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

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

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*

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

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…

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

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 –

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 or call us toll free at 1.866.816.5646. We’d love to help!