at marketing Microsoft. Yesterday looked at the past; today’s article looks to Microsoft’s future marketing, currently in the hands of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Here’s the story, a long agency profile piece, from Fast Company:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Whoever wrote the article headline missed the point. Microsoft doesn’t need to be made cool. It needs to be made relevant to the myriad divergent niches that constitute today’s personal computer market. In some cases, that will mean doing unexpected things which might be seen as cool after the fact, but that’s just marketing. You can’t market to “cool;” coolness is not a state to which one can aspire without being decidedly uncool.

The biggest challenge is that Microsoft is far from being a blank slate. There’s baggage there (most notably Vista and recent EU anti-monopoly decisions), unlike most of the brands for which CP+B has done justifiably jaw-dropping work. And yet, there is opportunity there as well; with the direction personal computers are going, one needn’t position Microsoft against Apple or Linux or Firefox or adopt any product-oriented direction. Despite the past, the field is wide open to re-define Microsoft and its relevance to consumers on an individual level. It’ll be interesting to see what happens!
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June 19 2008
Here’s an inside look at the marketing juggernaut that is Microsoft, straight from Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and other key players, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

These videos play here across the pond, unlike most of the BBC’s multimedia content, and they’re definitely worth looking at. Key bits are quoted in the article, but it adds a lot to see Gates talk about executing a plan for growth, which is marketing at its most fundamental.

I don’t believe that Microsoft products are or ever have been the best software in the world, although they’ve been a de facto business standard for well over a decade. What made the difference, was changing the software business model to entrench Microsoft in a niche – software for non-technically oriented people – a niche that grew exponentially as microprocessor and memory prices came down and computer sales went up. That was a monumental marketing decision, and it shaped everything that followed.
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June 18 2008
What happens when a brand’s logo becomes literally iconic; that is, it joins the common cultural iconography? Here’s what happened with the Red Cross’ red cross, a modern-day clarification to a centuries-old handshake agreement with medical supply brand Johnson & Johnson, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

What’s surprising here, is that it took more than a century for the Red Cross and Johnson & Johnson to find themselves competing in the commercial marketplace. At any rate, the case probably needed to be pushed, just to clarify the rights each party had. And now it’s resolved in favor of the original logo owner, the Red Cross, which had licensed the symbol to J&J in the late 19th century. But J&J apparently retains the right to continue using the logo as well.
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June 17 2008
When it comes to promotions and incentives, free or cheap gas is today’s iPod. Here’s the story, from BusinessWeek:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This whole gas promotion bandwagon has grown considerably since I first talked about it, back on May 29. And, contrary to former wisdom, I think the gas-related promotions temporarily make a lot more sense for some of those organizations than it does for Chrysler. To be seen as an automaker subsidizing gas guzzlers is the wrong PR move.

But hey, the blood bank’s sweepstakes where one lucky winner gets free gas for a year? That sounds appealing. And never mind the blood for oil angle; that’s sort of been done on a tragic scale.
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June 16 2008
Here’s the latest analysis of the value, both in trade and marketing, of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

And now, here’s what a little ol’ advertising copywriter thinks. Global brands sponsoring the Olympic Games will remain global. In fact, global brands not sponsoring the Olympic Games will also remain global, and many people will swear that their favorite commercial on the coverage of the Olympic Games was something that never ran.

China-only brands, meanwhile, may grow market share in China, but won’t extend their brand coverage to the rest of the world. In fact, local participation is where the advertising opportunity is. When a small brand associates itself with a big event, that has more relative impact than when a brand already perceived as big and international aligns itself with the Olympic Games.

As far as tourism goes, China will continue to be viewed as a totalitarian state because it is a totalitarian state. Since it’s expensive to get there, what with the price of oil and an unstable global economy, the vast majority of people will say that they aren’t visiting China because of that nation’s restrictions on liberty and freedom, which has so much more cachet than saying they can’t afford the flight. By the time fuel costs come down (or incomes go up or the economy begins growing), the Olympic halo will have passed.
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June 13 2008
The pending Google-Yahoo ad deal is yet another example of media consolidation despite lip service to niche marketing and media. Oh, but they call it “convergence.” Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Convergence, consolidation, po-tay-to, po-tah-to. The result is the same thing. True niche media will get squeezed out by conglomerations of nearly infinite niche power but only superficial niche depth. And true niche audiences will either settle for being poorly served by the media giants, or will change the rules. Again.

I think it’s ironic (in a bad way) that online media is developing the same way that broadcast media did in the 1920s and 1930s. Small, local, channel-focused control and development gave way to large, national, network-focused control and development, where it remained for nearly half a century before technological advances enabled the re-splintering and proliferation of both the media channels and the audiences.

From a brand management perspective, it’s interesting that Microsoft’s early hardball approach to Yahoo achieved exactly the alliance that Microsoft, to all appearances, wanted to circumvent.
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June 11 2008
Hotel branding now extends to the art on the walls, the design of the room key, the music in the elevator, and even the scent of the lobby. Here’s the story of an upscale hotel chain that hired an art curator to help bring its customer experience in line with its brand, from The New York Sun (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The brand experience at a hotel is quite a bit broader than other services, often spanning several days and nights. So it’s really cool to see Starwood’s Le Méridien take full advantage of the length and depth of the customer experience. I especially like how the guest key cards provide access to other cultural venues, both extending and integrating the brand essence.

It’s like I always say: the brand isn’t one thing; it’s everything. Consistency across all the touchpoints, both internal and external, is the key factor in the success or failure of a brand’s development.
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June 10 2008
Here’s a great article about landing page concept, copy, and content, from Search Engine Land (part of Third Door Media, Redding, CT):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ve never seen landing pages as merely an extension of the ad or the website. All those components need to work together to create a harmonious, strongly branded whole. It’s what used to be called, in the days before media fragmentation, a campaign. And that’s true whether the ad that drives traffic to the landing page is an online text box, or a traditional direct mail piece, or even a broadcast URL.

In fact, having the landing page relate directly and inextricably with the advertising is even more important when you’re using a multi-media, multi-channel approach. And it’s about more than look and feel; it’s about tone and the entire persuasive structure of the experience. And that’s where a good copywriter can help make everything work seamlessly, so the customer experience is smooth and cohesive.
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June 9 2008
Some of the best TV commercials will never be seen on the air, as advertisers flock to pile onto the already overloaded YouTube bandwagon. Here’s the story about beer brands going viral with not-ready-for-prime-time TV concepts, from the Associated Press via my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It seems every generation thinks it invented the universe. “Viral marketing has been around for more than a decade”? Try more than a century. Multiple centuries, in fact. Viral marketing dates back to the beginning, when firms paid storytellers to travel the countryside telling illiterate peasants wonderful tales of how this product or that helped cure the King, save the country, fatten the pigs. Technology has changed, but the intent and the approach hasn’t: to work a brand message into a piece of entertainment that people willingly pay attention to.

Not unlike a good ad, really.
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June 6 2008
Here’s a great story out of the Toronto office of Ogilvy & Mather, about an intern who hit a conceptual home run, from The London Free Press (London, Ontario):
Advertising copywriter blog link

For starters, it’s a great idea. It has everything you look for in a killer concept: simplicity, charm, authenticity, stickiness. But what’s really cool here, is that the people at O&M Toronto spotted it, recognized it, and pushed it way farther than it might have gone otherwise.

See, this is why I urge young creatives to aim for an ad agency job first, rather than start out freelancing. The same idea, outside of the supportive environment of an ad agency, could easily have been just another box back, and the opportunity to do something really big would have been missed.
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June 5 2008
I have two today, both related to marketing based on sports events. The first, is about horse racing’s next possible Triple Crown winner, Big Brown, and plans to cash in on the merchandising dollars should lightning strike. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’ll be a major event, if it happens: the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. And yet, I don’t see a huge market in Big Brown Beanie Babies or Big Brown shirts. For one thing, brown is ... well, simply not a hot color right now, and I don’t think a Triple Crown winner will make it so. Second, Beanie Babies are already passé. Third, in an economy in which people are worried about putting food on the table, I don’t think fadwear is going to go far. As a campaignable concept, that horse just doesn’t have legs.

Next up is this one, about the value of Euro 2008 sponsorship. Euro 2008 is the European football championship. And here’s the story, from NetImperative (London):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This major, multi-national game series is just days away, and most fans don’t know who the sponsors are. That echoes post-game research done here in the U.S. about Super Bowl advertisers, which showed that many fans recall ads that never ran from companies that weren’t sponsors. I find it interesting that German football fans were simultaneously most aware of the sponsors (a mere 28% didn’t know them, compared to 77% unawareness in the UK) and most resistant to accepting brand messaging such as that communicated by, oh, a sports event sponsorship.

However, the field-side banners seem to be effective. That bodes well for future bootleg banners as part of an ambush marketing program.
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June 4 2008
Marketing to women is a common enough topic. But these women are in the Middle East. Should that matter? Here’s the story, from AME Info (Dubai, UAE):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I was surprised – although upon reflection there’s no reason other than prejudice that I should have been – that marketing to women in the Middle East faces the same issues and challenges as marketing to women right here at home. People are people are people.

And I totally agree that the pink approach more often than not indicates laziness on the part of the marketers adopting it.
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June 3 2008
Now this is package design immortality, of a sort. The deceased designer of the Pringles potato chip can has had his ashes interred ... in a Pringles can. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via
Advertising copywriter blog link

The tubular packaging was awarded a patent in 1970, and it still stands tall as an icon of junk snack food.

Part of Frederic J. Baur’s cremated remains were put in a regular urn, and part in a Pringles container. It’s a macabre A/B test, but one I’m sure Mr. Baur would be interested in: which will stay freshest the longest?
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June 2 2008
More about the sponsors and ambush marketers of the Olympic Games, this one from The New York Times via Yahoo! Finance:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I wonder what marketing experts the author of the article was talking to before this, the ones who dared not suggest that being an Official Sponsor of the Olympic Games might not deliver a positive ROI, especially these Olympic Games. Heck, I know marketing people who said that years ago, when the very idea of Beijing as the host city was being mooted. Still, there’s more to marketing than advertising, and in this case, the marketing clearly includes kissing up to the Chinese government. I’m not saying that’s a bad reason; indeed, from a corporate growth standpoint, it’s an absolutely compelling reason. But it’s outside the bounds of the typical advertising discussion, which tends to focus on, well, ads, because ads are the most-visible part of a marketing plan.

Despite creative criticisms and possible backlash, I would fully expect that those companies sponsoring the Games will get their money’s worth. It just won’t necessarily show up in the sales column right away.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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