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

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May 31, 2004
Courvoisier women’s wear, Armani hotels, and “brand stretching”: shoving established brands into new, unrelated turf. Here’s the BBC News article:
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Look for both of these high-flying efforts to tumble back, ignominiously and expensively, with the silence of a well-bred cat.
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May 28, 2004
This is an interesting theory about women in business, and it deserves more discussion than it’s likely to get. Do female executives underperform (as one study seems to indicate), or do they get promoted into positions that carry a greater risk of failure (as another study sets out to show)? Here’s the article discussing the “glass cliff,” from BBC News Magazine:
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I believe gender, like race, plays a role. However, I also believe the situation is complicated by non-gender-related issues. Sheer ambition, for example. A certain percentage of executives – both male and female – would jump at the chance to turn a company around or take it forward into uncharted waters. The catch is, how many of those people can actually deliver the goods? It’s a complex, high-stakes test with lots of external (and even random) factors, and it’s a rare person – of either gender – who can pass it. Now, boards and businesspeople know that already. But, do social psychologists?
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May 27, 2004
The photography in the new Jim Beam print advertising is “authentic,” according to the ad agency. Here’s the article, from Photo District News:
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PDN is a photography trade publication, so the article focuses on the photography, which is masterfully executed and apparently spot-on in terms of the creative brief. I go back and forth on the strategy here, though. On one hand, the message itself is fine and the visual approach is just an extension of the trend toward shabby chic. On the other hand, I worry that such advertising will be perceived as a reach for a low-income, urban, troubled market that can ill afford brand-name whiskey. The elegance of the art direction argues against that interpretation, but a lot hangs on the media buy.
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May 26, 2004
Two articles from the UK today, both purporting to give inside peeks at what goes into creating advertising. In the first, a reporter for The Independent (London) spends a day at the London offices of Wieden & Kennedy (where Honda’s “Cog” ad was conceived and brought to life). In the second, a reporter for (Quantum Media Group, Croyden) looks at the making of a Bacardi television commercial. Here are the articles:
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Although these stories glamorize the advertising industry far beyond reality, they also show the level of persnickety detail and persistent dedication that go into creating ads. Speaking of which, the webpage I saw this morning had Wieden’s name consistently misspelled. Easily corrected online, but a good example of how hard it is to get everything right, especially when a deadline is involved. Had the article been an ad, the copywriter would have been in trouble and the agency would be paying for corrections.
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May 24, 2004
Some new rules for direct marketing creative, based on the latest research, from DMNews:
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I read this article with great interest. However, there is a significant flaw: the rules were based on focus group surveys, not sales-tracking or keyed-response research. That casts doubt, in my mind, over several findings, including one that says recipients would prefer a cover letter and short brochure to a traditional four-element direct mail package. Yes, no doubt most focus group members would prefer a shorter mailer, but would they be moved by it in the real world? Most companies making a living in direct response still use multiple inserts, and when it comes to choosing between theoretical survey-based findings, and actual keyed sales results over time, I know which way I would go.

However, when a focus group says it was confused, that’s an important data point. If a focus group, sitting in a room reviewing an ad, doesn’t understand it, then that does not bode well for the effectiveness of the creative in the real world. Branding and clarifying the offer are two important areas in which confusion happens quicker than I previously thought, and that’s my personal take-away.

I also thought the increased importance of credibility as a response driver was an important finding.
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May 21, 2004
A British television network plans a reality show around advertising creatives competing to win a plum assignment: the Raleigh Chopper Bike holiday ad campaign. The twist? The setting will be 100% 1970s. Here’s the article, from the folks at Brand Republic, via Media Bulletin:
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Now, I’ve long promoted the idea that advertisers shouldn’t just be content sponsors, but must transform into content providers. This isn’t quite what I had in mind. However, if the show is successful, it’ll be a big boost for Raleigh, the Chopper Bike, and whichever ad agency wins the assignment. It’s the last bit that bugs me, though. It seems to me to be to be counter to good client service for an ad agency to have too high a public profile.
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May 20, 2004
The battle of the beers is getting nasty. Here’s an article about the latest round, Budweiser vs. Miller, from Ad Age (QwikFIND ID AAP65T):
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The days of the market leader letting a competitor take shots at it, like the classic Avis Rent-a-car campaign, are over. These days, Hertz would have responded immediately to the Avis ads (as it historically did, eventually). Markets move too quickly to ignore competitive advertising. And advertisers are getting increasingly responsive as a result. The open question: how will this hair trigger in advertising affect long-term corporate assets like branding?
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May 18, 2004
In Japan, companies traditionally had “company songs” to rally the employees and build a feeling of corporate solidarity. This practice has been on the decline, perhaps under western management influences, but may come back, thanks to one company song that became a pop hit and a key brand differentiator in a crowded market. Here’s the article, complete with video and a company song custom-written (in Japanese) for the BBC, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

These company songs, by the way, are not sound-bite advertising jingles but full-blown songs with multiple verses. They are meant to capture the values of the company and inspire the employees to higher levels of achievement. Company songs can be as meaningful – or as vapid – as any logo or slogan. The word shafu, according to the BBC, means “company spirit,” but the sense encompasses much more. Shafu is, essentially, internal branding. And, no matter what you call it, strong internal branding has a powerful effect on external branding and marketplace performance.
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May 17, 2004
IBM changes the name of a line of servers. But is it rebranding? Here’s an article, from
Advertising copywriter blog link

What is going on here, is a model line renaming, not a rebranding. Just like, to continue an analogy from the story, when Ford changed the name of its primary family sedan from LTD to Taurus, or Toyota changed from Corona to Camry. Could the Camry have been just as successful carrying the Corona nameplate? Probably. Could the Taurus have been successful carrying the LTD nameplate? Probably not. Sometimes, there is strategic thinking behind a line renaming. In this case, it’s hard to see, because it seems to be internally driven and future oriented.
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May 14, 2004
Branding the American president, from the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal, via (MI). When it asks for your ZIP code, simply click the option that says you’re from outside the U.S. to go straight to the article:
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It’s an interesting commentary on American political reality when t-shirts and coffee mugs are integral parts of marketing campaigns for men and women vying to lead the nation. Indeed, when it comes to buzz marketing, political campaigns have historically led the way. One could even say that American political campaigns invented buzz marketing. However, that innovation could be based on a high degree of Constitutional protection, which ordinary advertising and marketing does not enjoy.
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May 13, 2004
Consulting firm Capgemini is rebranding. And here is some curmudgeonly, spot-on commentary from Lester Haines, in The Register (UK):
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Follow some of the “related links” near the bottom of the page for more misguided rebranding efforts (the Welsh dragon story is particularly funny, although one could also say that it was an act of integrity and courage for the brand consultants to leave well enough alone). My own opinions on rebranding can be found, at great length, in my white paper on brands and branding.
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May 12, 2004
As brands proliferate and expand, conflicts are bound to increase. Here’s an amusing one, between upscale fashion brand Chanel and British sex shop Coco de Mer, courtesy of BBC News:
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Coco de Mer was named for a palm nut associated in legend with female fertility; its brand theme is one of female sexual empowerment. Chanel won the legal battle to keep Coco de Mer from using its brand name on perfumes, jewelry, bags, or clothing. Chanel did not challenge Coco de Mer’s right to use its brand name on spanking paddles, ticklers, and other sexually oriented merchandise. So, the market got divvied up fair and square, to all appearances. Still, you’d think there’d be a market for a finely crafted Chanel-branded tawse.
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May 11, 2004
Advertising, in the form of product placement, hasn’t just infiltrated movies and traditional media programming. It has sunk its claws into videogames as well. Here’s the article, from MediaPost’s Media Daily News:
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The feedback from gamers is identical to the feedback from other audiences:  the product placement should add value, in plot development or believability or at least reduced costs. Anything less is, well, unbelievable.

The increased public profile of product placement has led, inevitably, to decreased marketing value. Today’s average consumer is highly attuned to product placement, and almost automatically skeptical. That contradicts its believability. And, its effectiveness.

Hey, you know what might work? This thing called an advertisement.
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May 7, 2004
A plan to put the new Spiderman movie logo on Major League Baseball bases has been halted because of an outcry from fans, public officials, and team owners; other movie-tie-ins are not affected. Here’s the article, from The Washington Post (DC):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Major league sports lost their purity a long time ago, so the hue and cry against selling ad space on bases comes off as slightly precious. My comment, from an advertising perspective, is that the Spiderman logo wasn’t designed to play well on a base. A red diamond? Isn’t that an almond? This kind of brand mark promotion works best (or, more-correctly, only) if the brand mark is already well-established.
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May 6, 2004
What do you call it when a brand develops into something bigger and deeper? According to Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, you call it a “lovemark,” about which he’s written a book. Here’s an article, dated tomorrow because it already is in New Zealand, from the National Business Review (NZ):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s an interesting way to look at branding, this path from a trademark to a brand to a “trustmark” to a lovemark. I like it, because it captures the notion that not every brand is trusted, and not every trusted brand has fans. It should also be noted that a brand can slide backwards on the scale, usually by diluting the essence of the brand.
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May 5, 2004
Click fraud is a big deal, and not just to e-marketers. Anyone who advertises online needs to be aware of the costs of click fraud in establishing a budget and tracking effectiveness. Here’s an article, from Garrett French, editor of WebProNews, kicking off a thread in the WebProWorld forum today:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’ll be interesting to see how that thread develops. In a media-buying sense, though, what it comes down to is this: despite the buzz, PPC stands for pay-per-click. Not pay-per-customer.
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May 4, 2004
The series finale of ‘Friends’ after a ten-year run marks the end of an era to a huge part of America. So, it’s not just a major socio-cultural event; it’s also a major advertising event, with media rates for 30-second increments averaging $2 million. Here’s an article, from USA Today:
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Will these advertisers get their money’s worth? Well, name an advertiser who ran an ad on the Super Bowl. What was the point of the ad? Did it make you buy? Uh huh. There you have it.
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May 3, 2004
Sometimes, the question of how to build a brand becomes wrapped up in the question of how to build a character. Here’s a pretty good five-point primer to developing an ad character, from Fast Company:
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I think the example in point #3 (“make them vulnerable”) shows how good bullet points can still create bad results. The lonely Maytag repairman was already vulnerable: he was lonely. That emotion could have been mined forever. Instead, Maytag introduced a brash young apprentice who dilutes the character impact, divides the attention in ads and commercials, and contributes little to the brand message.
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Backwards in time to April 2004

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

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