John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
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May, 2005

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May 31, 2005
Here’s an article about the pomegranate juice brand POM Wonderful, a textbook example of building a brand from scratch by simultaneously promoting the product and pioneering the category, from Convenience Store News (NY):
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It’s also a great example of vertical integration. The strategy here is similar to what Ocean Spray did with cranberries, developing both supply and demand. The challenge Ocean Spray faces, is that once cranberry products became popular and brands proliferated, sales became driven more by discounting (in the form of coupons and promotions) than by brand marketing.

To combat that eventuality, POM Wonderful seems to be pursuing a lock on the mechanical side as well as the marketing side, with a proprietary extraction process that could keep competitors at bay for some time. That should at least give the brand time to dig itself in, if not allow it a minimally diversified but highly profitable monopoly for life (which brings with it a whole other set of marketing challenges).
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May 30, 2005
The city of Edinburgh’s latest branding effort gets a pie in the face, when its new advertising slogan (“Inspiring Capital”) turns out to be a domain name owned by a vocal critic of the current city council. Here’s the story, from the Edinburgh Evening News via
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I think it’s odd that the man, who also owns, bought the domain name a mere month before the slogan was publicly unveiled. Yeah, it’s not a wildly creative ad slogan, but the timing could indicate that he may have been tipped off by someone inside. If that’s the case (and one can find out by seeing if he bought the domains of other slogans under consideration at that time), then it seems like a case might be made for cyber-squatting. If not, then it’s a happy coincidence for him, and an unfortunate one for the Edinburgh city council. And a huge mistake for the ad agency, which should have secured all slogans under consideration as domain names as a simple matter of procedure.
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May 29, 2005
A Catholic priest walks into a bar ... Here’s an article from BBC News about recruitment advertising for priests and nuns on pub beer mats and posters on the London Underground:
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It’s not a bad strategy, especially if you’re seeking to attract people with more life experience. The tactic definitely extends brand awareness to everyday, workaday life. If it works, it might even bring to the organization people with skills and ideas that might be more-relevant to today’s parishioners. I think this is a pretty good idea. Just some light reading and thinking for a Sunday.
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May 28, 2005
A weekend entry because I saw this article about possible product placement in political advertising, from the front page of my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
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As odd as this looks, I think the truth is more-innocent, simpler, and dumber: shooting fast and loose, either the camera crew or art director didn’t thoroughly check what was in-frame. Yeah, one logo is facing the camera, but others are not. Look at a random cafeteria table from any angle, and there’s likely to be a logo in view: it’s keeping them out of view that requires actual tinkering with the scene. You’ll also notice that the only people who found this suspicious were political and academic professionals, not ad people. An ad person would have told the journalist the truth: it is extremely difficult to control the variables in a location shoot with non-professional on-screen talent. This mistake shouldn’t have happened, but it did.

However, the fact that this story made the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper indicates the depth of cynicism about marketing messages.
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May 27, 2005
Advertising creative is a reflection of the cultural environment. So, what happens when the cultural environment undergoes dramatic changes? Here’s what’s going on in Asia, as women gain jobs, power, and desirability as a market segment, from The Wall Street Journal via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA):
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What is being seen here, is both the rise of women as an empowered group (along with some relatively ham-handed efforts to tap into that ethic) and the crumbling of the largely male-built Asian economy. Add to that the spread of metrosexual diversity in styles for men, and you have a dynamic, rapidly evolving environment. The Western error, is identifying “flower men” as gay; the reality is both broader and deeper than that.

I would love to learn more about what’s going on in advertising in cultures going through even more-radical transformations. Iraq, for instance.

By way of example, Iran recently stopped production of its much-loved but high-polluting Paykan automobile, a leftover of the late 1960s based on the British Hillman Hunter. Replacement vehicles, much sleeker and with modern environmental controls, cost nearly twice as much. Even given that the people there desire contemporary cars, and the national government wants to move its automotive industry forward, how do you market around a price increase of nearly 100%? I have my ideas (and so should you), but I’d sure like to learn more about the creative.
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May 25, 2005
The lines between non-traditional and mainstream media are blurring, as more corporate advertisers rush to take advantage of new technologies and media channels. Here’s an article about advertising and podcasting, from BusinessWeek Online:
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That this largely defeats the purpose of user-owned media, at this point, is practically an old-school suggestion. However, with the democratization of media dollars, look for increasing consolidation of media outlets. It won’t be me, but some blogger or consortium of bloggers will become the next publishing powerhouse; some podcaster or network of podcasters will become the next NBC or ABC. Or, just as likely, the existing media corporations will buy control of the new media channels. The rise of blog and podcast advertising is both the bait and the hook.
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May 24, 2005
Open-source browser Firefox has legions of fans. And some are trying to use viral marketing techniques to spread the word, creating web-based video commercials. Here’s the story, from Wired News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I looked at several of the viral videos. It’s a cool idea, but the problem is, this stuff is just lame advertising. The professional-quality stuff is heavy on special effects and devoid of unique positioning or persuasion. And the amateur stuff is creatively trite. In all, every criticism that’s been directed at big-budget television commercials over the years can be leveled here. Just because an ad was created by a customer doesn’t mean it’s good advertising. For all their so-called freshness, they’re making a stale old mistake: they’re fundamentally just talking to themselves. These spots might as well have been for Microsoft or IBM or General Electric or General Motors. There’s a big opportunity here, but it’s being fumbled.

And I do believe it’s a big opportunity. I think you can build a brand – and a business – without offline advertising. By staying online, they reach the 20% of the market that represents 80% of the users. It’s a fine marketing strategy. Remember too, there’s nothing new about viral marketing. Viral marketing was practiced by advertisers long before the creation of the current term.

I’d like to get excited about this, but there’s nothing here to get excited about. I see this as proof that non-traditional campaigns can be as boring, off-target, and irrelevant as mainstream media campaigns. Perhaps even more so, thanks to the insular environment in which they are created.
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May 23, 2005
Advertisers are looking beyond their ad agencies for creative thinking, because they believe the agencies aren’t delivering. Here’s the story, from The New York Times via the International Herald Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s funny, in a twisted sort of way. Advertising creatives like to claim that clients don’t buy their hottest creative work, while the clients say that their agencies aren’t giving them breakthrough thinking. I think both perspectives could be part right.

It’s easy for an ad agency to recommend what it’s comfortable delivering, such as a television campaign, because the deliverables are known and manageable. However, it’s equally easy for a client to associate the agency with only traditional advertising, and disregard non-traditional solutions when they’re presented.
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May 20, 2005
Just another advertising archive, a pleasant diversion for a Friday. This one is a very cool television archive, called TV ARK (UK):
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Your first click on the menu should be “Adverts,” the first one under “Genres.” That takes you to an extensive archive of television commercials. Hours of fun! Some are truly vintage pieces, others are much more recent. Great stuff; maybe not the big ad award winners, but most definitely the ones that impressed themselves on the public consciousness.
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May 19, 2005
Here’s an article from the Wharton School (PA), about global branding. In it, the authors point out that there’s more than one way to build and manage a global brand, assuming that a single global brand is really the answer:
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I’ve commented on global brand management more than a few times (March 1, January 21, and December 22 and 21, 2004 are some recent entries).

I think the key to successfully building a global brand is to remember that companies don’t build brands; customers do. A top-down brand strategy, in which an advertiser imposes a universal brand identity across all cultural divides can still work, if there’s enough money and time thrown at it to make it stick. But, it’s usually smarter to look to the customers in each region for areas of global connection, and build upon that web of relationship-based brand resonance.
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May 18, 2005
Dated tomorrow is this interesting look at Heinz, beans, and commodity branding, from the Sydney Morning Herald (AUS):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Since the brand is so firmly connected with beans (for much of the world, “Beanz Meanz Heinz”), Heinz can go about selling beans as a simple commodity, knowing that driving up category sales will mostly benefit its own sales. That sets it free to explore decidedly non-retail, non-brand-oriented advertising, like this set of television commercials running as “episodes” of a show. Will it work? If it’s well-done, it might; otherwise the audience – and consumers – will will either pan it or ignore it.
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May 17, 2005
Some in the medical field fear that previously prestigious medical journals have become extensions of drug company marketing departments. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I talked about this on April 26, but this time the issue isn’t the influence of advertisers, it’s the source of funding for the research papers published. These days, most drug trials are industry-funded; very little funding comes from the public sector. So, while the papers published in medical journals may be peer-reviewed, there’s a limited pool from which to choose, much of it funded by the drug companies themselves. And, once published, the papers carry the kind of credibility that advertising just can’t deliver.
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May 16, 2005
A short interview with Richard Kirshenbaum, co-chairman of ad agency Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, from the March/April issue of Psychology Today, just now available online:
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Key takeaways include the importance of research in the creative process, and the mistake of categorizing consumers by overly simple red-state/blue-state divisions.
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May 15, 2005
I saw this in the Travel section of the Sunday paper, and had to share it. Here is travel columnist Judith Morgan’s take on destination advertising, from my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
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She’s right, of course; it’s the differences that make travel such an enriching experience. On the other hand, one could look at the success of packaged tours and chain hotels as proof of the profitability of offering the experience of travel without that untidy actual interaction with a culture different from one’s own (and I say that as someone who has at times gone native and at other times enjoyed the comforting sterility of a brand-name hotel room). Still, it is ironic that, at least as far as their ads go, many nations seem to be making a concerted effort to not stand out. Advertising the same benefits everyone else may have retail appeal. But it’s not smart branding.
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May 14, 2005
A Saturday sports story, showing you can’t always buy a brand. From BBC News comes this story of the ongoing (and rapidly closing) saga of U.S. tycoon Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of iconic UK football team Manchester United, much to the anger and resentment of its fans:
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Glazer made his name and a significant part of his fortune in the NFL, by buying the weak Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 and transforming it into the team that won the Super Bowl in 2003. So there’s a strong sports connection. But, Manchester United isn’t an underperforming team right now, nor is it an underutilized brand. And, it would take a lot more than one superstar team to extend the reach of European football to the U.S. or China. Still, Glazer’s a billionaire sports tycoon and I’m not, so he could be seeing something that I’m not. Wonder what it is.

From a branding perspective, buying a sports team without also acquiring fan loyalty means losing the essence of the brand. In sporting circles they believe that winning is everything; win enough, and the fans and the brand will come. However, branding isn’t a top-down exercise. Brands are emotive and consumer-owned, and a brand plan aimed at transcending the emotion of betrayal with the emotion of victory seems pretty thin.
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May 13, 2005
Happy Friday the 13th, and thank goodness for reader participation. Today’s entry was going to be this idle little blurb about raising city revenues by accepting advertising for placement on dog poop receptacles in public parks. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

However, reliable source Dylan Alford sent me a link to a much more substantive article, about’s knack of turning offbeat auction item wins and celebrity purchases into a P.R. bonanza. Here’s the story, from Wired:
Advertising copywriter blog link

As a marketing exercise, I’m not totally convinced of the value. The growth in the company’s revenues is in large part a result of growth in online gaming, period.

As a branding exercise, being known as the company that bought the “Virgin Mary” grilled cheese sandwich on eBay for $28,000 does imbue the brand with a quirky, anything-can-happen-here, pennies-from-heaven aura. Spot-on relevant for an online casino, I think, selling dreams of winning a fortune on the turn of a (virtual) card.

And, as a P.R. exercise, $1 million has seldom been as wisely spent.
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May 12, 2005
Canada is rebranding itself. And many Canadians, including advertising people, wonder if it’s really necessary. Here’s the story, from The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON):
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I see at least two possibilities here. First, the Canadian Tourism Commission may be overlooking the flexibility inherent in the established brand, not an uncommon mistake. Second, the tourism council may be trying to make a bigger press story out of a mere repositioning within an existing brand platform. I think the latter sounds more likely. It’d be a dramatic departure from both intelligent branding and common sense to throw away the existing brand equity. Plus, the new message sounds largely swappable with the old one. In all, Canada is going through a brand evolution, not a revolution. And the effort is launching with an ego-stroking press push.
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May 11, 2005
The real cost of $2.99 footballs and 49-cents-a-pound fresh tomatoes. The global economy, combined with increasing consumer demand for ever cheaper goods, is turning slavery into big business all over the world. Here’s a disturbing look at the issue of forced labor, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Two of the stories jump out. First, is the one about China’s use of prison labor to produce everything from paper clips to telescopes. Although it is claimed that the quality of is too low to have a significant effect on world trade, the reality is that prison labor exists as a national resource which will only become increasingly profitable as pricing pressures continue.

Second, is the photo-journal about the migrant tomato picker right here in the U.S., working 12-hour days for roughly $3.50 per hour, while paying $1,400 a month in rent to share a mobile home with six other migrant workers.

Some people and things to think about the next time you go shopping.
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May 10, 2005
Mindless pursuit of the 18-49 demographic is starting to produce a consumer backlash – and an opportunity for savvy advertisers. Here’s the story, from the Los Angeles Times via the KTLA website (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is an interesting read for its historical context, showing the development of targeted television programming, as well as its current examples showing how some advertisers are capitalizing on the age group that controls nearly half the nation’s wealth. I especially like how Apple crossed traditional age-group lines through its use of music.
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May 9, 2005
Outsourcing copywriting and art direction to India has arrived. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via the Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I called attention to this issue back on August 22 last year, but the Indian advertising community has had its eye on this prize for a lot longer than that. And, if the U.S. Dollar strengthens, look for even more creative service-related jobs to go overseas.

Suddenly, client meetings become less of a hassle and more of a differentiator.
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May 7, 2005
Product naming is always a fun assignment. Here’s a little weekend filler story about car model naming, from Autoweek via my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
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A pleasant little diversionary but relevant read for a Saturday. Note, though, that two of today’s most-awesome automaking juggernauts, Toyota and Nissan/Renault, both tend to use names rather than alphanumeric designations in their global product lines. Toyota has historically used names; Nissan/Renault has gone back and forth over the years so its use may reflect more of a belief in a trend.
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May 6, 2005
Disneyland celebrates 50 years of cultural relevance. Here’s the story, from my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The basic business model hasn’t changed in a half-century: reach consumers through movies, cement the relationship through participatory experiences. It was a revolutionary branding concept, and one that’s increasingly relevant today. Disney was one of the pioneers in multi-media, multi-channel, integrated brand development; today, his company is such an icon that it’s hard to see what a major achievement in branding it was to get there.
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May 5, 2005
Another example of consumer behavior not aligning with marketer expectations: new studies on web searchers confound conventional wisdom about search engine marketing and online branding. Here’s the report, from Search Engine Watch:
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Among the key findings for advertisers, culled from various studies: more than 92% of web searchers never use brand names as search terms, the sales cycle is much longer than previously thought, and consumers are largely happy with the results they get from their searches.

Yet, none of this is surprising to anyone trained in sales and advertising. Inertia is a powerful consumer force, and overcoming it is all in a day’s work for copywriters and art directors. But, it seems to be a revelation to those who focus on the technologies rather than the technology users.

Developing a smarter search engine addresses only the technology side of the equation. The real answer, lies in bringing more consumer advertising discipline to online marketing.
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May 4, 2005
First, a good overview of traditional product placement, from the City Paper (Nashville, TN):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Then, a look at a whole new level (acme? nadir?) of product placement, with a massive onslaught of cross-promotional references within advertising for other products. In cranking up the buzz about the upcoming release of the new Star Wars movie, film characters are starring in a dizzying array of advertising. Here’s the story, from the Hollywood Reporter (CA) via Reuters (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I find it funny that all this product-oriented marketing hype is being spun around a movie that intrinsically can’t have product placement within it. After all, what brands would have been popular a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away?

It also points up the evolution of what would have been called cross-promotional relevance. Here’s a quote from a Pepsi marketing executive, crowing over the company’s securing of exclusive rights to the Yoda character:

“Yoda’s symbolic significance within the culture allows us to tie in our brand in a really powerful way.”
I’m revealing my true inner geek here, but it seems to me that if you buy into the Star Wars culture, including the universe created around it, then you can’t buy into a Jedi Master drinking carbonated, caramel-colored, caffeinated sugar water, let alone hawking the stuff.

I’m not saying that Yoda isn’t relevant to a soft drink. What I’m saying, is that the concept of promotional relevance has an increasingly broad cultural context. Yoda = cultural icon. Pepsi = cultural icon. So even the bad guys nowadays can make good spokespeople. That wouldn’t have been possible back in the days of Tom Mix.
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May 2, 2005
The Fox network may soon offer digitally tweakable television commercials to allow various ad components to be swapped out minutes before airing. Here’s the article, from The Wall Street Journal via The Miami Herald (FL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s interesting, but technological overkill and not as big a conceptual story as it appears at first. It is nice to be able to have an ad respond or react to its programming environment; referring to sports teams playing and so forth. But, in order to swap out the ad components, you have to have shot or recorded the components. In which case, why not simply edit individually targeted, relevant ads in the first place?

This strikes me as similar to a donut or live tag in radio, ancient but highly effective ways to customize a commercial message without having to produce a bunch of individual spots. Except that, with radio, you have the option of using a live announcer for the donut or tag, making the possibilities even more responsive.

A section of quotes from the article, with my own comments interspersed:

Indeed, a huge complaint among consumers is that they are bombarded with the same ads day in and day out, no matter what program they watch or what time they watch it.

This is called frequency, folks, and if, in a particular ad campaign, it has become a bad thing then maybe the media buy needs to be more carefully considered. Or, the creative needs to be more interesting.

“If the ad is not that relevant and I have seen it 50 times, then I’m glancing over and I’m going someplace else,” says Steve Lanzano, executive vice president and general manager at Havas’ MPG media-buying firm.

If the ad is not that relevant, then it was ignored the first time, and “freshening” won’t help. This issue is strategic, not tactical. And the answer, as always, lies in creating a relevant message and delivering it to an audience who gives a damn.

Increasingly important to those who buy TV ad time, he says, is ensuring an ad “not go to the same person five or six times and lose its effectiveness.”
All the research I’ve seen shows that an effective ad doesn’t become less-effective through frequency. With today’s short attention spans and media bombardment, though, I could be wrong, although both of those developments seem to me to point to more specifically repetitive frequency rather than less.

In all, this is an interesting development, but an awful lot of agency creatives have essentially been doing this sort of thing for years (modular television campaigns built on bundled :10s and :15s, video donuts with station-made elements, swappable tags, etc.). It is cool, though, that a major network is exploring the possibilities of taking this a step further.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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