Monday, April 27, 2009


I can write in any style necessary, but from a personal standpoint, I'm bored of seeing all of these big companies take a passive aggressive approach. YOU ARE COMPETITORS. It irks me when a company actually has a concrete advantage over another and won't say it because "being negative" (aka this includes saying anything negative about your competitor) allegedly means people will stop buying their stuff. News flash: A negative for your competitor is a positive for you. A positive for you means you sell more stuff, and that's really the whole point.

Now that I've hopped off my soap box, I want to pass on to you one of the most ingenious media placements I've seen that embodies a spirit of clever competition that has been has largely been eschewed in favor of the kind of catty fake niceties normally found in teenage girls.

Thank you Audi, BMW and My Modern Metropolis.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Typos on a National scale

If you look around closely, you'll discover typos everywhere- on billboards, store signs, flyers and pretty much anything with words on it. However, when your words will be worn by star athletes on televised national sports, a missing letter gets even more attention. Check out the whole story here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Web copy tips from design people

Here's a refreshing article by a seasoned writer that can probably do a lot to help make the web an easier place to get information for users and a better place for companies to disburse it.

I know the article isn't technically by a designer, but AIGA was one of the last places I expected to find copy advice. I'll certainly be looking for more there.

I think it's also good to note that some more technical products will always need a great deal of content. There will be people pining through technical specs and legal disclosures for industries like banking or technology. However, I still think it's a good guide for the primary content of a page. You can put technical charts and details further down after covering the top-line items briefly to actually assure your audience is interested before berating them with the nitty-gritty details.

All in all, good advice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Savings minutes saves nothing

AT&T, like many companies has jumped on the saving bandwagon. After all, saving is cool now, as is prudent spending. Opulence and excess will have to wait until the Dow gets back above 10,000 or more.

On first listen, AT&T's spot, one of a series that uses little orange ticking clocks to symbolize phone-plan minutes, seems to make great sense as a penny pinching mother admonishes her blazee son for trying to sell their unused minutes.

"You know, saving minutes saves money and we can't afford to be wasteful," she snipes, "Not every one gets to keep their unused minutes."

It makes sense until you start doing the math, anyway. In reality, you pay the same amount for your allotted minutes each month, so you can't save by using less of them. If you have unused minutes, it means that you essentially have unused goods that you've paid for. And since the cost of your minutes is fixed, the less you use of them, the more you're paying per minute. So, saving minutes doesn't save money. Saving minutes actually wastes money, and from a theoretical perspective makes every minute you do use more expensive. And if you're wondering, the bulk of Americans ends each month with plenty of minutes they neither used, nor needed.

So, kudos AT&T. You pulled a fast one that I'm sure that a great multitude of people will miss and get to pad your bottom line with their misunderstanding. Let's just hope education reform doesn't help out America's math skills and start skimming away your profits.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When the economy gets tough the tough get chauvanist

I don’t know what it is about tough times, but it seems to have spurred a (hopefully brief) renaissance in chauvinistic advertising. One of the more notable examples was the Bridgestone spot on the Super Bowl with a stereotypically naggy Mrs. Potato head and a Mr. Potato Head that’s only happy when he figures out a way to shut her up.

Recently, Burger King joined the ranks of those who think one of the best places to cut in a recession is gender sensitivity. I’m talking about the new spot for Burger King’s tiny burgers.

For starters, the idea that women would react the same way to tiny burgers as tiny animals simply because they are also tiny is pretty insulting.

Second, the giggling, swooning and sexually suggestive dialog like, “I just wanna squeeze ‘em [the bugers]” means the benefit of these burgers is getting laid. Somehow I fancy if you eat too many, they will have just the opposite effect. There’s absolutely nothing to tie the alleged benefit to the product or its attributes.

Third, the women are clearly objectified sexual objects intended only to serve the whims of the average, but worlds-smarter males in the spot. The wardrobe gives us plenty of cleavage that the males ogle and one woman seems to be dressed as a sexy librarian.

I don’t see how less product-related and more blatantly chauvinist it could be. Beautiful, seductively clad women swarm unsuspecting average guys and lather them with suggestive comments and moaning because they can’t tell the difference between a puppy and a small burger.

Burger King, I hope the Burger Queen didn’t see this or you might be in the doghouse. Unless of course, she’s got a mouth like Mrs. Potato Head that you can chuck out the window when you’re tired or listening to her talk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April foolish

For better or worse, April 1 did not hold many surprises for me. A few sites had great April Fool's material deftly integrated into their sites like World of Warcraft's dance battle system and Gmail's CADIE auto responder system. However, a real life sighting topped them all for me.

It came in the form of a utility truck with a huge name scrawled across the side, "Big Johnson Plumbing." Unless they painted the truck just for the day, that was the genuine name of a company that had been doing business for some time. And if you don't see what's funny about a plumbing company named Big Johnson, it's time to loosen up.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Love it / Hate it

While I'm no fan of the "bizummy" billboard Nestea has up on I-45 (see my last post), I saw another one just the other day that I like quite a bit. Same city, same campaign, different line. The headline on this newfound billboard says-

Deliciously exotic flavors.
Strangely normal bottle.

I'm a big fan of parallel structure and I love the feeling this particular combination of words creates. They're almost like words you can eat; an ice cream Sunday of words, each presenting with a new contrasting, but complimentary flavor to create a rare and unique experience for the mental pallette. But enough brain salivating. I mostly think it's intriguing that you can have pieces in the same campaign that can draw such vastly different responses from the same audience.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Making up words is hizzard

The billboards on 45 between the Woodlands and downtown change quite a bit and there’s a new one for Nestea that just hurts me a little. I’ve recommended people leave making up words to the professionals before, but evidently we can’t even always be trusted.

The billboard’s line is, “It’s bizarre. It’s yummy. It’s bizummy.”

I’m sorry, bizummy? What are we, Snoop Dog? First of all, that word is tizzerrible. It doesn’t roll off the tongue and the phonemes are clearly from different words. It has less the effect of combining the advantages of cars and SUVs to make a crossover and more the heir of crashing the two together and selling the wreck as the next thing in automobiles.

Second, I’m not sure bizarre is a word I would want to describe my food. My clothing, sure. Decorations for my home, perhaps. But my beverage?

Third, to my understanding, Nestea is a grown-up drink, which would merit a grown-up descriptor of benefits. Some how I don’t think “yummy” is the most effective word to hit a chi and vitamin water drinking demographic.

And fourth, did I mention the word is terrible? It doesn’t combine to bring to mind any other connotations or conjure up a new twist on a familiar theme. Creating new words is a delicate art. Creating them by combining other words is no easier. I’d say leave it to the professionals, but obviously even copywriters have their bad days.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I've bashed pickups now and then on this blog, but I feel I should make something clear. I don't dislike pick-ups.

I dislike some of the giant, super-extended, jacked-up monster trucks that threaten to roll over smaller cars and stick out of parking spots. I especially dislike giant off-road pickups that never leave the pavement. Most of all, I don't think their high margins are justified and think their gas mileage is atrocious.

But if you could create a pickup that got 30 miles to the gallon for a regular pickup price, you probably just sold me one.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Strike the iron while it's cold

Mountains of studies, books and evidence show companies who maintain or increase advertising spending during tougher economic times almost always come out of those economic difficulties much stronger than their ad-cutting competitors. However, the knee-jerk reaction of most companies still seems to be cut cut cut. Once again, a company has proven the old wisdom.

Hyundai, a car company largely not taken seriously even just a few years ago, seems to be solidifying its position as a major competitor in the US auto market, bucking industry trends along the way. I'm not sure of the exact numbers on Hyundai ad spending, but I do know they have at least maintained, if not increased their advertising presence in the marketplace during the downturn. Their reward while other automakers are cutting spending? Two models that have actually seen serious sales GAINS - the Hyundai Elantra is up 33% over last year and the Hyundai Accent is up 30%. That's on top of an '09 North American Car of the Year Award for the Hyundai Genesis.

Take notice automakers. Hyundai's been at the books, using proven wisdom and gaining ground quickly.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Getting profitable by cutting the profitable

Anyone can speculate or make statements based on anecdotal evidence or familiar talking points. That's one reason I try to back my opinions up with real data when I can. I'm glad to say that with some new numbers, my opinion has once again been validated.

The Big Three American automakers have seen their sales slip nearly 50% year over year. In trying to get the company fit and trim, GM is pruning several makes, Saturn being one of them. In a somewhat recent post, I complained that GM is cutting profitable (or at least better selling) vehicles, like the entire Saturn Line, while keeping redundant makes like GMC (essentially gussied-up Chevrolet trucks and SUVs, but not as nice as Cadillac). Well, a recent report found that while GM's sales figures have slipped phenomenally, the Saturn Astra's sales were up more than 30%.

Let me repeat that. At a company that's seen sales plummet by nearly half, in an industry that's tumbled by nearly a third, GM considers the most prudent move to cut a vehicle that's actually seen a 30% gain.

There's simply nothing more to say about it. I rest my case.