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

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October 31, 2005
Happy Halloween! Today I have an article about voices from beyond the grave and dead people brought back to life. All in the name of advertising, of course. Here’s the story about dead celebrities and their endorsement deals, from Newhouse News Service via The Seattle Times (WA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Dead celebrities have a long history of being used (and abused) in advertising. In my own library, I can find reprints of ads from the 1900s featuring formerly living people such as William Shakespeare, or Thomas Jefferson, or even Lydia Pinkham, whose popular image was created by advertising and used to sell her patent medicine some two decades after she herself expired. Women even wrote to “her” (“in strictest confidence”), little knowing they were writing to a staff made up almost entirely (if not entirely) of men.

But I digress. I think one of the most-effective uses of a dead celebrity, was the work done for the American Cancer Society using John Wayne, in the years following his death in 1979 from cancer. There, it was both his celebrity and his death that gave the message weight.

Next up is this quickie from the BBC, following up on the story on October 21 about a major bank taking over the advertising slogan of a smaller accountancy firm:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It appears a satisfactory settlement has been reached, probably a undisclosed sum of money changing hands to either buy out the rights or compensate for added costs.
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October 29, 2005
Hip discount airline Song, which launched with great hoopla and whoop-de-do, claiming itself as some sort of new paradigm on a Frontline program last year about branding, is being shut down by parent Delta. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It was not quite a year ago that the program aired (you can see what I thought of it on November 8-11, 2004); the brand itself started in 2003. Despite the talk, the Yugo brand lasted longer in the U.S. market. Heck, even this blog has lasted longer.

While Song may well have been a behind-the-scenes success, the experiment also demonstrates the inability of branding alone to overcome problems in core business processes. Like, oh, whether or not the business model itself was sustainable independent of pulling resources from the parent company to begin with. 
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October 28, 2005
What’s next for the Chicago White Sox after winning the World Series? Advertising, of course. Here’s the story about upcoming endorsement deals, from the Chicago Tribune (IL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

What’s interesting here, is that there are no superstars on the team. No break-out, cross-over celebrity players. So, despite the team having won the championships, the ad rush is still largely pending, measured in possibilities rather than cold hard cash. Yet, the window is small; among consumers, those who are not sports fans never knew the individual players to begin with, and those who are have already moved on to football.

In other news, I just re-read Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple, Squeeze This (1998, 2003, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. NJ). It’s a great book from copywriter with a great book. It’s informative, it’s insightful, it’s occasionally fall-off-the-chair-laughing funny. And, most important, it’s a dead-on-target look at the wonderful world of advertising. Read this book.
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October 27, 2005
AT&T is back! Here’s the story, from IDG News Service via InfoWorld (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

So SBC, one of the AT&T spin-offs, is buying AT&T. When the deal is done, it’ll brand itself as AT&T, a wise choice. Still, I wonder why anyone is bothering to develop a new logo, besides the obvious need for some design firm to increase its billings. The old AT&T logo was a well-known brand icon, highly recognized by both designers and consumers. Can it be beat? Maybe. My branding recommendation: a modest updating, rather than a sea change, would be the savviest course of action.
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October 25, 2005
Audi launches its own digital television channel in the UK, the first under the new self-promotional license. Here’s the story, from Digital TV Group News (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is a natural continuation from October 21 (Part 1), about Samsung’s online advertising network becoming a media channel in its own right. Heck, I talked about the possibilities more than two years ago (March 13 and December 4, 2003). A company-owned TV channel could be a powerful branding and sales tool if enough of the content crosses over into entertainment. Compared to a retailer like, say, Sears, an automaker provides fewer possibilities for consumer interaction to the point of a sale. Still, it’ll be very exciting to see how this trend develops.
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October 24, 2005
It should come as a surprise to no one that the first industry to seize the possibilities of the video iPod as a retail channel is adult entertainment. Yes, iPorn. Here’s the story, from Yahoo! News UK and Ireland:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The innovation and marketing savvy of the porn industry is one of those taboo topics, because it is both socially and politically either unacceptable or reprehensible and unacceptable. Yet, most of us know it, and keep a wary weather-eye on developments.

After all, on website process design alone, the adult content industry knows how to convert click-throughs to sales. It is accustomed to working with large databases and even larger digital deliverables. It understands niche marketing. It knows not only that bandwidth has costs (something very few others seem to acknowledge), but also how to conserve and optimize that bandwidth to maximize ROI. It was among the first internet categories to put serious thinking into targeted offline advertising, and yet, because its offline media choices are by necessity quite limited, it is also one of the few places to see true-blue, pure online marketing put to work. It was arguably the first internet category to realize the power of democratization in the form of user-submitted content, and – even more important from a marketing standpoint – how to profit from that content. It is consistently the first to apply third-party innovations, and this article is just another in a long list of examples.

The uncomfortable fact is, the rest of the online business world remains a good generation and a half behind the adult entertainment industry in almost every important way. And the question isn’t why this is so (the answer likely lies in something more base than we’d like to hear). But, rather, how can we move our own clients forward?
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October 21, 2005, Part 2
A rare second post today because this story from BBC News just begged to be told:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Basically a large corporation just took over a smaller company’s slogan. Yes, it’s a common phrase (“Now there’s a thought”), but for crying out loud: one company is a bank and the other is an accountancy firm. Clearly there will be consumer confusion, clearly one preceded the other, clearly the smaller company will incur added expenses because of this. And yet, the big dog won because the smaller company couldn’t bear the potential punitive costs should it lose. That might be fair, but it ain’t right.

Do you notice anything in the examples of both slogans? No little ™ on either one. Maybe identifying a slogan as a trademark is just a U.S. thing, but, on this side of the pond, it could have saved the smaller company a lot of grief. The smaller company may even have been able to register the slogan in the category of financial services.

This is the sort of occurrence that gives any copywriter cold chills. Because, while it’s axiomatic that there are no new ideas, new ideas (utilizing a finite set of words and cultural references to boot) are what we get paid for. Which is why the sidebar story about the “second-hand city slogan” is interesting in a watching-a-train-wreck sort of way.
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October 21, 2005
Consumer electronics giant Samsung buys enough Internet advertising bandwidth to become a media network itself. Here’s the story, from Business Week Online via Yahoo! News (Asia):
Advertising copywriter blog link

You know, Samsung is one of those companies that just isn’t making too many mistakes these days. Leveraging the power of their existing media buy, essentially reselling or trading it for the purposes of strategic partnerships, is sheer brilliance.

Harking back to my entry on October 13, I think Samsung may be the best hedge bet against the Apple iPod. One has to wonder what could happen if that Bon Jovi concert webcast mentioned in the article was made available as a video download. And, one has to believe that that has already occurred to the folks at Samsung.
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October 20, 2005
Commercial Alert, a family advocacy group, is asking the FTC to regulate buzz. Here’s the story, from CNET News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The thing is, stealth marketing is nothing new, and neither is “pester power.” Even before I had kids of my own, I held the very unpopular view that Sesame Street had evolved into a half-hour-long television commercial, and questioned whether its influence in essentially training up young consumers was more negative than its educational content was positive. (Now that I have kids of my own, I have become convinced that it is.) So, clearly, the point is well-taken. The problem is, how can a media channel be controlled, if that channel is fundamentally beyond control? Examples abound of backfired attempts at buzz-building. I think the answer, at least as far as children’s programming and marketing is concerned, lies more in the hands of parents than the government.
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October 19, 2005
Yesterday I didn’t read my newspaper until later in the day. And there on the front page was a honest-to-goodness home-grown story about the how podcasting is reviving the art of radio shows! Here’s the story, from yesterday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

While it’s fun to think that the original old-time radio shows could make a comeback, or that the art of the soap opera in its original sense will be revived and rejuvenated, what’s exciting here is how this technology is enabling democratized radio-esque programming to move forward with highly segmented and targeted audiences. Neat, neat stuff. And I’ll say it again: what a great time to be in advertising!
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October 18, 2005
Here’s an entertaining little true-life tale about inadvertent viral marketing via eBay, from The Independent (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Who will be the first person to create films for the iPod video player and distribute them through eBay? Who will be the first ad agency to get people to pay for downloads of commercials? When will the ad industry wake up to the power of eBay’s global marketplace, and its possibilities for direct marketing? Sigh.

The fact is, the ad industry is so far behind consumers that it re-creates the wheel over and over (interactive marketing! new media! e-tailing! i-branding!), each time believing that it has created something new. The revolution that so many iNewMediaMarketingGurus are espousing has already happened. What’s more, it can already be used (and has been), right now, by those advertisers savvy enough to see through the noise.

Oh, and, by the way: the element that made that eBay listing so powerful, so popular, so passed-along? The copy.
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October 17, 2005
An ad agency built around the idea that the goal of advertising is to communicate the right message through the right media to the right people. What a concept. Here’s the story about Naked Communications, from Fast Company:
Advertising copywriter blog link

If advertisers and ad agencies hadn’t lost their way a long time ago, this immersion-based, consultative approach wouldn’t seem so new-fangled and innovative now. However, there is more to it than the approach.

See, clients going to the Naked boys are open to non-advertising solutions to marketing problems. Clients approaching traditional ad agencies are usually not.

Like most people charged with creating advertising, I can think of dozens – probably hundreds, given time – of non-media or non-advertising solutions to client problems that I’ve developed and recommended over the years. Those recommendations, although often welcomed, are seldom taken up, and it’s usually my smaller clients who have the vision and guts to act. Which is why there will always be room in my heart and my schedule to tackle those projects for smaller clients, because that’s often where I can make the biggest difference.
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October 15, 2005
A Saturday follow-up to my entry from October 13, about Apple launching a video-enabled iPod and the content channel to support it, from the Associated Press via my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yup, I thought so. Will $1.99 television show downloads be enough to pay the writers, actors, producers, creators, networks, and make a profit? Hmmm. It depends on how the downloadable media channel is defined, and that will depend more on negotiations than on reality. And, still, what about the commercials? This enterprise could be largely self-funding if ads are included and advertisers are willing to pony up for the audience.
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October 14, 2005
This article discusses the history of advertising characters. No, not that kind of history. More like, the development of back-stories for advertising characters, created to help companies identify with and leverage their brand icons. Here’s more, from the Portland Tribune (OR):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think the section on rejuvenating the Maytag Repairman is interesting. Although I’m not totally convinced that adding a sidekick was the best tactical implementation of the strategy (on principle alone not wanting to dilute the brand iconography), there is also no doubt that the strategy behind it was spot-on and the tactic worked as-played.
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October 13, 2005
Apple Computer announces that its new iPod will play videos, and goes on to announce available content. Here are two takes on the story, the first from the Associated Press via yesterday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (CA), and the second from the BBC today:
Advertising copywriter blog link
Advertising copywriter blog link

Granted, watching a television show on a 2-1/2-inch screen may have limited appeal. But even there, you might be surprised. My own almost-daily online television program, Working Lunch from the BBC, plays in RealPlayer, in a window not significantly larger than that. (Sure, I can enlarge the screen to 2x or even full-screen, but it’s not very clear when it gets big.)

The real news here isn’t the video iPod; it’s the media infrastructure to deliver content. And here’s where all the talk about “digital convergence” really shows up in a high-profile, yet everyday sort of way. Key quote from the AP article: It all falls in line with Apple’s goal of making the computer a digital multimedia hub and the iPod, the portable extension of it.

Which brings up Sony, mentioned in the BBC article as a possible contender in blunting the iPod juggernaut. Sony has the design and technology chops, the studio connections, and perhaps a wider and deeper retail distribution network. However, its Connect music service has yet to pose a serious threat to iTunes. See, there again, it’s about content and how that content is provided. This battle will be won or lost on media service, and (here’s where advertising and marketing come in) consumer perceptions of that service.

Speaking strictly as an advertising guy, though, I wonder too: those downloadable versions of “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” that will be sold at $1.99 a pop ... will the commercials be included? If not, is $1.99 a profitable price point?
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October 11, 2005
Advertising hijacks blogs! Here’s the story, from BBC News Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yet another benefit to good old HTML blogging.

But really, this points up a serious character flaw in marketing departments and advertising agencies worldwide: that, having caught wind of a new-fangled tool, too many cannot wait to apply it pell-mell in order to position themselves as “cutting edge.” And, as is so often the case, they reveal themselves as not only well behind the edge, but strategically bankrupt to boot.
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October 10, 2005
Hey, it’s a new-media advertising guru! Yes, another one, this time spotted in Business Week:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Here’s a great quote, speaking about print but still relevant: “No ad is ever sought out and read by anybody except the person who wrote it or the one who paid for it. It must cut across the reader’s complacency and rivet his attention.”

And, here’s another, from someone else: “Advertising may seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but there’s some evidence that the fish don’t hold still as well as they used to and are developing armor plate. They have control over what type of ammo you have, when the trigger gets pulled, and how fast your shot moves. Oh, and they’re not all in the same barrel anymore.”

So, who are these hot advertising gurus? Well, the first was Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, a great copywriter from the 1950s. The second was Howard Gossage, another great ad guy from the 1950s and 1960s.

To get obsessed with changes in the media landscape is to overlook the fact that consumers living within that landscape haven’t significantly changed. Regardless of media noise, they will still ignore that which is uninteresting and look at that which is interesting.
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October 7, 2005
Coke sales are flat, so it’s turning to (you know what’s coming) a new ad campaign from a new ad agency to turn the tide. Here’s the story, from the Chicago Tribune (IL) via the Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The problem isn’t the advertising, as uneven as it has been in recent years. I see two key problems. First, Coke has scuttled its flagship brand through too many line extensions. Although those line extensions allow a tremendous amount of profit-taking when carbonated soft drink sales are on the up, they also dilute the brand and spell a lot of ongoing overhead (in terms of SKUs, production, distribution resources, and marketing), especially now that more and more young people are opting out of carbonated drinks entirely.

Which brings me to the second key problem: the market has shifted, and brown fizzy drinks are no longer a part of it.

Coke is a diluted brand in a shrinking market, and that ain’t good. And, I don’t think a spiffy new ad campaign is going to be enough to turn things around all by itself.
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October 6, 2005
Beverly Hills city officials think it should be profiting more from the Beverly Hills “shield” logo/sign. Here’s the story, from the Los Angeles Times (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

When I read that, I said “huh?” Oh, that sign.

Okay, it’s an historic sign. But it’s no icon. Press release blather aside, it’s most definitely not “one of the most recognizable city signs in the world.”

Furthermore, as a basic design, it’s weak. Compare it to, say, the Apple Computer logo or the Chevrolet bow-tie logo, and you’ll realize that the only visual elements that tie it to Beverly Hills, are the words “Beverly Hills.” A visual icon that relies on copy to communicate is hobbled right out of the starting gate, which may be why this one never built up any momentum despite nearly 80 years of history.

I’m not saying it won’t work. What I am saying, is that it’s going to take some active investment in a branding campaign before it begins to live up to the expectations of ill-informed, greedy city council members.
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October 5, 2005
This is a cute diversion for the day: revealing the hitherto secret identity of the child who, for 32 years, was the brand icon for Kinder chocolates. Now he’s an adult, and he’s written his autobiography. Here’s the story, from Deutsche Welle (Bonn, Germany):
Advertising copywriter blog link

It must’ve been strange for a 10-year-old to see his face smiling out at him from every candy shelf; equally strange for a 17-year-old to be surrounded by the omnipresent image of his 10-year-old self; equally strange to have your 10-year-old self on product packages for decades. There’s something very Dorian Gray-ish about that. I can see where it might take until one is 42 to come to grips with it enough to come forward.

Personal story minute: for decades, a tourist area in the Sierras sold a postcard that featured my wife’s mother’s family as it was in the 1960s. Because the scenery dominated the photograph, a picturesque pond set against magnificent mountain peaks, you couldn’t see the people well enough to date the image. The family received no compensation other than being able to point to themselves on a postcard, recognizable if you knew them but anonymous to anyone else. Year after year, every time the family returned, they’d see themselves on display in a time-capsule view. When I first went camping in the area with my wife’s family, they pointed out the postcard in a shop, with a sort of sheepish, foot-shuffling pride. It had already spanned three generations, and was going for a fourth. The end finally came, as abrupt as it was expected. On a family camping trip just two years ago, we learned that the postcard was, at long last, no longer sold. A piece of family history had quietly slipped back into the past.
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October 4, 2005
Automaker Subaru goes after the gay and lesbian niche, with a dedicated ad campaign running on targeted media. Here’s the story, from
Advertising copywriter blog link

I believe niche marketing is a great way to build the kind of intimate, one-on-one customer relationships that build brands and sales. Furthermore, as Ries and Trout have said:

“You seldom read about companies that went under because the market they were concentrating on was too small.

The key challenge, is to do it in a way that doesn’t smack of pandering; remembering that what we in advertising call “target markets” are really made up of individuals.

Anyway, I like a lot of the components of this campaign, especially the promotional tie-in which should allow both agency and advertiser to track results.
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October 3, 2005
Here’s an article about long-time direct marketing/late-night infomercial master Ron Popeil, from Business Week (UK) via Yahoo! Finance:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Popeil is a highly successful seller of goods; as a copywriter, I’m very interested in what he has to say. And, reading this article, three things stood out to me.

First, is his obvious passion. It’s an essential ingredient in persuasion, yet most ads far short of the evangelical energy present in Popeil’s spiels.

Second, is his focus on the marketplace, learned through formative years making his pitches directly to customers at stores and fairs. “Most people don’t understand the market,” he says, and he could be talking about product development or advertising.

Third, he’s 70 years old and he has 4- and 6-year-old daughters. Wow!
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October 2, 2005
Chinese companies are making a big, big push to establish their own brands worldwide. Here’s the story, from the Chicago Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think this is going to happen, and fast. All the research shows that brand is more important to American consumers than nation of origin, regardless of its economic policies or treatment of workers. Okay, fine; everyone has the right to vote their pocketbook through their purchases. But I wonder what’s going to happen in the next few decades, as American industry is stripped of its ability to compete? We’re already seeing the near-ruination of some of our premier brands due to pension and health care costs: Ford, for instance, or (what the heck) my own hometown City of San Diego. You can bet that the Chinese government isn’t going to allow unions, or strikes for that matter.

I don’t know. Marketing is warfare, and China is the sleeping giant. I’ve talked about this before (July 21, May 19 and 11, April 19 and 15,  2005, and December 8, 2004), but time is running out for American companies. I’ll go out on a limb and make a prediction now: as a brand, Lenovo will knock out HP to challenge Dell in the U.S. market within 18 months.

I hate to sound nationalistic or provincial, and I am, but I’d rather my kids have futures here than cheap consumer electronics.
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October 1, 2005
Dated tomorrow because it is in some parts of the world, is this article that nails the relationship between customer and branding, from The Star (Malaysia):
Advertising copywriter blog link

I’ve said it all along: companies don’t create brands, customers do. And, sales is branding if you get enough of it. I like everything about this article. And, by the way, Wreden’s book FusionBranding (2002, Accountability Press, Atlanta, GA) is well worth a read too.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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