John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
October, 2003

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October 31, 2003
Ahh, trends. Gotta love ‘em. And, in advertising, it pays to stay on top of them. Here’s a wonderfully appropriate aroma trend, as reported in the Washington (D.C.) Post:
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Will pumpkin scent be next season’s lemon? Will the aroma of pumpkin migrate from candles and breads to dishwashing detergent and air fresheners? Maybe - the rising popularity of pumpkin scent is linked to an increase in consumer desire for nostalgia and a return to safer, cozier times. Watch for those attitudes to be reflected soon in ads targeting you. Happy Halloween!
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October 29, 2003
What makes an advertising jingle so catchy? BBC News has a story about research that says earworms - those maddening tunes that you can’t get out of your head - create a “brain itch,” analagous to actual histamines, that can only be “scratched” by continued repetition of the tune:
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Repetition and simplicity are two common elements in earworms and successful advertising jingles alike. However, and perhaps thankfully, it is difficult to deliberately create earworms, because of the individual and idiosyncratic nature of the phenomenon. Of the Top 10 earworms in the U.S., the #1 item is “other.”
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October 28, 2003
A new study of 13-24-year-olds indicates that humor aids recall in advertising. Here’s a press release, published in (appropriately enough) Transworld Snowboarding:
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While young people are savvy - and in many cases downright cynical - about advertising, they are also more likely to view ads as entertainment. As such, “creativity,” “real to my lifestyle,” and “irony” have the most appeal. One note on the “real to my lifestyle” facet: people of all ages are turned off by ads that smack of insincerity - there’s nothing new there. What is new, though, is the speed and depth of the backlash that develops against a brand or advertiser who, in the eyes of the young, “doesn’t get it.”
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October 27, 2003
No link, just a comment relating to the wildfires raging throughout San Diego County. The Cedar Fire, which is the one that forced my family’s evacuation, is now the largest fire in San Diego County history, with some 207,000 acres burned and hundreds of homes destroyed. We’re fine, by the way, having returned home this evening.

How is this relevant to advertising? Well, most television stations pulled all advertising. But, we all knew - I mean knew - that the worst was over when, after many hours of continuous news coverage, the first tv commercial came on. Used car dealer Cal Worthington was never so welcome.
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October 24, 2003
What I like about this article, from the Toronto (Canada) Star, is how the contribution of advertising creative is put into perspective, as part of a chain of innovative thinking, in a brief look at two Swedish companies, IKEA and Absolut:
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Both IKEA and Absolut are marketing success stories, and creativity played a strong role in defining what the companies stood for to consumers. But, they are also business success stories, and that’s the part that many advertising creatives overlook. Advertising is the most-visible expression of a company’s marketing strategy, especially to people in the ad industry, but it’s not the only (or, in many cases, even the most-important) component to building a successful brand.
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October 22, 2003
From the Associated Press via FOX News comes this blurb about Medicare spending $600,000 on an advertising ... blimp?:
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Okay, I’m not going to take the easy copywriter-shooting-from-the-hip shots at this concept. Instead, I’ll wheel up bigger guns and aim at the strategy. The objective of the $30 million advertising campaign was to make Medicare benefits better known to its 40 million participants. The blimp (which only features the 1-800 number) is supported by newspaper ads and television commercials. Now, how does a blimp or a television commercial communicate a relevant healthcare benefit to a real-life program participant? The answer is, it doesn’t. With 75 cents per person to spend on advertising, direct mail might have been a more targeted and cost-effective way to reach program participants and educate them about their benefits. Why didn’t the ad agency recommend this? I hope it wasn’t just the media commission or the coolness factor. Or is that naïve of me?
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October 20, 2003
Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem says women need to get mad about the expectations advertising creates for themselves, in a keynote speech to a symposium examining how advertising shapes the image of women, sponsored by the Advertising Educational Foundation and held at Northwestern University in Illinois. Here’s the article, in the Daily Northwestern:
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The counterargument, that advertising merely reflects societal beliefs, is irrelevant. What’s being discussed here is advertising’s effect on expectations, and managing expectations is unquestionably an effect of advertising. Not a primary effect, in most cases, but definitely an effect.

A second argument, that mass-media editorial content is as unbalanced a portrayal of real people as advertising, is true but weak. Yes, news anchors appear as attractive as anyone in the television commercials surrounding them; yes the people on the covers of magazines (including Ms.) are typically Beautiful People or Powerful People or both. However, advertising is aimed at real people. People watch news programs or buy magazines because they’re interested in the content; people watch or read ads because they’re interested in themselves. How people and products are portrayed help create that connection. When the portrayal doesn’t ring true, the connection is weakened. And this is where advertising creative, in many cases, misses what could be a huge opportunity.
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October 17, 2003
Dated tomorrow (because it already is in Asia) comes this article from the Asia Times. Apparently, massive ad agency Dentsu will start offering a third-party service in which the effectiveness of advertising campaigns will be measured by asking consumers whether advertising influenced their behavior:
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Three comments. First, post-campaign research should be standard operating procedure, and for one of the world’s largest ad agencies to announce a results-oriented tool as a newsworthy breakthrough is proof of the insularity with which many ad agencies have surrounded themselves of late. Second, the service sounds less like a specific ad campaign effectiveness analysis and more like a media channel analysis, a vital tool but one that ignores the power of creative to transcend the channel. Third, $182,000 to $273,000 to interview 500 to 1,000 consumers? Wow.
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October 16, 2003
The First Amendment and its construed relationship with advertising (both political and corporate) get the once-over in this article, from the Dodge City (KS) Daily Globe:
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The author raises an interesting point about just how radical our Founding Fathers really were. The notion that an election, or a market, could be influenced through sheer money would have been something to revolt against. Yet, commercial speech clearly existed back in the late 1700s, in advertising handbills, clacks, and newspapers to name a few media channels. In They Laughed When I Sat Down (Bonanza Books, NY, 1959), editor and advertising historian Frank Rowsome, Jr. identifies the first known American magazine advertisement as “a tiny notice, soliciting the return of a runaway slave, in Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine & Historical Chronicle for May 10, 1741.” The issue of commercial communication was one that Madison chose not to address. And here we are today, with freedom and capitalism - and advertising - inextricably tangled. Could that be because, at least partially, they are?
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October 14, 2003
A lot of great advertising concepts never make it past the creative team’s trash can, and many of the ones that do don’t get exploited fully. This article, from Canada’s National Post, reveals one ad man’s idea of transforming recycled ad concepts into licensed gold:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s an interesting idea, and many people have tried to franchise stock and semi-stock ad concepts before. In fact, I was involved with one such effort more than ten years ago. The problem, is that even if advertising concepts seem similar (and they frequently do), advertising is essentially a hand-crafted solution built to meet a unique set of needs. While entertainment-oriented concepts, such as mascots like the sock puppet, could have other applications, no one stops to think that maybe, just maybe, that lack of focus was part of the reason the marketing and advertising failed in the first place.
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October 13, 2003
A recent survey claims that television advertising does not influence car buyers. Here’s the article, from Ad Age (QwikFIND ID AAP06S):
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The survey found that only 17% of respondants said television ads influenced their car-buying decisions. Compare that to 26% saying they were influenced by the Internet, 48% by a direct mail offer, and 71% by word-of-mouth.

Key criticisms: first, this was a survey (of a mere 700 consumers, no less), not a traffic or sales study. How many people will admit that their buying behavior is influenced by television advertising? Not as many as truth would have. Second, the Internet and direct mail may provide prospective car buyers with the information (or rationale) to make or support a buying decision, but the trigger for the search is still likely to be a mass-media advertising message.
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October 8, 2003
This article, from the Wichita (KS) Eagle, discusses the challenges of boosting tourism to Kansas in part through branding:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Smart comment: “If we’re going to be flat, then we're going to define what flat means.” In other words, create strengths from the qualities people already know. Which is exactly what most of the other slogans listed don’t do, like “Simply Wonderful” (simply unbelievable) and “The Real Experience” (the real bad ad slogan). That might be because, like most political bodies, the tourism department is trying to satisfy too many constituent groups. Unfortunately, the primary target for tourism messages lies outside their constituency.
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October 6, 2003
I’m an advertising copywriter who’s also a California resident, registered to vote in the upcoming Special Election. That said, I thought this article from Editor & Publisher was interesting in terms of the future of political advertising - and, indeed, advocacy advertising in general:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Not a lot of news - the Internet is fast becoming the information dissemination vehicle of choice. Six out of ten respondents said that negative advertising made them feel less positive about the candidate running the ad than about the candidate targeted. 77% said they weren’t swayed by candidate appearances on entertainment-type media vehicles such as talk shows. Finally, a meager 2.3% feel that political advertising is a reliable source of objective, unbiased information. Now, my family has watched perhaps three hours of television over the past few weeks, but we do read the newspaper daily and get online on an hourly basis. We have been exposed to very few campaign messages from any candidate. And, we’ve received only about a half-dozen mailers over the past several weeks. If we were waiting for the ads to tell us how to vote, heck, we’d never make up our minds.
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October 2, 2003
Ad slogans don’t work, according to this unreleased consumer survey from a brand consultancy group. Here’s the article, from USA Today via the Arizona Business Gazette:
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Any copywriter worth his or her salt already knew that flaccid, vapid, emotionally disconnected ad slogans with little to no marketplace equity don’t work, any more than flaccid, vapid, emotionally disconnected ads that change with every year or CEO. This is, however, apparently news to brand consultancy groups and ad agencies.
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October 1, 2003
The results of the latest client-agency survey are in. Here’s the article, from the New York Times:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Not a lot of good news here, for advertisers, ad agencies, or the advertising industry in general. Clients are less convinced that their ad agencies have their needs at heart, ad agencies feel more like vendors than marketing partners, and both sides agree that there’s too many layers of executive-level second-guessing on both strategy and creative. At a time when ad budgets are down and every marketing dollar counts, these trends increase costs and reduce effectiveness.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

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