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

September 30 2013
The latest Interbrands report places Apple at the top of the list of the world’s best brands. Here’s the story, from CNBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

As such brand lists become hotter and more-common at the consumer news level, I think they’re pretty much losing professional relevance, and this list could be put forward as proof.

Yes, Apple and Google have affected the way we interact, for better and for worse. But is that branding, or an externally driven convergence of technology, the economy, and social evolution? I think it’s more the latter. Tech companies dominate the list because technology dominates our lives today in exactly the same way manufacturers and industrials dominated lives in the 1950s. Far from being dominant brands, many are simply dominant companies in dominant industries.

And that dominance may change. Many brands on the list are fast becoming commodities. Take Google and Intel as examples: their very dominance has reduced the need to differentiate themselves in the trenches and on the shelves. Commoditization is right around the corner, should anyone care to look that far ahead.

Apple, though, deserves its top placement for now. It’s sales figures and market share continue to demonstrate the power of its brand over mere features and benefits in exactly the way Microsoft’s used to until it lost the thread. Indeed, as the fight over technological innovation and device usability gets closer and harder-fought, it’s more and more Apple’s brand that carries the day.

And that’s brand power.
Back to the top of the page

September 26 2013
Here’s a little lunchtime grumble about the ad biz, from The Media Online (South Africa):
Advertising copywriter blog link

There’s something comforting about reading other peoples’ war stories. They assure us that we’re not alone; that these things happen to others too.

In my case it wasn’t a tire account; it was a small technical division within a mid-sized company that was, in turn, part of an even larger global conglomerate. Everything went great until the conglomerate marketing folks got wind of the upcoming ad campaign. Then the kibosh came down.

What really hurt was that, having demonstrated our ability to deliver truly breakthough advertising, we didn’t get so much as an outside chance to scale up our involvement in the larger firm’s marketing. That was all handled, with excruciatingly mediocre work and results, by some big-name ad agency.

In fact, quite the opposite happened: the big ad agency, perhaps feeling threatened by work done by small creative shops for pieces of the company, developed standardized marketing materials for all companies and divisions. They, of course, called it branding. But what it really was, was consolidating power. The result was grabbing work in areas it didn’t understand, preventing advertising innovation from those who did understand, and – and this is where sour grapes can sometimes turn snarkily sweet over time – the beginning of the end for the client conglomerate. But at least the whole thing went down together, eh?
Back to the top of the page

September 25 2013
From Adweek comes this quickie about how some top creative directors come up with ideas:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think it helps to have talent. It helps even more to have an objective. And it helps even more again to have a process that enables creative thinking. But what helps most of all, is being able to recognize great ideas regardless of source or stage in the process. That last bit often comes only with experience.

There are two essential books on the subject of creativity, either of which will provide much more direction than is possible in such a short article. The first is A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech. The second is A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young.
Back to the top of the page

September 24 2013
Continuing the discussion of luxury goods from three, no, four days ago, London-based gemstone company Gemfields is trying to make emeralds as hot and enduring a prestige commodity as diamonds. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s important, though, to clear up a few common misconceptions: the author of the article is, after all, a journalist, not an advertising historian. DeBeers’ “Diamonds Are Forever” slogan was not specifically commissioned: it was merely a part of a brief the main purpose of which was to drive the development of a new ad campaign. It was an afterthought, both strategically and in its creation. In fact, had it not initially been such a tiny part of the project, it might never had taken flight: it would have been tested and mucked with and put through several millstones of reviews. The tagline’s insignificance saved it.

The brilliant thing, was recognizing the line’s power and maintaining it through the decades. And that, in these days of social media and crowdsourced strategy, will be Gemfields’ biggest challenge.
Back to the top of the page

September 23 2013
I mentioned the importance of point-of-purchase marketing three days ago. Here’s an elaboration, along with an inside look at the difficulties in executing POP at the tactical level, from The Produce News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

One statistic jumped out at me: that retail customers make 70% of their purchasing decisions in-store. OK, that’s the reward for doing POP advertising and doing it well.

So, why don’t more brands use POP? Why don’t we see lots and lots of innovative, professionally produced, branded POP when we walk down the store aisles? Because there’s a basic, on-the-floor shortage of staff to set up displays, keep them stocked, and process the promotions themselves. That staffing shortfall, combined with expanding product inventory and concurrent shrinking storage space for any one item, means many, many wonderfully creative POP tools go out on the trucks and come back again, unused.

And that’s a major failure of execution. See, this is why I always seek information and input from the people in the trenches, unfiltered by their various heads of departments. That information must be part of the creative brief, or the best of strategies may fail on implementation. (For more on this, see Advertising Strategy and Other Lies.)

Whether in POP promotion or advertising or branding, you can only execute tactically what you can support logistically.
Back to the top of the page

September 22 2013
Just a weekend quickie to point out these lovely ads for Lisbon Airport, courtesy of travel site
Advertising copywriter blog link

I love that the visual concept extended from a remodeling campaign to a routes campaign with grace and simplicity. It’s not a branding campaign. But these ads are really, really smart branding nonetheless.
Back to the top of the page

September 20 2013
As the corporate economy rebounds, companies are reaching upscale with everyday products in an effort to (a) reach more affluent customers and (b) squeeze more out of the aspirational middle class. Here’s the story, from NBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

And, to put it in perspective, here’s what Warren Buffet has to say about the burgeoning disparity between the rich and the rest of us, in a short video on CNN Money:
Advertising copywriter blog link

For everyday brands to move upscale is not a new trend, and it’s also not the first time that’s happened during an economic boom. Consider, for instance, the post-war economy of the 1950s, which saw up-market Chevys and Fords (think Bel Air and Thunderbird) and a rapid expansion into middle-class households of exciting new media – a thing called television, which David Ogilvy called the only significant change of his entire advertising career.

What’s different, though, is that the boom of the ’50s was fueled by a growing middle class, driven, in turn, by expanding employment markets and a massive number of newly minted college graduates thanks to the GI Bill. It was a cycle that self-perpetuated until it broke, partly under its own weight. But while it lasted, there was an overall sense of optimism about the future.

Now, the middle class is shrinking and optimism is down. As Buffet says, the median income purchasing power in the U.S. hasn't budged since 1989. Plus, more people are postponing or opting out of having children, largely because of economic uncertainty, even as they reach for upmarket packaged goods. After all, unlike, children or even large durable goods, those purchases are instantly scalable: artisanal potato chips today because the cash flow is flowing (or it feels so); bargain chips with a coupon tomorrow because the wallet is (or feels) pinched.

All of which seems to me to point to the increased importance of point-of-purchase marketing to sell those substantive differentiators and introduce or reinforce the value of of making that “emotional splurge.”
Back to the top of the page

September 18 2013
Is Lexus reaching out to its customers for creative input on its latest ads, or is it declaring creative bankruptcy and turning over its message to the masses? Here’s a story about Lexus’ innovative live improv comedy ads, to be based on suggestions through social media and aired on late-night TV, from MediaPost News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I have some key questions that the article doesn’t address. Chief among them: how much of the suggestion pool is made up of potential Lexus IS purchasers or influencers therof? And, even more basic: what is the message?

Frankly, I think the social media campaign, if successful, will be overrun by a very different set of people than Lexus wants: would-be comedy writers raised on creative irrelevance masquerading as a concept. And I’m not sure I’d trust the brand to an improv comedy troupe; the members may be highly skilled at getting laughs, but rank amateurs at delivering a meaningful marketing message.

The result will be predictably zany spots that air once and are quickly forgotten, along with any leftover buzz from the crowdsourcing and live-TV aspects.
Back to the top of the page

September 17 2013
Despite the Internet’s power to enlighten, educate, and inform, the fact remains that most web traffic relates to porn. Hey, is there an advertising opportunity there? Here’s a quick peek, from
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yeah, well, stuff like this and the success of Fifty Shades of Gray only point to the mainstreaming of pornography in all its variations, for better or for worse. Still, porn sites could be a sensible match for some brands and business categories beyond the expected niches. Food delivery, for instance. Technology, given the male-dominated audience. Fashion, too, and home décor (oh, don’t pretend you didn’t think Ikea porn was hilarious).

For most major brands, though, the risks outweigh the rewards. And media options like porn will remain on the fringe, to be taken advantage of by lesser-heeled companies with much, much less to lose.
Back to the top of the page

September 16 2013
Virgin Mobile has created a YouTube-based ad that viewers can control by blinking. Here’s the story, from Fast Company:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It’s cool tech. But, after playing with it for a few complete run-throughs, I realized I wasn’t getting the message (and I’m a past Virgin Mobile customer, so probably all it needed to do was reinforce what I already knew). So I just let the thing run. It took a couple more tries before I realized there was a problem: the script is dull to the point of inaudibility. Maybe that was the point: to juxtapose straightforward copy with intriguingly twisted visuals. But to deliver an advertising message, those elements have to work together.

In this case, the technology was the star, followed by the visuals. I think advertising works better when the starring role is given to the offer.
Back to the top of the page

September 4 2013
The kids are back in school, and it’s time to get back to blogging a bit. And here’s a quickie to ease back in. After floating 29 trial balloons, Yahoo! announced a new logo. Here’s the story, from Ad Age:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Follow the external link to see all 29 straw dogs. Most are mere exercises in font changes, and fewer than a half-dozen show any strategic design finesse. My favorites are Day 10 and Day 3, with Day 6 as an “at least they tried something even though it didn’t work.”

Comparing the finished logo to the dailies is like comparing finished art to concept thumbnails: it possesses a degree of polish that just isn’t there on the others. I think the new logo is just fine, although I also think it needed some variation in baseline to deliver the brand heritage.

But, does any of it matter in the real world? Probably not. In fact, the most-valuable real-world element about the new logo may simply be the proprietary font.
Back to the top of the page
Backwards in time to August 2013

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