Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Butting Out - The Merits of Not Getting in the Way

Facebook is fast becoming as central to social networking as actual conversation once was. If you are feverishly checking your account every five minutes, then you know of what I speak. As our lives become more and more segmented, it’s good to know that at least you have pictures of that guy who ate paste in the back of class in grade 3, and are privy to his exact thoughts on his new Mitsubishi Gallant

How exactly does Facebook intend to make money off this type of information? Because apparently they intend to make a lot of money.

The recent Microsoft purchase of a 1.6% share of Facebook for $241 million, values the company at a whopping $15 billion!

Facebook has unveiled a new advertising system called Socialads. Facebook founder-cum-Harvard dropout, Mark Zuckerberg, says it will revolutionize advertising by “getting into the conversations” between people. Essentially, what Facebook has is an ever expanding list of potential consumers, and their specific interests, which is invaluable for advertisers.

Although the future of advertising seems to be veering towards social networking sites, media buyers are wary stating results showing that consumer behavior on a communication device is anathema to advertising. Look at the click through rates for the social networking sites. Facebook has a 0.04% click thru rate, that’s 400 hits for every million viewers. Myspace fares a little better at 0.10%, but the figures still seem pretty measly.

Their intention is to enact a word of mouth effect between people. (Often heralded as the Holy Grail of advertising). The problem is that any sort of intrusion into people’s conversation is just that, an intrusion into a conversation. Regard how well you’d receive advertising when you’re in a bar with your friends and a stranger comes up to you trying to sell you a new type of beer. “Hey friends don’t want to bother you but do you know that the beer you’re drinking is not as good as this one.”

A better and far less intrusive option for advertising your company is in the search engines. Search engines are used for everything from local sites to multinational conglomerates. By ranking prominently in the organic search engine results (requiring Search Engine Optimization aka SEO) and Pay Per Click advertising campaign services (Google Adwords etc.), the consumer is actively transported to your company. If one were to use the keywords “advertising advice Montreal”, why they’d be transported to the Starmedia blog in a timely fashion and end up reading this exact post.

Search engine advertising gives you visibility without the intrusion.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Madison Avenue, Portland?

Gone are the glory days of Madison Avenue. Ad men, as they called themselves, thought up catchy slogans between puffs of cigar smoke while enjoying a three martini lunch of porterhouse steak the size of a catcher’s mitt. Madison Avenue was a catchall phrase connoting North American advertising at large. Now when referring to advertising as a whole you could just as easily mention Portland or Boulder as locations where much of the best ad work is done. Those headier days of advertising were ushered out as the privately owned agencies went public and absorbed a lot of other agencies, turning into huge global conglomerates… And this was just the shift of modern mid century advertising to post modern late century advertising.

A new study by IBM Global Business Solutions states that the advertising world will see a more dramatic shift in the next five years than it has seen in the last 50. And these figures are conservative. The study claims that over the past two years online advertising has exceeded forecaster’s projections by 25-40%. The traditional forms of advertising; print and broadcast are losing their ability to reach the consumer because the consumer is tuning out, throwing out the magazines and powering up their laptops.

Recent research by MultiMedia Intelligence has identified the following:

Media companies face a strategic choice of control versus reach. Syndicated and viral distribution of content via the Internet, social networks and user generated sites provides the broadest reach and empowers consumers. Yet, this model strips the control of media distribution from content owners and disrupts existing business models.

There are new potential advertising and branding models leveraging platforms with hardwired branding all the way down to the semiconductor level. Few have even considered some of the potential models where electronic devices feature chips that are integrated with and owned by the “Brand,” with a product subsidy cascading the to the end consumer.

Comprising just under 4% of new media advertising revenue in 2007, the three new media video categories of Internet TV, IPTV and mobile TV will combine to make-up almost 20% of media advertising dollars in 2011. Clearly, even in new media, video will be king.

According to Rick Sizemore, Chief Strategy Officer for Multimedia Intelligence, “The traditional media industry is under assault from rapidly changing technology and user behavior, the digital video recorder has empowered consumers and is toppling traditional TV advertising models. The $185 billion dollar TV advertising industry is now in the cross-hairs of the technology industry. Technology not only puts consumers in control of what and how they consume content, but also integrates community, participation and interactivity into the media experience. New technology-driven advertising models are emerging on the Internet, on mobile devices, in video games, and on public displays. These are significant opportunities, but will be massively disruptive to the traditional advertising industry.”

The most used web browsers like Yahoo and Google stand to benefit the most in this shift. Ultimately the shift is veering towards consumer control of the advertising content. IBM states that "virtually any advertiser can reach any individual consumer across any advertising platform -- as long as the advertising is relevant and appealing."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Evolving Media

In case you haven’t heard, the Internet has gone local. Local online search is now second only to email for the most common online activity. Unfortunately Mom and Pop seem woefully unprepared for this shift in marketing. Still hewing closely to the 20th century marketing model, local businesses are investing primarily in print and broadcast marketing, allocating less than 5% in Internet marketing.

By 2017, forecasters predict that local businesses will be investing close to 25% in their Internet marketing campaigns. But, you don’t have to wait that long. All the resources and tools are out there to help you get started on your Internet campaigns. You don’t have to be a computer whiz, as long as you hire a forward thinking company that specializes in Internet marketing to enact your campaign for you.

One of the most important aspects of Internet marketing is the actual website design itself. Your website is the portal connecting potential customers to your product and company. On a local level this gives the customer all the information they need, to avail of your services.

Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of getting traffic to your website. Sadly, many people still think that simply putting a website on the web is enough. There is not much point in investing in the Internet as an advertising avenue if no one will ever see it. The whole process requires research, strategic campaign planning and a professional website design. You can save yourself a lot of time and money by hiring a professional.

So the writing is on the wall, with more people searching the Internet for their local business needs, an adjustment to the more traditional marketing model is needed. This does not mean that all business owners must learn how to create their own websites. A reputable advertising company, well versed in Internet marketing is the best bet so these forays into new advertising territories are executed properly and professionally. A good website and tactical SEO, while not just visually pleasing can give potential customers all the information that they need in order to find you and frequent your service.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Collection of Details

Everyone knows the expression, "God is in the details." The idea, as heretical as it may be to make this topical jump, applies just as well to advertising and, especially, to website design.

It's amazing how often I've gone to websites and been thwarted by some aspect of the design, actually hindered from doing what I need to do on the site. In most cases, this clumsiness of design directly results in an inability to, say, make a purchase or find a product or store. Don't people realize this? If I go to a website and can't find out how to telephone the company, or if a page takes 5 minutes to load, then the bottom line is that I will probably leave the website (and the product) and never look back.

Usability carries over into things like aesthetics and good writing too. A website that looks thrown together, text overrun with bad grammar and spelling mistakes, broken links and outdated information -- these things show that you don't actually care about your customers' experience. Or worse, that you think that they won't notice when you cut corners. We've said it before, but things like careless writing simply scream "unreliable" and "shoddy." Do you think people won't notice? Think again.

This isn't just useless griping. When my experience on a website is pleasant and smooth, I might not consciously think, "Wow, everything here is spelled correctly" or,"The pages sure load quickly!" On the other hand, I'll be left with an overall satisfaction with my experience, and I'll associate that satisfaction with the website and, by extension, with the company itself. Good craftsmanship (be it in design, programming, writing, or anything else) doesn't draw attention to itself, and therein lies its success. Rather than fume over the fact that I'm sitting in front of a screen waiting for a page to load, or stumbling over misplaced commas, I'm able to fully immerse myself in the actual content of the site, open and receptive to what it has to say.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Method to Your Madness

There's a key ingredient to every top-notch advertising agency: it's all about process. As boring as it sounds, it's not enough to just be talented and creative; you've got to have a method to your madness.

Sure, creativity is key, and no one's going to be interested in an agency with a meticulous work-flow but uninspired ideas. But consistency is very important if you want satisfied clients and, especially, repeat clients.

When you meet with people for the first time and set out to discuss their needs, you have to give them a solid idea of just how it is you'll go about meeting those needs. Well, you don't just have to give them an idea; you have to be able to carry it out. Then client wants to know that you're not just going to sit around at your desk until a idea occurs to you. They want to see that you have a process, a system by which you can guarantee consistent, first-class results.

It's like in science class, when you learned about the "scientific method" and how to keep track of all the steps in a given experiment. It's crucial to have a clear, repeatable technique that you know will lead you to the same results each time. In this case: successful advertising.

Of course it's a lot trickier to come up with a consistent method for great advertising than it is to remember how to mix chemicals in a certain order or use a bunsen burner. But that's what makes one agency better than the next: the experience and honed skills to know what works for their clients.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Form for the Sake of Function

Like many of my colleagues in graphic design, I spent a number of my formative years studying art at various educational institutions. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of studying art in school (at a “higher level,” in particular), I can tell you that a lot of time is spent immersed in critiques.

In an art critique, the artist is extensively questioned by his or her peers, professors, visiting artists, and so on. A great deal of time is spent examining the work at hand, discussing its details, and arguing over whether or not it “works.” Which is a difficult thing to quantify, incredibly subjective as it is. I suppose that there may be certain rules when it comes to art, but one of them is that all rules are meant to be broken, leaving us without much of a concrete framework to fall back on when discussing art and its effectiveness. Ultimately what it often comes down to is how well an artist can defend his or her methods and rationale, and how well he or she can convince other people that the art is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Which is all simply to say that art is a messy, complicated, subjective thing, and it’s very hard to determine its success except on a personal, individual basis. This may be why it can be a relief to work in graphic design and advertising.

Design is still a fluid, subjective field, and that same rule (that most rules are meant to be broken) often still holds true. But on the other hand, design and advertising are a little more clear-cut than your average painting or avant-garde video installation. Design can be challenging, sure it can, and of course it can be beautiful and provocative and thoughtful (in fact, these are definite plusses). But in the end, its ultimate goal is to say something, to effectively communicate information.

This is a good thing to keep in mind when designing, or working with designers on a project. We all have our preferences and our tastes, but the most important thing to remember is that the design of a website, ad, logo, newsletter, or really anything, is only useful if people respond to it, if it grabs them and says exactly what you want it to say, points their attention where you want it. Unlike art as such, design (in general) doesn’t exist for its own sake; it exists to attract, communicate, and convince. Which is also why design can be “good” even if it isn’t to your exact taste, and why it’s important to remember to strike a balance between what you respond to personally, and what will most effectively convey your message to a receptive audience. Artists can spend hours explaining their work, but your design has to say everything it needs to right up front, without the trouble of a lengthy critique.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Boss Bought Cheap Chairs and Now My Back Hurts

I used to have a good chair. It had 3 levers on it that would stabilize my lumbar and spine. It was smoky grey and I called him Chester. It is true that Chester had some holes in him and a cigarette burn or two but he was comfortable and the wheels worked great.

Then I left for the week-end, to live my real life, and when I returned to work on Monday Chester was gone. In his place was some piece of black crap with no personality. But then I said to myself, “Hey, Chester had a great run but everybody gets old and maybe it was his time. I’ll try the new chair.” My new chair is crap. Oh yes, it looks expensive, with its mesh covering, but it was a bargain stool of pain.

Within a week I started to have lower back pain and when I complained, management told me that it was because I stopped going to the company gym and was getting a gut. Can you believe that? Now I was the problem, not the cheap chair that only has ONE lever. One lever! The thing just goes up and down. I’d rather just sit on a yoga ball!

It should be at this point that I link this article to something pertaining to advertising or design, so here goes nothing. Sometimes advertising campaigns should be left as they are. I know… it’s a shocking thing for an advertising firm to say. I think a lot of companies have a good thing going and completely changing it just isn’t the best idea. In our world filled with instant gratification and the desire to constantly claw our way to the top, we often completely forget what we’re climbing for.

Chances are that I’ll get used to my new chair and perhaps it really was for the best, but it is possible that my old chair was better. When you make a decision to update your corporate branding or your advertising, check to see what it is about your old campaign that was working. Perhaps there are some elements in that campaign that can be salvaged and incorporated into your new one. Keep in mind, advertising doesn’t always have to be shocking to be successful and not everyone likes drastic changes. I hope your chairs keep you comfortable and your advertising expresses what your business stands for.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Everyone is bored at work… except for elves

Unless you are Santa Claus and your employees are toy building elves, it seems unlikely that there aren’t moments when your employees are bored at work. The sad reality is that the majority of employees aren’t being motivated well enough. With the saturation of online businesses and small companies springing up, business owners need to be aware of the positive benefits of having a well motivated and hard working staff. While this fact may seem obvious to the business owner or president, websites like “i-am-bored.com” and “bored.com” only serve to prove that something is missing in the work environment.

Statistics Canada states that many work absences are directly correlated with instances of boredom at work. When workers are completing repetitive tasks or do not feel challenged enough in their work environment, they become more prone to taking personal days. This lowers your business’ return on investment (ROI) and deceases your opportunity to get the most done in a day.

Although, as the boss, you can not always completely remove boredom from the office, there are a few steps you can take in order to encourage motivation and get your staff excited about working.

What is the Answer?

- Pay Attention and Give Recognition. This seems absurd to mention, but the more attention and “atta-boys” you give out to your staff, the harder they’ll want to work for you. People work harder when they feel as though they’ll receive attention for their hard-work.

- Spend Time One-on-One. Calling an employee up into your office, or dropping them a personal email creates a connection between you and your employee. If you show them you’re interested in them as a person and an employee they are more likely to remain loyal and work harder.

- Set Goals and Give Rewards. Even if you don’t have the resources to give your staff raises, there are always other rewards. Organize a staff lunch or set up an incentive program. If you set realistic goals and reward those who complete them, you’ll spark healthy competition and motivate your staff to get the job done.

- Training. Constantly updating your staffs’ training will ensure that your employees are qualified and keeping busy. If you ensure that your employees are gaining new skills, they can update you on what your company needs to move forward.

- Encouraging Leadership. When you give your employees a leadership role, you keep them busy as well as give them a sense of participation in the success of the business. Encouraging leadership roles also helps delegate workloads and ensures work is being completed according to schedule.

Let’s face it, you’ll never be as awesome as Santa Claus and you’ll probably never have 100% motivated and enthusiastic elf-like employees every day, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try. Give extra coffee to those employees looking burned out and hold meetings to discuss progress. Remember, the more boring the office setting is, the more hits websites like bored.com will be receiving. It’s up to you to create a stimulating work environment for your employees.

And hey, if you still can’t get the boredom out of your employees, maybe a kidnapping trip to the North Pole would be a good idea…

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Advertising Experiment

This is Mike.

Mike is a talented graphic designer here at Starmedia.

Every now and then Mike gets frustrated.

So, I was thinking to myself that graphic designers are sort of behind the scenes and people often don't even think or appreciate the amount of work that designers have to put in to make customers look good. They deserve to get some attention. Ergo, I thought I would involve one of them in my new hair-brained experiment. One of my coworkers, Jimmy Jet, drew this picture of Mike, our designer, during one of our daily meetings and I thought, can you make an ad out of anything? Let's find out.

Therefore... the Advertising Experiment 2007.

How to participate: You take this drawing of Mike and do whatever you'd like to it to turn it into an advertisement. You can advertise anything you'd like, but it has to look good and serve to potentially sell your product or service. Submit a tagline to go below this drawing or create Mike a slogan if you'd like. Be creative! It can say anything you'd like, but it has to "advertise" something. Have some fun.

The Rules: You can submit as many original "ads" as you'd like. You can even change the image to suit your needs, but the original picture has to be somewhere in your advertisement. Email me your advertisements to kate@starmedia.ca

The Duration: May 31 - June 14, 2007

What you "win": While this isn't a contest per se, I would love to see what people come up with, so I will post the top 10 "Mike ads" up along with your blog's URL. You get some extra traffic and we all get to see some interesting advertisements.

Have a great Thursday. I'll be adding another advertising advice post soon.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Owe, I Owe, It’s off to Work I Go

(Image thanks to www.crazy-jokes.com)

There's a great blog series going on called THE WORKPLACE SURVIVAL DIALOG. This is my contribution to that interesting subject. Check it out and feel free to add your own! :)

Well I was planning on writing a daring and often dramatic article about the workplace and how work ethics have drastically dropped over the last few days, but I got a bit bogged down with strange and unnecessary statistics which, while amusing, did not really back up my entire strongly worded thesis. So I’m going to play it “cool” and just discuss the issue lightly and see what happens. Hopefully if I ask a question it will intrigue you all enough to add your own thoughts and experiences because I imagine most of you can relate. So here goes: How often do you take a personal day from work? I know I said I wouldn’t bog this article down with statistics, but these few were just too good to resist. Thank you to Statistics Canada.

Warning: For all you fellow workaholics out there, these statistics may shock and appall you.

Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that both the incidence and the number of days lost for personal reasons (illness or disability, and personal or family responsibilities) have shown a rising trend since 1997. Several factors have contributed: notably, an aging workforce; the growing share of women in the workforce, especially mothers with young children; high worker stress; and more generous sick- and family-related leave benefits.

Full-time employees in the public sector (more likely unionized or female) lost more work time in 2006 for personal reasons (about 13 days on average) than their private-sector counterparts (8.8 days).

So what does this say about our society? I think it’s interesting that although Statistics Canada lists “high worker stress” as a factor for missing work, they also note that our society has a “more generous sick- and family-related leave benefits.” So we attempt to pacify our stress-induced work environment with additional benefits to make it seem less terrible. When I was in Greece last spring, it was hard not to notice the unbelievably laid-back work environment. People there are more likely to show up late, close early and take a long, long lunch break then us in North America. Granted their country is not nearly as “successful” as the U.S., but hey, they’ve been around longer than pretty much anyone else, so really, maybe they’ve got something right after all.

Here in North America we work long days, we don’t have siesta like other countries and we carry our cell phones around like trophies. We try to fit way too much into a day and we convince ourselves that if we don’t have the most amount of money then we’re doing something wrong. Every now and then we flip right out and need a few “personal days” to regain ourselves and start it all over again. Oh and just as an additional little joy, we also have higher instances of allergies and stress-related illnesses than other countries. What is the point?

I personally believe that MORE people would take LESS personal days if work wasn’t so much of a chore… if we had long siestas and just met everyone at 3PM at the local pub for a drink… if the focus was truly on family and people instead of on products and finances. I think we could encourage productivity while supporting a sense of community.

I’m proud to say that I love my job, but it’s not my entire world. I think that half the reason why I love it is because I feel at home here. I stay after work for drinks, I come in early for breakfast and I consider my co-workers friends. What’s great about it is that I learn more because of the sense of community than I would in a huge company where I would just fade into the background. I’m a copywriter, but I’ve picked up HTML and some design tricks and even SEO. I think you learn best from watching other people and from asking questions and building relationships. It’s something we all need to learn from the Greeks.

What do you think about the differences between the two cultures? Do you think we have personal days because we’re burned out and have too much to do in a day, or is the rise from something else? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a note.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Love NY

*Logo curtosy of www.wikipedia.org*

New York City -- A place renowned for being incredibly expensive, dirty, loud, over-populated and… magical? As terrible as New York can sometimes be viewed, it will always be one of those magical places where possibilities are endless. It is this positive aspect of New York that is evoked through their tourism logo, which has been around since 1977 and continues to stand as an emblem of the great branding potential in positive thinking and simplicity.

When the state of NY hired advertising agency Wells Rich Greene in 1977 to develop a marketing campaign for NY State, I doubt that anyone realized the potential of positive thinking, except for perhaps Milton Glaser, who designed the “I Love NY” logo and did it for free. This friendly logo has now not only branded New York as a place that everyone loves or should love, but as also gone down in history as a significant part of our pop culture. Celebrities like Robin Williams proudly wear the “I Love NY” T-Shirts and it has been branded on virtually every promotional tool that anyone can think of. Every day tourists in New York and across the world purchase coffee cups, pens, T-shirts and more branded with the New York tourism logo. A simple, clear image with a good message is one of the best ways to brand your business.

So how can the example of the “I Love NY” logo work for us everyday people who are looking to succeed in our advertising campaigns? Well, for one, it stands as a shining example of how a positive, simple icon can work effectively. Many businesses (and I’ve seen this happen) believe that a great logo design needs to have a number of different aspects playing into it. They want colors and long company names and detailed icons… Why? The more unnecessary details that go into your logo design, the less chance you have of succeeding. Yes, people are visual, but we also all see millions of advertisements every day. What makes a logo like “I Love NY” stand out is that people like it. I know that sounds extremely generalized and maybe it is, but think about it. A heart is a symbol that we all know, it’s a positive symbol and it makes us as humans generally pretty happy. If you start with something that people know then you have a better chance of someone identifying with your logo. That’s just good advertising.

Have a logo design that people can believe in. I know it is easier said than done. What’s great about the “I Love NY” logo is that is doesn’t only appeal to people who have been to New York or live there, but it appeals to people worldwide. It doesn’t antagonize anyone because the imagery used in the icon is positive. The heart is an international symbol and there are very few people and places that would be offended by seeing it. A sports car or a skyscraper would not have worked so effectively because neither of these images is as easy to relate to as a heart.

Positive, simple logos appeal to a much wider audience than something more detailed and containing complicated and sometimes negative icons. Keep it happy, keep it simple and you’ll see results.

What else can I say except let’s hear it for Milton Glaser!


“Rrrrrred! Red is the Color of SEX!”

Have you seen the movie Kinky Boots? If you haven’t, you absolutely should. My favorite scene in that movie is where the main character, a drag queen, shouts down to the small town boot-factory workers below: [looks horrified] “Burgundy. Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy. Red. Red. *Red*. *Red*, Charlie boy. *Red*! Is the color of sex! Burgundy is the color of hot water bottles! Red is the color of sex and fear and danger and signs that say, Do. Not. Enter. All my favorite things in life.” (Quote thanks to IMDB.com)

Advertising is about standing out. It’s about screaming out to the world: “Look at me! Choose me!” and having people sit up and notice. There’s a cleverness and creativity in an advertising campaign that you just have to appreciate. It gets us to choose one product over another. It gets us to talk about one company instead of another. There’s power in advertising. At least there used to be.

So where did the passion go? With the onslaught of millions of small businesses and home-based companies across North America, advertisers should be biting at the bit to get a piece of the action and there should be creative and interesting ads galore, but there aren’t. There are so few that it’s embarrassing. Advertisers everywhere are choosing burgundy instead of red and we’re passing it through to the public without even a second thought. Today’s advertising campaigns (in general… there are, of course, exceptions) lack heart, intelligence and just plain creative spirit. We approve work we don’t believe in and we agree with our customers even when we know they’re wrong. We do it all in the name of the ever-worshipped dollar. We do it because we’re too burned out to care.

Today, I was sitting in a slogan brainstorming session with a couple of fellow copywriters. We were running through revisions for a customer and I was feeling more frustrated then I have been in quite a while. While some customers have wonderful suggestions and opinions, every now and then you get one who just doesn’t get it. What are your options? Do you give the customer what they want at the risk of their corporate branding going down the tubes, or do you tell them the straight truth? Red or burgundy?

Maybe there is no answer. Maybe advertising is just something that flows up and down and we just have to accept that. Without the terrible, would we even notice the brilliant? If there wasn’t burgundy, maybe the red wouldn’t be as striking. Who’s to really say? A colleague told me that if we had nothing but creative advertisements constantly surrounding us, we wouldn’t be able to handle it. It’s an intriguing thought. With so many advertisements constantly bombarding us, especially on the internet, how would we deal with too many options, too many choices to make, everything seeming fantastic… ?

I hope to remain idealistic. I would hate to think I would reach a point where mediocrity would be something I aspire to. I want to be the one standing atop a crowded room screaming out that we need to have passion and desire and sex. Sometimes we just need to hear that.


Have an opinion? I’d love to hear it. Leave me a comment.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Multiplicity… Multiplicity… Multiplicity…

Warning: I am upset.
Warning: This will be a rant.

What is wrong with our society? I mean, COME ON!

Recently it has been brought to my attention that creative advertising firms both in my own country of Canada as well as abroad lack the integrity and intelligence to write their own copy and have instead been directly copying mine… and I mean directly. Oddly enough this subject was brought up the other day in a discussion on Blogcatalog and I replied saying how I sorry I was to hear that fellow bloggers were having their original copy duplicated in other blogs of a similar community without any credit. Later on that day I performed a routine Copyscape check on the websites of the design company I work for and found that the copy I had written for our business’ websites had been ripped off and in some cases, even our designs!

After consoling our weeping designers (I am so sorry Mike, Jai, Marius and Caleb!) who spend hours coming up with their own creative designs for both our websites and our customers and informing our copywriting team that I think they’re top notch, I decided it’s time to take action. Let’s stand up for originality! Let’s scream from balcony tops that in a world of sharing ideas and sparking action, plagiarism is unwarranted, unacceptable and just plain mean.

I think…

If you are a design firm, advertising agency, logo design company, corporate branding firm, etc… you are in the world of creativity. If YOU guys can’t come up with creative ideas, you should be in a different field.

The internet is (unfortunately) filled with scams, thieves, plagiarizers, and more. It’s a sad reality. What upsets me the most is that the people stealing content from our sites own businesses, have full time jobs and supposed to be professionals. These people aren’t teenagers, children or bored. They should be responsible adults. They should be held accountable.

It’s disappointing that we can’t help each other out. There are so many creative people out there. Instead of taking their ideas, use their ideas to generate some of your own. Challenge yourself. If someone is writing about Plagiarism, respond with an article of your own. State your own examples and feelings on the matter. It’s not that hard to be yourself.

More than anything I just think it’s terribly unfortunate. I’m not deluded enough to assume that everything is original. I know pretty much nothing is these days, but some variation on the same old concepts is what helps us step in the future rather than stumbling around in the fog.

I did receive one extremely sincere apology from an advertising firm owner in Canada (thank you), so I am filled with the hope that maybe people can change… or at the very least take responsibility for actions that they may not have done directly, but were involved in.

Copywriting is a difficult field. It is plagued with hard deadlines and the need for creativity on budget and on time. I salute you if you manage to stay in this field and if you manage to stay through your own merit. My hats off to you all.

I would love to know what you think. Please feel free to post your comments and let me know your own experiences or thoughts on this troubling matter.

As always, my email box is open to you as well… kate@starmedia.ca

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Marketing with the Muppets

If you’re staring with a smile at the pictures in this blog post, then you are a prime candidate for joining me on this discussion. What makes the Muppets a popular advertising image? As today is the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death, a colleague suggested that our blog should discuss how Henson’s Muppets have been successfully used throughout the years in a number of advertising campaigns including Ford™, Pizza Hut™, Denny’s™, Post™ and many more. It’s an interesting thought. What is it about those cute little puppets that make us open our wallets in delight?

Familiarity. The Muppets are recognized worldwide. Popular television shows such as The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock were highly rated and syndicated. The Muppets were in books, on television, in the movies and on our lunchboxes. They defined a generation and more than that, they made us laugh. Whether it is subconscious or not, we trust the Muppets. If you can use your advertising icon to create a feeling of trust between your company and your customers, you will make money.

Nostalgia. We love to remember the “good ol’ days” when things were simple and fun. We fondly recall the moments when families crowded around the television and watched Kermit peak out from behind the Muppets famous red curtain or see Bert and Ernie banter on Sesame Street. When we see them on tee shirts and posters, we want to involve them in our lives once again. The 2000s are all about nostalgia. Instead of defining our generation through something new, we are looking back to the past. The sooner we realize this, the better our marketing campaigns will become.

Laughter. We are much more likely to spend money on things that bring us joy. Advertising loves to play this up. Make your customers laugh and you’ll have them focusing on your campaign and not thinking about the money that they’re about to spend. From the “manamana” song to the geriatrics shouting from their opera box, the Muppets bring a smile to our faces and convince us that they’re worth spending money on.

We can learn a lot from the Muppets about advertising tricks and how to run a successful advertising campaign. The Muppets inspired us. Not only to spend money, but to be better people and to share a laugh with friends and family. Today let us remember a man who was passionate about puppets; a man who brought us Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and a whole group of friendly, funny and sometimes sarcastic characters who we will always fondly remember.

Muppets as Advertising Icons
A photo journey of some of the Muppets advertising campaigns...

1. Kermit becomes an icon for teaching people that "dreams are possible."

2. The Swedish Chef gets his own fun cereal brand from Post™ in 1988. It is being re-released this year (2007). The box is filled with kids' games and fun facts like "does not include brocolli"

3. Miss Piggy shows that "pigging out" on Pizza is fun at Pizza Hut™.

4. Kermit shows that "being green" is an awesome feature for the new Hybrid Ford vehicles.

5. Adidas releases green shoes signed by Kermit. Enough said.

Have something you'd like to say? Leave a comment or drop me an email at kate@starmedia.ca

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Tagged – What a Fun Filled Notion!

Before I begin, I want everyone to know that with all of the things that I learn every day; the Internet always finds some new way to impress me. I know, I do impress easily, but you know… So, since this is an advertising advice blog and I’m supposed to be giving all of you advice on the advertising world, we’re going to learn something new together. Maybe this is SEO friendly. Either way, I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Tagging – what is it and how does it work? I’m not exactly sure yet and so in the effort of education and heck, a little fun I am going to play this tagging game and see what happens. If it works and we a) have fun and b) link up and form a community then I suggest it to all of you. I suggest it anyway.
I don’t want to screw up the rules (since they are important) so I copied these from cymru66 (hi Steve!) who tagged me first – check out his blog:

1. The person who was tagged will just have to make an introduction and link back to who tagged you.
2. List your five reasons as to why you blog.
3. Choose five people and tag them.
4. Drop a comment on their blog to let them know they were tagged.

Top Five Reasons Why I Blog

1. I told my boss it would be a great way to talk to small business owners about advertising
2. I love being able to write every day
3. I’m learning so much
4. It is a lot of fun
5. The sense of community really intrigues me

I’m sure there are more, but for now those were the first things that came to my mind. I think blogs and blogging are both great things. They get you thinking and discussing what you think. Open communication… there’s nothing better!

Here are My Five People to Tag
They don't know it yet, but I think they're cool.

1. eMoms at Home
2. The Crowd Roars
3. Times Eye
4. Creative Design ::
5. jphillips

Join in on the fun!

Email me if you have questions - or leave me a post!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why Super Cala Fragilistic Expialidocious would make a terrible company name.

It is possible that this post might come up as more of a rant than an advice column, but please sift through my complaining to truly hear the real message – a long business name can ruin your advertising campaign and lose you money.

I admit that coming up with a business name is a tricky endeavor, especially when there are so many businesses out there that have probably already taken the short and catchy names like Pete’s Plumbing and The Plumb Guy, but just because someone suggested that Plumbing with Pete the Plumb Guy would be a great company name does not mean you should go with it. Here’s why…

Logos rarely if ever look good when your company has a huge business name. You should be able to manipulate the size of your logo to suit your advertising campaign and the longer your name, the bigger your logo will have to be. Imagine the cluttered-ness of your business cards. Oh my! Plus, logo designers will hate you. This I assure you of.

You will want to abbreviate your company name to something you think is cute. Our friend Pete would likely choose something like PPtPG or P3G or even P3G. The problem with this is that the name of your company brands your company. Since your name is too long for everyone to remember you will be branded as the abbreviation. Will it last for years? Simplicity is the key.

Successful advertising needs limits. I’m not saying that you should limit the amount of advertising you do, I’d be out of a job… but keep in mind that long company names result in long slogans and long taglines and long product/service names… and before you know it you have overwhelmed your advertising with incredibly long copy. On the other hand if you abbreviate your name, you run the risk of having the same abbreviation as a more popular company, or an abbreviation that just doesn’t take like SCFL Industries.

Business naming is much too important of a decision to make on your own. When deciding upon a good working title for your company, get some help! If you can’t afford to hire some advertising professionals, then choose the easy route and ask friends, family, employees what they think. Try using the business name in public and seeing what reaction you get. Corporate branding is a work in progress and shouldn’t be taken lightly. You of all people want your business to succeed, so plan plan plan before you make big decisions and, as always, research!

If you need more information on business naming, product naming or anything advertising, I’m your man… woman… feel free to drop me an email – kate@starmedia.ca

Need to talk to a professional? Call us at Starmedia toll free at 1-866-816-5646. We’d love to help!


Top 5 Reasons Top 5 Lists Are SEO Effective Copywriting

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it has been dubbed by its followers, is like the Salem Witch Trials. Everyone is scrambling to find the perfect SEO plan and yet no one is exactly sure what SEO is or how it works. Instead we stand on street corners and scream out “there’s an idea!” and the idea starts running. Okay, maybe it’s not as dramatic as all that, but there definitely is something enticing about search engine optimization that we love to hate. Yes, I am getting to my point. People have been spouting lately that having top five lists is SEO effective copywriting, so in the spirit of trial-and-error, here are my top five reasons why top five lists are SEO effective copywriting.

1 – People don’t like to read. The thought depresses me, but unfortunately in today’s technologically savvy society, there is just an over abundance of information hitting people every day (especially in advertising) and so to defend ourselves, we no longer care to read. If you want attention, you’re going to have to be brief. This is why slogans and taglines are so popular.

2 – Keywords, keywords, keywords. Top five lists can simplify everyone’s lust to find the perfect keywords. Mine for example would be advertising, design firm, logo design, website design… the list goes on (and now this page will be ranking higher…) It’s easier to put your keywords all in a neat list and build copy around it. Sad isn’t it? I think so.

3 – If you bold it, they will read. This one speaks for itself and yet no one seems to notice. If people don’t read and you want to highlight keywords then bolding text is the best way to go. Heck, go with it anyhow. Bolding text makes it a) stand out to readers and b) helps search engines pick it up.

4 – Keep it short and sweet. Okay, I suppose sweet doesn’t matter, but once again, and I can’t stress this enough, no one (short of me and apparently you) reads, so having brief content gets your point across, especially in advertising. Copywriting is made to sell. People won’t think about buying your product if they have to read five pages of content to get to your main tagline, slogan or selling point.

5 – Text link it all up. If you have more to say, but are trying to be concise, use text links. Then if your reader is interested in knowing more, they can move on to another article by you on the same topic. This creates a web of articles and keeps users interested in your website/blog.

Keep in mind that SEO techniques are similar to Salem’s original “witches.” We don’t know what’s an effective SEO tool and what isn’t. Stay calm, try some and see what works for you and what doesn’t.

As always, if you have questions or comments about SEO, please drop me an email at kate@starmedia.ca or call us toll free at 1.866.816.5646. We’d love to help!


Monday, April 23, 2007

Building a Better Business Card

Business cards are a fantastic marketing tool that no company should go without. To start, business cards provide you with the professional edge that you need when you are out of the office and in the world. Whether you’re on an airplane, at a restaurant or even among friends, business cards are easy to pass out to virtually anyone and even easier for them to keep and remember your business by. Keep in mind, everyone has a wallet.

The key is professionalism. Your business card should embody the following elements:

1) Well Designed Logo – There’s no point to having a business card if you don’t have a logo to put on it. Human beings are extremely visual. Customers will have a much better chance of remembering your business if they identify it with a consistent logo that expresses your business.

2) Information – The address, phone number, email address, fax number and website of your business should be easy to find, easy to read and accessible on your business card. If your card doesn’t inform customers, it’s worthless.

3) Colors – Color choices are incredibly important both aesthetically and financially. Your business cards need to look great, send the right message and be cost efficient to print.

4) Offer Something Unique – Does your business have a catchy slogan? Does your business card stand out from other cards? Having a professionally made business card really can make all the difference in how your business is portrayed.

5) Paper – Splurging on high quality paper can make a huge difference. You need to consider the weight of the paper and the durability. Business cards pass through a lot of hands and are often jammed into wallets. They need to be able to withstand a lot of wear and tear without wearing and tearing.

A good business card can last your company a while, bring in customers and create a professional and reliable image. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Let your company shine through in a well-designed business card.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Can Do It Myself! Do I Really Need to Hire Designers?

Imagine a group of construction workers were asked to build an important office building, but they weren’t being supplied with any blueprints. The effect would be disastrous! Not only would they not know the specifications of the building, but there would also be mayhem as the workers each had their own way of working on the construction project. Although it is difficult to estimate the exact Return on Investment or ROI of a particular design campaign, it is possible to show the effects design has on advertising and how those effects do, in fact, change a business’ ROI for the better.

The two biggest problems that many businesses face when deciding on whether or not to spend money on design are:

1) Shortage of Time
2) Lack of Money

No one wants to “throw away money” on something they believe they are capable of themselves. Unlike the medicine or law professions for example, design appears to be something even a regular Joe is capable of. With the ever expanding market of “how to” books being released daily, everything seems well within grasp. So why spend money and “waste time” on hiring a design firm to handle your advertising when you can do it yourself?

A lot goes into design that the how-to books can’t begin to explain. Before the actual design process even begins, a lot of research must be performed. The designers need to know not only information about the business they’ve been hired to design for, but also about the competitors and the market. Other factors play into the designing process as well, including color research and image research. Since humans respond better to colors and images, it is important that the designers choose colors and images that are positive and that are appropriate to the business’ market. Once this process is complete, then the brainstorming process begins. Designers rarely work independently. Discussing ideas with other designers gives the design a fresh look and augments its ability to increase a business’ ROI. A good design firm will keep you, the business, involved throughout the design process. By getting extra information from you about how your business functions and what your clientele is like, designers are able to match their designs to your customer base. The most important aspect is a solid focus on the customer. Giving the customer exactly what they want always shows in your ROI.

Like anything else, setting solid goals is the key to discovering whether or not design will pay off for your business. The effects of design on your ROI are long term and won’t appear over night. It takes time for a brand to embed itself in the minds of your customers and potential customers. This is why having strong goals will help your business discover what is working effectively and what can be replaced. From Coca-Cola’s ™ red cans and labels to the golden arches of McDonald’s ™, solid designs create lasting brands. Take a little extra time and spend a bit of money on something that has the potential to bring in lasting profits and notability to your business. Leave the “do it yourself” mentality to gardening and home renovations.

And if I've managed to sway you, then I'm thrilled and would love to hear from you. Yes, I'll even take your order - toll free: 1.866.816.5646 or email me!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's Your Favorite Color?

What’s your favorite color? It’s a question we’ve all been asked at least once in our lives and yet it remains one of those ever-changing notions. Very few people understand why they have certain alliances with colors. Whole research programs have been devoted to the study of colors and how they affect our moods and moreover, our drive to consumerism. Color Psychology dictates that human beings will respond faster and more intensely to colors than to words. Colors exist everywhere around us, and regardless of whether or not you’re aware of it, they have a strong effect on how we feel, how we work and what we want. People work harder in rooms painted with red and the majority of gyms have blue mats and paint to encourage motivation and add a calming influence. There are colors, however, with negative aspects. For example: orange is positive when used in small amounts, but it is also statistically one of America’s least favorite colors.

As such, serious time and effort should go into planning out what logo is best suited to your growing company. Your logo speaks to your customers before you’ll ever get a chance to and so you want it to send out the right message. While the main focus of logo design centers on designing an image that truly captures what your company stands for, it is also important to remember those seemingly smaller details that go into producing the perfect design. Inadvertently using a negative color in your logo design could result in the loss of customers. This is where serious Color Research fits into your branding process. Color Research is a professional service, which provides you with a detailed report of what colors work best with your services or products. Professional color specialists will ask the hard hitting color questions and provide you with the answers you need. What colors are best suited to your logo design and your company? Do your logo design colors work globally, or merely within North America? Which color choices will excite your customers? Which ones will drive them to your competitors?

Color specialists will determine which colors speak positively to your brand and which ones will hinder it. While it is easy to find numerous pages of information about Color Psychology online, it is significantly more difficult to decipher the information and to find reports on which colors bring negative aspects to your company. The effects of color on logo design have shown to be instrumental in the success of your company. Color Research is definitely a worthwhile investment. To find out more information about Color Research or how the Psychology of Color can affect your business, please email us at
info@starmedia.ca or call toll free: 1-866-816-5646 to speak to someone now... a real person!

What the heck is SEO anyway?

The Internet has come a long way since the days when we thought it was absolutely astounding that we didn’t have to walk through deep snow in the winter to send out letters to our grandmothers, friends and parents. Now everything in our ever-growing society has some online connection and the Internet has become a saturated and complicated place for a newbie website owner. Yes, I am getting to the point, which is SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but before we get into the nitty gritty of what that means for you and your website, let’s first start with the simple (perhaps stupid) question of what is a search engine and what does it do?

Search engines allow you, as the user, to find what it is you are looking for online. One of the most popular search engines out there right now is Google; however there are some other larger options such as: Yahoo, Altavista and MSN. Search engines operate by using a program which sends out “robots” to find all of the websites that have the search words you typed in. These search words are called “keywords.” So what do keywords do for you as a website owner? Well to start, keywords help your customers find your website. In order to get your website above others in the same category as you, you’ll need to know a thing or two about SEO.

1) SEO requires a little bit of common sense. It is not merely enough to tack on a bunch of keywords onto your website; you will also need to know which keywords will be the most successful for your site. This is where the “common sense” comes in. There are millions of websites out there, probably thousands that have the same basic content as yours, so you’ll need to find another way to rank above the crowd. Find very specific words that describe your product. For example: John is selling funky-flavored ice cream. The keywords for his website would be: funky-flavored ice cream, specialized ice cream, new flavors, creative flavors, fun ice cream, etc. This would get him a higher ranking than using the basic keywords like: ice cream, good ice cream, ice cream cones, etc.

2) Know your competitors. This is a must in business and it works no differently online. If you know your competitors and their keywords, it’ll make it easier to come up with different ones that stand out. You can see your competitors’ keywords by right clicking on their website and then selecting the option “view source”, the keywords will be located on the top of that file.

3) Ask your friends. Tell your friends you have a website about say, funky-flavored ice cream. Ask them what they would search for if they wanted to find it. This will help you to realize what kinds of keywords your customers would type into a search engine to try to find your site. These keywords should be listed on your website so that it will come up when someone types them in.

4) Write articles. If you write lots of articles that are keyword-enriched (filled with your keywords) you will rank higher on the search engines. Every time the search-bots are looking for the keywords a user types in, your page will come up. If you have ten pages with the words “funky-flavored ice cream” on them, it will come up ten times. Know when “do-it-yourself” ends. While it is great to be independent and get things done yourself, it is also a good idea to understand that you might need some help. Proper SEO requires a lot of work and a lot of time. If you’re already bogged down running your company, it is often a good idea to get some help. A good SEO company can dramatically increase your ranking and keep your site at the top of the search engine lists. To find out how to increase your ranking through effective SEO, drop us an email at: