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

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September 30, 2005
Germany is a nation in the economic doldrums, facing increasing unemployment and a national election that left the country both divided and temporarily directionless. Sounds like someone needs an upbeat advertising campaign. Here’s the story, from Reuters via the Daily Times (Pakistan):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Keep in mind that this is a nation that has, by and large, not allowed itself to express any sense of nationalistic pride since, well, since the last time someone there did it, and with horrific results. Anything that looks like flag-waving (on the level, say, that we Americans take for granted) is bound to be regarded with varying degrees of suspicion by a lot of people. So, this ad campaign is a breakthrough on more levels than this article discusses. It may help German morale, it may not; what’s really notable from a creative standpoint is that it was done at all.
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September 29, 2005
A brand revival for late-70s local airline icon PSA? Not quite; here’s the story from my local paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

PSA was perhaps the iconic Southern California airline brand, noted for its brightly painted planes with smiles on their noses. It had a fun, exciting brand personality long before Richard Branson launched Virgin Air, and it had cheap rates on interstate flights long before Southwest Airlines started. PSA was acquired in the late 1980s by USAir, which then mismanaged it into oblivion.

Now USAir, now called US Airways, is seeking to bask in a little reflected glory from its predecessors. The four local airlines that became US Airways are being honored by having their paint schemes revived on a handful of US Airways planes. And, here in San Diego, where PSA had its headquarters, the “heritage” paint scheme was instantly recognized, not bad for a brand that hasn’t been advertised for nearly 20 years.

However, just like 20 years ago, it takes more than a paint scheme to differentiate an airline.
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September 28, 2005
A follow-up to my blog entry on March 28 2005, about McDonald’s seeking Big Mac placement in rap songs, from MTV:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The Official Word from McDonald’s is that they “have not yet identified the match that we’ve been looking for.” Uh huh. For which I think they should be profoundly grateful, an internal misfire being better than an external one. Had the match been found, you’d hardly hear a message for the catcalls.
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September 27, 2005
Japanese advertisers (and consumers) are turning away from Hollywood celebrities in advertising. Here’s the story, from the Los Angeles Times (CA) via The Standard (HK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Blame is allocated partly to shrinking budgets, partly to celebrity greed, and partly to changing fashion. Is it a watershed event, as some think? (“Oh no, the U.S. is no longer the #1 purveyor of pop culture to the world!”) Or is it a cyclical thing? (“We’ll be right back after this dip in our popularity.”) I don’t know. I’d like to think the Asian consumer market is maturing and coming into its own, but it seems to have been a long time on the vine.
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September 26, 2005
Happy Monday to you. Here’s a study by Ball State University that shows that mass media now occupies fully nine hours of every day, on average, for adults. Here’s the story, from The Indianapolis Star (IN):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The numbers pretty much track expectations, but there are a few gems. For instance, computers and the internet still have a long way to go to catch up with television in typical American lives. And, the study reveals that older people are more likely to media multitask than younger people, in part because they tend toward traditional media (e.g. reading the newspaper with the television on).

Now, me, I can no more imagine plopping myself down and watching four hours of television a day than I can imagine life with only 2 hours and 15 minutes of computer use a day. And I suspect that that’s how most people  in advertising feel. Which points up a glaring weakness in the advertising industry: that those who create it may be fundamentally unsuited to appeal to those who watch it. Uh-oh.

I’m not being a couch potato. I’m doing research.
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September 23, 2005
Now for something different: not an article from BBC News, but an article about it, and how it’s launching a campaign to attract more consumers in the U.S. as well as the rest of Western Europe. Here it is, from Revolution Magazine (UK):
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What I found surprising, was that 50% of the audience for BBC News already comes from the U.S. I see that as validation, to some extent, of the value (both marketing and otherwise) of an international perspective on the day’s news.

But what’s the next step after attracting these viewers? Will the ongoing costs be advertiser supported? I believe, and I could be wrong, that the BBC charter doesn’t allow that. In which case, it’s going to have to be subscriber-supported. Rats!
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September 22, 2005
How to make money from advertising: just ask for it. Here’s a story, from BBC News, about how a young college student is selling space on a website, pixel-by-pixel:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Okay, if you go to the website (and apparently neither I nor the BBC thinks its worth linking to, which says something right there), you’ll see a dazzling grid populated by tiny icons, some as small as 10 pixels by 10 pixels. You’ll also see a case study which will become irrelevant at exactly the same pace as the grid fills with competing tiny graphics. Notably, there is no Google PageRank for the page, nor is there likely to be: this is a link farm if there ever was one. I’m no SEO expert by any means, but this looks more like something to avoid rather than something to do, at least if you’re looking at organic search engine results as a marketing medium. If you’re just hopping on the trend, well, you might already be too late.
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September 21, 2005
Meanwhile, in China, a company launches two new brands of condoms, one named after former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the other named after former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Here’s the story, from the Los Angeles Times (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is an interesting situation. If a Chinese company were to use Martha Stewart’s name, just to pull a random well-known name as an example, there would be all sorts of legal wrangling. But, what’s the likelihood of either interested party getting involved in this case? Even despite China’s increased trademark and intellectual property protections? The product naming is a bold gambit on the part of the Chinese company, but it’s almost bound to work for them no matter what happens in court.

And, by the way, the Clinton-brand condoms are the pricier of the two. As befits the image, don’t you know.
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September 20, 2005
Supermodel Kate Moss gets soundly spanked by European fashion retailer H&M over allegations of drug use. Here’s the story, from Bloomberg (UK):
Advertising copywriter blog link

This is the problem with using celebrities in marketing – and by marketing, I mean applications beyond advertising. In this case, Moss was going to be the face of a new line of clothing, which is tantamount to making her the key brand icon. That line will presumably move forward without her, and the fact that it will likely do so with no particular long-term damage shows, in a way, how little value is placed on celebrities even in the world of fashion.
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September 19, 2005
Phil Dusenberry has written a memoir, which was reviewed this weekend by USA Today:
Advertising copywriter blog link

The names have changed, but a lot of this sounds like any other memoir of a top advertising creative. For the most part, the insights aren’t anything you don’t already know. However, it’s always nice to be validated (smug smug smug) and it’s always fun to hear war stories, particularly by and from one’s betters. I love stuff like this.
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September 16, 2005
Here’s an overview of the use of celebrities in German advertising, from the DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agenteur, Hamburg, Germany) via the Independent Online (Cape Town, South Africa):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Most of this applies to the use of celebrities in advertising anywhere. A few celebrity endorsements work well, because of perceived integrity and a good match between the celebrity, product, and message. Of the rest, perhaps half are actually counter-productive – the audience either has a negative perception of the celebrity or (most often) remember the celebrity but not the advertiser.
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September 15, 2005
Levi’s, having failed to sell the Dockers brand, is attempting to rejuvenate the brand with a new ad campaign and a new approach. Here’s the article, from the San Francisco Chronicle (CA) via the Kane County Chronicle (Geneva, IL):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Let me see if I have this right. The brand is losing popularity and sales, but remains profitable. One obvious solution is to focus on the existing profitable niche and wait for the fashion cycle to come back around, but that’s just not cool these days. So, Levi’s is re-launching Dockers as a “lifestyle brand.”

Excuse me for thinking, but (1) isn’t a lifestyle brand by definition appealing to a niche, and (2) doesn’t creating a true lifestyle brand require a heck of a lot more SKUs than just clothing? You know, Dockers bed and bath linens, Dockers home accessories, Dockers interior paint. Sort of what Ralph and Tommy and Martha do, right?

Well, if the brand isn’t strong enough to support pants, how is it going to support everything else? And, if the plan is to expand into categories by licensing, what’s the value of a struggling, recently redefined brand?

Don’t get me wrong; I’d like to see this succeed. There may be a market opportunity there, and there may be enough equity in the brand to leverage. But, speaking as just a little ol’ copywriter, if I got this brief I’d be asking some hard questions about strategy.
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September 14, 2005
Church advertising is becoming (dare I say it?) increasingly evangelical. Here’s a look at some, from BBC News Magazine:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Many of the complaints seem to run along the lines of “you can’t really advertise personal belief.”

First, yes you can; it’s called propaganda when a government does it, and branding when an ad agency does it. Second, many church ads are essentially retail ads, aimed at filling pews. Anyway, also take a look at the Ship of Fools website; the 10 best jokes alone are worth the click.
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September 13, 2005
Utah is looking for a new state slogan. Here’s the story, from the Herald Journal (Logan, UT):
Advertising copywriter blog link

The last time I talked about Utah and tourism was on September 23, 2004, when the wheels fell off an attempted ad campaign for Moab due to politics and committee-think.

At that time, I said “The beauty of tourism advertising, is that you get to turn a place on the map into a place in the heart. I still feel that way about branding places, but the thing is, you have to look outside the locale itself to get opinions that are relevant to tourism marketing efforts. That 12-city “listening tour” the Utah Office of Tourism is doing? They’re listening to the wrong people; not out-of-state potential tourists but Utah residents. Any advertising message developed from that input will just amount to more talking to themselves.
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September 12, 2005
Jack Trout’s marketing column in Forbes delivers some spot-on criticism of shareholder growth expectations and their impact on marketing:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Key quote:

“Growth is the by-product of doing things right. But in itself, it is not a worthy goal. In fact, growth is the culprit behind impossible goals.”

This is much bigger than marketing. How many companies have squandered their brands and bankrupted their futures in order to make today’s dividend payouts or hit today’s share prices? A lot. And, for how many companies is the final reckoning coming due? A lot. When you shift from focusing on customers to focusing on growth, the whole economy turns into one giant pyramid scheme.
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September 8, 2005
A typo in an ad for a college is unfortunate. Making the same typo over and over as part of the ad’s design is a classic case of adding insult to injury. Here’s the story, from the BBC:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yes, it appears there was a breakdown in the process. I’ve known art directors and designers to eliminate the dot from the letter “i” for a smoother appearance on the page, but an apostrophe? Anyway, I hope the copywriter had it right.
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September 7, 2005
The ad-man responds, in part three of a series about advertising clichés from the BBC:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s all as I predicted yesterday, a reasoned, reasonable, all-too-serious response to some mostly light-hearted teasing.

I beg to differ with one statement, though. What advertising “really is,” isn’t information. It’s persuasion, and one of the more-effective tools of persuasion happens to be information.
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September 6, 2005
A follow-up to Saturday’s story about irritating advertising clichés, from the BBC:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Ooo, there’s going to be an “ad-man’s response” this week. You know what it’ll be, of course: some serious and defensive blather about advertising reflecting an idealized society out of a known need to show positive outcomes, with only a few seconds to capture attention and communicate a relevant backstory using socially recognized shorthand images, and so on.

To which I say: oh, relax. These comments are mostly made to poke fun. My response to these people? Hey, for those of us who work in advertising, everything you see in the ads is completely true.
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September 5, 2005
San Diego has long been known, at least to itself, as “America’s Finest City.” Yup, that’s our city slogan. Anyway, in light of recent political scandals and financial misdeeds, the local newspaper asked readers to submit their ideas for new city slogans. Here’s the story, from (of course) the San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Read the jump story for selected reader suggestions, categorized as “the snarky,” “the upbeat,” and “the others.”

Anyway, from a professional perspective, the serious suggested slogans all match the original for sheer fatuous blandness. America’s Finest City. We’ve Got It All. City of Life. Feels Good All Over. Yeah, yeah, yeah. As a civic exercise, the exercise itself had more value than any of the results, since more than 500 slogans were submitted from all over the county.

My suggestion: San Diego: Sunny Beaches and Shady People. Oh, I suppose that’d be categorized under “snarky.”
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September 3, 2005
I saw this late yesterday, and decided today that it’s simply too good to ignore. It’s a look at irritating advertising clichés, from the BBC:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Be sure to scroll down to see the reader comments and additions. I have a few to add, and you probably do too. Here are a few of mine. Dogs and children are always clean, except in detergent commercials in which case only their faces and hands are dirty. Car doors are always unlocked. High-tech devices such as computers and home theater systems start instantly and work at the first press of a button.
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September 2, 2005
Television networks are turning to non-broadcast, non-traditional media to promote their Fall programming schedules. Here’s the story, from The Wall Street Journal via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

With television viewership down, it’s obvious that new viewers must be brought into the fold, which means looking beyond existing viewers. Not much of a story there. What I find interesting (and in a watching-a-train-wreck sort of way) is the choice of media and creative. Okay, I understand the creative connection between a medical sitcom and drugstore prescription bags. I can even see a tactical connection, laughter being the best medicine and all. But is that the right audience? Was a media planner even involved? Somehow, I doubt it.

The other interesting thing, is that these marketing efforts must be sustained to generate positive results. Viewers can’t be sought only at the start of the season and during sweeps weeks. As ABC’s president of entertainment says, “Coca-Cola never stops selling Coke.” 
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September 1, 2005
The internet’s power as a medium is revealed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here’s the story, from the BBC:
Advertising copywriter blog link

From new websites springing up to help loved ones find one another, to existing media and community sites re-allocating resources, the web’s ability to get up to speed fast and share information globally is showing itself in a powerfully positive light.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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