John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
June 2011

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June 30 2011
What makes effective online advertising work? Media company owner Ari Jacoby cuts through the gobbledygook and says it’s all about location. Here’s his thinking, from Ad Age Digital:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Jacoby asks a tough question: “Can you name an online ad campaign?” And then he follows it up with “How about a favorite online video or TV ad?” Ayup. If you’re like most people, you drew a blank on the first question but had lots of choices for the second.

That’s not because TV or online video are intrinsically better than traditional online ad formats. It’s because people aren’t looking at traditional online ad formats. Never mind how much your banner ad image expands, moves, or speaks – site visitors don’t see it because they’re not paying attention.

Key snip:

According to the International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, which recently reported the Wharton study, ads that leverage users’ existing attention earned 65% brand recall and 35% message recall.

Moreover, marketers who buy integrated placements are rewarded with engagement rates of 30%, compared with 3% for rich media and a measly 0.15% or less for beleaguered banner ads.

I think another missing piece is relevance. Look, people click on jump stories, polls, navigation, and other relevant on-page links all the time. The problem is, the ads aren’t as interesting as wherever else the person is headed. And that points to a problem with either the creative, or the strategy on which the creative is based.
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June 28 2011
The American Academy of Pediatrics wants to combat childhood obesity by banning fast food advertising on children’s TV programming. Here’s the story, from Yahoo! News’ The Week:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yes, it’s time again to ride my hobby-horse: marketing aimed at kids. While well-intentioned, I think the AAP would get better results by urging parents to set more-active examples (possibly, hey here’s a thought, through advertising). Look: adults are getting increasingly obese, and they’re not watching children’s TV shows. That’s because they’re in the next room, watching their own favorite TV shows. Responsibility for the children begins and ends with the parents.

Just the other day, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of gamemakers to sell violent videogames to kids – games that glorify theft, murder, and rape – citing the First Amendment. Setting aside the violence, I think such games are far more hazardous to society’s health than Ronald McDonald because gameplay is designed to be addictive, with sequential challenges and unrealistically pyramiding rewards. Under the AAP’s proposed ban, fast food commercials would vanish, making way for commercials for retailers, brand-name goods, and Grand Theft Auto.

I think the real issue is that, whether through advertising or gaming or programming, we’re creating a generation of people addicted to consumption. Yes, sales drive innovation and advertising drives sales. But the problem may be that our power of marketing now exceeds our power of thought. And that’s a potential innovation killer right there.

Meanwhile, every TV ever sold has a device that prevents kids from seeing ads, fast food or otherwise. It’s called an off switch.

Just in case you want to read more of my Ad Blog entries related to advertising and marketing aimed at children, here they are (older entries you have to scroll down to reach): March 1 2011, December 8 2010, June 3 2010, December 7 2009, October 24 2009, July 8 2009, December 17 2008, August 4 2008, July 30 2008, November 13 2007, October 30 2007, October 23 2007, October 18 2007, March 19 2007, February 28 2007, January 15 and 31 2007, December 19 2006, November 14, 17 and 20 2006, October 2, 3 and 27 2006, June 11 and 12 2006, April 4 2006, January 20 2006, November 22 and 30 2005, October 20 2005, June 27 2005, April 14 and 27 2005, March 16 17 and 24 2005, February 17 and 28 2005, December 22 2004, November 15 and 16 2004, June 5 and 7 2004, December 5 2003, November 13 and 21 2003, May 6 2003, and April 16 2003.
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June 27 2011
Washington, home to some of the hottest ad agencies in the world, has become the first and only state to close its tourism bureau and cut its marketing budget to zero. That’s right: Washington state will no longer promote itself as a tourist destination. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via the Denver Post (nearby competitor CO):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The only other state to have made similar cuts, Connecticut, did so a few years ago; now it is increasing its tourism budget and ratcheting up its promotional activities in an attempt to regain lost market share. Of the remaining states, about half have cut their tourism budgets. The other half, sensing opportunity, have increased their budgets.

I think it’s foolhardy to eliminate marketing to tourists, especially in light of summer vacation. Of course, one could argue that vacations for this summer have already been booked, but I suspect there are plenty of opportunities (like marketing through last-minute travel deal sites and aggressively pursuing in-state travelers). Also, highly targeted media channels have never been more accessible or affordable, what with social media, subscription-based or opt-in email lists, and the ability to leverage user-generated content. All it takes is someone with the vision to make it happen, someone who can see beyond traditional media budgets and make the most of what’s out there. Tourism is Washington’s fourth-largest industry; to shut down marketing that industry is like turning off an airplane engine mid-flight. You might be able to glide for a while, but you can’t gain speed or altitude and eventually all you have to look forward to is a rough landing.

Hey, if Washington state would accept the help of a freelance advertising copywriter in San Diego, I’d be thrilled to help develop a whole new way to go about destination marketing. We might not change the world. But we can change the way the world advertises.
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June 24 2011
Two best buddy filmmakers have turned their ability to create cheesy local TV commercials for small businesses into a growing enterprise and a TV show. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via Yahoo! News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Some might say their success demonstrates that any advertising is better than no advertising. While that’s true, as far as it goes, I actually think these guys have done a bang-up job. The thing is, you have to look beyond the creative.

Or not. In this era of universal hipsterdom, the sheer badness of the creative is (a) a refreshing change, (b) an ironic reference to advertising in general, or (c) a way to be immediately accepted as parody. Or, most likely, (d) all of the above; whatever, you’re watching.

Yes, the ad concepts, such as they are, telegraph their punches a mile away. On the plus side, you know what’s coming, you know you’re going to be marketed to, and you’re still watching.

Many of the spots are :60 or longer, which harks back to my concern that :10 and even :30 isn’t long enough to sell anything.

The spots use local talent. Who doesn’t want to watch their neighbors on television? That’s why shows like Cops are so popular; there’s always that hidden hope of some really personal schadenfreude. Is that Bob? Ohmygosh it is! It is Bob! Of course, the modern version is lurking via remote webcam, ostensibly just enjoying a brief break watching the waves roll in but really hoping to see something dramatic and possibly quite horrible.

Finally, the spots may or may not actually run on TV, and therein lies the magic of the beast. They run on YouTube and other online channels, where they use a mass of existing subscribers to help spots go viral and eventually, through sheer volume, work their way back to the advertiser’s hometown. It’s a mass media model, applied to social media and tweaked for today’s communication channels. And it works.
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June 23 2011
To capture a suspected gang leader who’d evaded them for years, the FBI took a different approach, using a different tool: advertising. Here’s the story, from the Boston Business Journal:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The campaign generated an arrest within days. Now that’s ROI.

What’s interesting, is that the FBI didn’t turn to the media channels du jour to gain traction. Instead, it ran a very traditional, albeit highly targeted, mass-media-centric campaign.

I think the key factor in the success of the campaign was what some people, clinging to their cups of new media Kool-Aid, are calling “interactivity.” In other words, the marketing had a clear call to action.

This gets back to what I’ve always said: all advertising is fundamentally interactive. It must move people, whether the metric reflecting the move is increased preference or increased leads or increased sales. Without a clear call to action, what’s the point?

A little reminder about the purpose of advertising, courtesy our friends at the FBI.
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June 21 2011
Brain scans demonstrate the power of advertising in creating behavioral preferences, from soda pop to pop music. Or do they? Here’s the story, from Scientific American:
Advertising copywriter blog link

In a nutshell, several years ago scientists ran their own version of the Pepsi Challenge with an eye toward measuring the effect of branding and developing predictive techniques based on brain activity. Subjects were put into an MRI and given Coke and Pepsi from labeled tubes. But sometimes the tubes were mislabeled. The finding: the preferred cola was Pepsi ... but from the Coke-branded tube. The research concluded that branding alters sensory perceptions and the way those perceptions are processed.

Flash forward to scientists still working on developing predictive techniques. This time they used music. And this time the results were, well, weakly indicative of an area worth more study. They found that a higher level of activity in the nucleus accumbens seemed to indicate an increased probability of higher eventual sales. The nucleus accumbens is a part of the brain that (according to Wikipedia) may be connected to reward, laughter, pleasure, addiction, fear, and the placebo effect.

I love that bit. Tapping into the primal motivators: reward, laughter, pleasure, addiction, fear, and the placebo effect. Those are the driving forces behind mankind’s need to explore and innovate, and also the inertial forces supporting our need to conform and obey. Suddenly I’m not just an advertising copywriter; I’m a neural engineer harnessing concepts from beyond the leading edge of behavioral research to generate real, measurable results.

As a predictor of future sales, it’s hard to beat current marketing.
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June 20 2011
“Gamification” is the hot trend in crowdsourcing, turning groupwork into a game. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

So everyone works together for the good of ... well, a for-profit enterprise. And what do the workers earn for their labors? Points in a game. So this is what the economy has come to: a world in which real people do real work for fake currency in the form of in-game credit.

Never mind an alien invasion from outer space; we’ve become the Borg.
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June 17 2011
I was driving to a meeting when I spotted a semi trailer decorated with graphics for the 99˘-Or-Less store, a discount retailer. On the back of the trailer was a small sign saying, “Driver carries 99˘ or less.”

That’s a great example of pervasively consistent branding.
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Backwards in time to May 2011

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Advertising strategy and other lies
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Free (yes, free) advertising copywriting resources
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How to write a brochure: advice from an advertising copywriter
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Long John Silver on writing ads
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Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part I: starting the enterprise
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part II: the entrepreneurial character
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part III: growing the enterprise
The ART of repurposing marketing copy (Or, why you shouldn’t use brochure copy as web content)
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The Tightwad Marketing project
When you should consider hiring a freelance copywriter
Advertising copywriting mentorship
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

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