John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
May 2013

Quick finder (main website):
Home | Advertising portfolio | Brochure portfolio | Services | Experience | FAQ | Advice | About me | Contact

Quick finder (advertising blog only):
Ad Blog main page | Monthly archives | Forward to June 2013

May 31 2013
Just a quickie to point out this article, about repurposing TV commercials for online and mobile applications, from MediaPost (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I addressed cross-screen brand integration and the error of reusing TV creative a while ago, on September 18 2012. It’s gratifying to see the state of media commentary catching up. And it’s especially exciting to see how creatives are pushing the capabilities of mobile and web-based marketing communication in ways specifically tailored to new media channels.

Because, to quote myself, duplication isn’t integration. And, anyway, meaningful brand integration happens only at the consumer level.
Back to the top of the page

May 30 2013
Here’s an article about how ad agencies sell innovative, risk-taking campaigns to clients, from Digiday (NY):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The thing is, digital media results are very quantifiable; if anything, digital campaigns can generate more data than traditional media campaigns. But you can’t just come up with a cool idea and then try to justify it with intangibles under the generic banner of “innovation.” You have to know what metric you’re trying to move, and build the creative strategy based on that. Do that, and it’s a simple matter of pre- and post-campaign testing to see if you’ve moved the needle.

This way ad agencies avoid having to rely on sales as the only metric, and clients avoid having to act entirely on faith. And, you can measure soft factors such as customer and non-customer awareness, attitudes, and preferences – all essential steps on the way to a sale.

Smart, technologically savvy marketing can accelerate the sales cycle. But it usually can't change the sales cycle; the same waypoints have to be reached before a purchase decision is won.

Of course, some sales cycles are longer than others. And most of the momentum in innovative marketing seems to be slanted toward products and services with short, simple sales cycles (think soft drinks). However, sales of products and services with long, complex sales cycles may have even more to gain by speeding up the process.

The real risk, lies in not taking advantage of the best available tools and techniques to create more-effective branding, marketing, and advertising.
Back to the top of the page

May 29 2013
Although many marketers “embrace change,” the reality is that some things shouldn’t change. Like successful branding campaigns. Here’s a look at some of the longest-running branding campaigns, from MarketingWeek (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is a concise overview of some of the best long-term global branding campaigns, including Nike, Absolut, and Gillette.

Technology has given these brands new tools and media channels with which to promote their brands in ways that are consistent with campaigns extending back decades. See, smart marketing isn’t about change. It’s about adaptation.
Back to the top of the page

May 27 2013
Just a Memorial Day quickie to point out this article about how the semi-nomadic Masai culture in Africa is moving to capitalize on its world-famous cultural brand. Here’s the story, from BBC News Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is a big marketing problem, because the commercial exploitation of the Masai culture has a huge head start. One could even argue, convincingly, that it was that very exploitation that developed the brand value in the first place.

While a voluntary code sounds collaborative and globally ethical and all those feel-good buzzwords, this is a case in which unilateral evangelical outreach may be the only effective tool left. If I were counseling the Masai on brand development, I’d look to social media to get the word out, grassroots coalitions to put feet on the street, and a Kickstarter campaign to fund a larger marketing and PR push including in-store materials.

But then, my reflex is always to come out swinging.
Back to the top of the page

May 24 2013
Cern, the lab where the Internet was invented, went searching for the first web page. So far, the earliest page found dates back to 1992, when the Internet was still being demonstrated as a concept to garner support. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The first thing that struck me, was that the design of that first web page is pretty much the design of my whole website! Ha! Truth is, my website’s design (or lack thereof) was inspired by one of the earliest online communities – indeed, one of the earliest successful long-term demonstrations of using the Internet to connect people and collect and distribute knowledge in real-time. Like those first web pages, my website is content-rich, fully linked, text-based, and hand-built.

But my website’s timelessness may actually extend in both directions. Because it doesn’t rely on fancy scripts and huge image files, it was cross-platform mobile-enabled before there was such a thing. And whatever the future brings, it’ll probably work.

It’s hard to beat simplicity.
Back to the top of the page

May 23 2013
This is cool! It’s a ”perceptive radio” that knows where it is, so it can deliver programming customized to its location. Here’s the story from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s what an Internet-enabled audio player should deliver, but doesn’t. And, it doesn’t need even an Internet connection, although it does require a new radio set.

I had wondered when location-based audio programming would become available, but figured it’d be part of a Google product when it did. After all, the opportunities for location-based target marketing and personalized entertainment are just too ripe to pass up. It’s kind of neat that old-school radio might be right in there with new media at delivering it, although what’s being demonstrated is just that: a demonstration, proof of concept. Should this device make it to market, an even larger challenge will be persuading people to replace their current radios with new perceptive models.

If you listen to the demo radio drama, know that the localizations are all UK-based – here across the pond it seemed rather remote and anticlimactic. So imagine how cool it could be. And then just go with that.
Back to the top of the page

May 22 2013
The Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” video is the third most-shared video to date and an acknowledged viral hit. Here’s how the carefully planned campaign was staged, from Business Insider:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think the data crunching misses the main point. What made this video emotionally resonant and sharable and shared, was the creative. The concept was irresistibly compelling: you are more beautiful than you think, and we’re going to prove it. The “content” merely executed well a great ad concept.

The success of the video is proof that people do not have short attention spans. What they have, is a relative dearth of advertising messages on which it is worth spending their time.

One of the jump stories is worth comment. It’s a rebuttal originally published yesterday in Scientific American:
Advertising copywriter blog link

This article also utterly misses the concept. The concept wasn’t based on static visuals; it was a constructive process. Each woman didn’t see the picture of herself until the second, more-flattering, sketch was completed; even then the point wasn’t A or B (in which case most would no doubt choose the more-attractive picture as a representation), it was A and B. It wasn’t exclusive, it was integrative.

Instead, the viewer was invited to watch a process in which people described themselves and others to an artist behind a screen. What was produced wasn’t so much a literal portrait as an emotional one.

And that’s what made it work.
Back to the top of the page

May 20 2013
Yahoo! is paying over a billion dollars to buy hip blogging-cum-social-networking site Tumblr, looking to generate more advertising revenue. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Own the channel. It’s been my mantra for decades, but no one seems to get it. And here’s further proof that, if you’re serious about branding, it’s essential to own the channel.

Tumblr already planned to monetize its members’ content by serving up ads. That may not matter if your blog is just for fun. But if it’s part of an integrated marketing communication strategy, those ads will be at best interruptions, and at worst competitive. And, as those ads get better-targeted, they become more-competitive. At a certain point, your content becomes a bandwagon that your competitors can not only ride, but own.

That there wasn’t an exodus of blogs when Tumblr announced the planned advertising indicates either inertia or ignorance.

But now that Tumblr is being acquired by Yahoo, the exodus may actually begin. The volume and vehemence of uproar is certainly greater, although I’m not totally sure what Yahoo will do to generate revenue that Tumblr wouldn’t have done; after all, the folks who put ad-serving in the pipeline were Tumblr’s original team. Better targeting, perhaps, and a broader base of advertisers.

Now thousands, perhaps millions, of bloggers are frantically moving their Tumblogs, most to some other third-party channel like Wordpress. Lesson not learned: Own the channel.

To put that in perspective, though, a million blogs is less than 1% of the total on Tumblr. My prediction: most blogs and bloggers will stay, even the commercial ones, in a further indication of inertia and ignorance.

Own the channel. Social media are components of a marketing strategy, not the strategy itself. For most brands, they are best used as bridges between content on your own channel and new potential customers.

When a social media platform becomes the content destination for a brand, three things usually happen. First, the brand starts talking to itself by proxy via its “fans.” Second, coherence falls as noise rises. Third, the brand gets diluted to the point of irrelevance. (And if you think brands gain relevance, you’re forgetting the first and second events. Think of all the people exchanging their Facebook “likes” for coupons and deals – not only is that not relevance, but it increases the hard cost of customer retention.)

The ability of ordinary people and non-monolithic brands to own the channels through which they communicate is what distinguishes today’s media landscape from previous ones. That’s what made the Internet revolutionary. The concept of placing your marketing content on another channel is familiar and comfortable, but it’s also a throwback.

Rage against the machine. Own the channel. Own the channel. Own the channel.
Back to the top of the page

May 17 2013
Here’s a brief interview with John Hegarty, perhaps one of the last remaining bad boys of advertising’s so-called golden age, from The Globe (Toronto, ON):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is great stuff. I especially like how he distinguishes promotion, of which there is perhaps too much in advertising, from persuasion, of which there is far too little. And what he says about advertising being ignorant of its own history is worth quoting:

My big, big criticism of our industry, unlike almost every other creative industry, is that it doesn’t look to its past. If you’re an architect, a painter, a musician, you know about what came before. In our industry, it’s appalling. It’s almost as though yesterday’s dead. But it’s not; it has a huge amount to show us about entertainment, about work that captured people’s imaginations.

The objective of advertising hasn’t changed. The way a persuasive argument is built hasn’t changed. The only things that’ve changed – and havn’t so much changed as expanded – are the tools we can use to target and deliver an advertising message. Those tools are very exciting, though, and are capable of delivering much better, more-persuasive payloads.

I don't think Hegarty’s approach is flipping McLuhan as much as extending the concept of media as message in a self-feeding cycle. McLuhan defined media as extensions of the body, with advances in media technology bringing thought and action ever closer. Today those can be near-simultaneous events, so the natural result is that the influences of medium and message can create a pulse that grows in amplitude over time – and today that time can be measured in minutes or seconds instead of quarters or weeks.

And as for advertising’s golden age? Like Hegarty, I believe it’s on now.
Back to the top of the page

May 15 2013
Here’s a wonderfully curmudgeonly look at why radio creative so very often stinks, from The Media Online (Johannesburg, SA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I don’t believe in blaming the client. No matter how risk-averse a person is, he or she can still be sold on the fact that there’s nothing more risky, and wasteful, and counterproductive, than doing advertising that fades into the background.

I think it’s because the media darlings of the moment are all about creating sights and sounds with, well, sights and sounds. It’s a very literal way to create.

A good ad – and this is especially true of a radio commercial – begins with a selling idea that is at its heart a visual idea. And radio is visually limitless. Want to feature a skydiving moose on a pogo stick reciting The Ballad of Annabel Lee? Expensive anywhere else but radio, where it costs about the same as yet another Cleverly Bantering Couple.

So, yes, advertising copywriters should study outstanding radio spots. But I think we need to reach back beyond the Best Of Last Year. I recommend studying old-time radio dramas to experience the vivid power of sound and copy and imagination. And, those who would write radio ads should become radio listeners themselves.

Otherwise, they’re forever on the outside attempting to write their way in, instead of inside reaching out. And that’s no way to create effective advertising.
Back to the top of the page

May 13 2013
Happy Monday the 13th! Here’s a look at the evolution (or not) of modern grammar, including the controversial serial comma, from BBC News Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

That advertising takes the brunt of the blame for grammar’s decline is no surprise; critical commentary extends back as far as advertising itself. One of the more successful grammatical horrors of the 20th century, “Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should,” was publicly thrashed by writer James Thurber, who offered up, free for the taking by any beer brand of the day, “We Still Brew Good Like We Used To Could.”

Someone should use that.

Stray apostrophes are so common that they’re their own joke. There (ha!) are, within perhaps ten miles of my house, Cotija Taco Shop, Coijas Taco Shop, and Cotija’s Taco Shop. They are all excellent, by the way. So the kids and I distinguish them as the Cheese, the Cheeses, and the Belongs to the Cheese.

Moving right along, you can tell I think the serial comma adds clarity. For instance: “This product comes in red, white, and blue” makes clear that there are three single-color choices and not a choice between red or two-tone white and blue.

But, there are exceptions: “Every heart beats true/’Neath the Red White and Blue.” I think, when those colors are synonymous with the American flag, they are not a list but a single item and should not have any commas separating them. On that point, though, I have very little company.

One of the story links is worth following. It’s how “-gate” mutated from a mere part of the name of a quietly upscale hotel complex in Washington, DC to an international suffix indicating scandal:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s basically a story of social contagion (to continue from Saturday’s blog entry), albeit one that caught fire 40 years ago and spread globally without the help of the internet.
Back to the top of the page

May 11 2013
A Saturday quickie to point out the latest attempt to build a formula for viral marketing from Jonah Berger, Wharton marketing professor and author of an upcoming book called Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Here’s a short interview with Berger, from Business News Daily via Yahoo! News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Berger’s research indicates six principles of successful viral efforts. Those “STEPPS,” in mnemonic but not hierarchical order (odd, given the mnemonic, but there you go), are Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories.

The book isn’t available yet. But this sounds like the basis of as good a foundation as any to the drivers of a successful viral marketing campaign. The way the principles are divided is interesting. I believe, for instance, that the most-powerful triggers are always emotional, and that social currency is predicated on public factors, but, even if true, those are organizational details.

Unless it’s embedded in one of the other principles, though, I’d suggest that the formula is missing a key principle: Authenticity. The social landscape is littered with carefully constructed campaigns in which message originators did, on paper, everything right, only to roll out into ridicule and condemnation, often precisely because that careful construction was reframed as cynical or manipulative or even, perversely, ignorant. Authenticity in the wild, though, is very hard to quantify in retrospect, and even harder to predict going forward.

Authenticity in social marketing is like a man’s bow tie. It’s essential that it sit just a bit askew: if it’s perfect, it’s wrong.
Back to the top of the page

May 10 2013
I love great ads, ads that make me say “I wish I’d thought of that.” I love outdoor boards. And great outdoor boards, those have always held a special place in my heart. Here’s one, from DDB Warsaw, for McDonald’s, via The Drum:
Advertising copywriter blog link

To drive the message of freshness, a chalk artist draws the billboard from scratch, twice a day, based on popular menu items. Like a restaurant chalkboard, only huge and beautifully designed. This is another sweet example of concept, message, execution, and medium all working together.

This campaign neatly demonstrates my own personal definition of advertising: Performance art, with ROI. I also love that it’s a billboard for a fast food restaurant that isn’t strictly promotional. It’s branding.

Marshall McLuhan titled one of his more famous books The Medium is the Massage (not, as often misquoted, “message,” which would have been old hat well before 1967) because of the way the medium reshapes and restructures patterns of thought and action. This McDonald’s billboard turns what is a usually an inactive medium into an interactive one, transforming it from cool to hot at a stroke.

Bill Bernbach said, “Execution isn’a vehicle for delivering a selling message. It is a selling message.” It’s heartening to see that philosophy put into action by the agency he founded. Cool stuff!
Back to the top of the page

May 9 2013
Best-selling novelist Fay Weldon cut her teeth as an advertising copywriter. In this excerpt from an interview, she tells how what she learned writing ads helped her write novels. Here’s the story, from
Advertising copywriter blog link

You can safely ignore the video – 95% of it (and 100% of what’s relevant) is contained in the quote in the article, and you’ll sit through nearly two minutes of video to get what you can in ten seconds of reading. (A little point, by the way, that demonstrates yet again that plain old text copy communicates faster and better than whiz-bang interactive when there’s nothing to interact with.)

As for me, I’ve always said advertising copywriters are the ultimate writers in part because they must make every word count but mostly because their ideas and words must, in the end, persuade someone to actually do something.

But there’s another bit to chew on, where Weldon says, “... they want to be liked. It seems important that you should risk not being liked.”

Weldon is talking about writers, but she could be talking about brands.

Facebook has created a culture in which “likes” have become near-tangible things to be actively sought and aggregated into a form of virtual value. But equally important to the brand, are the likes you risk by actually standing for something. You never see them; they remain uncollected. But they are essential to the fabric of the brand, the warp to the like’s woof.
Back to the top of the page

May 6 2013
You’ve seen those lenticular displays in signage? You know, the ones that make advertising images appear to be in motion or three-dimensional. Well someone’s taken that technology and turned it on its side, for a brilliant child abuse prevention poster. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

To adult eyes, or, at least, eyes above the height of an average 10-year-old, the poster carries a child abuse prevention message, with the lenticular printing alternately revealing and concealing marks of abuse on a child’s face. That’s a great idea for delivering a gritty visual, and it amplifies the message about invisible abuse. But, the creative team took it a step farther.

At child’s-eye height, the poster delivers a separate message of support aimed directly at kids; a message their accompanying adults, who may also be their abusers, can’t see. That’s an absolutely brilliant convergence of concept, technology, medium, target messaging, and social good.

Often advertising efforts are dominated by one, or maybe two, of those factors. In particular, today's marketing departments and creative teams are increasingly seduced by technological tools. This poster demonstrates how much more powerful a campaign can be if everything works together.

And, it demonstrates the power of pushing even a great concept just one step more.
Back to the top of the page

May 3 2013
Yup, it’s been nearly six months since I last posted a blog entry. If you want to know why my blogging efforts ebb and flow, an explanation is here on the Ad Blog:
Ad Blog entry, June 1 2012

The plain truth is, some days I can either write advertising copy or write about advertising copy. And sometimes, those days go on for months.

The good news (for me, anyway, and my clients): I’ve been busy writing ads. The bad news (to a rapidly diminishing, if not non-existent, audience): I’ve been mindfully, consciously neglectful of writing blog posts.

Will that change? Well, probably not, at least until the kids move out and become self-feeders, to steal a term from an older neighbor, a retired firefighter who successfully launched his own two kids. That’ll be a few years. But, for now, and for as long as it lasts, I’ve created a small scrap of time in which to comment on the interesting stories I encounter about the wonderful world of advertising and marketing creative.
Back to the top of the page
Backwards in time to November 2012

My experience as a copywriter.

Main page | Advertising portfolio | Brochure portfolio | Consumer goods | Eco-friendly products | Food services | Healthcare | Hospitality & tourism | Internet | Manufacturing | Packaged goods | Real estate & construction | Retail & restaurants | Service | Technology

Answers to frequently asked questions.

Why should you hire me as your advertising copywriter? | FAQ

Advertising & marketing advice.

Advertising strategy and other lies
An advertising copywriter’s bookshelf: recommended books
Brands and branding: a white paper
Do you make these mistakes in advertising?
Free (yes, free) advertising copywriting resources
Four ad copy traps that ensnare even experienced copywriters
How to become an advertising copywriter
How to take your copywriting portfolio to the next level
How to write a brochure: advice from an advertising copywriter
How to write better ads
Long John Silver on writing ads
More career advice: what’s it like being an advertising copywriter?
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)
The economy (and what to do about it)
The Tightwad Marketing project
When you should consider hiring a freelance copywriter
Advertising copywriting mentorship
Back to the top of the page

Me, me, me.

Awards & honors | Curriculum vitae | Services

Email me.

Call or fax me.

Phone and fax: (619) 465-6100

Write me.

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

Back to the top of the page