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A Copywriter Writes

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DAN WATSON

Kiwi copywriter.

Illustrator on the side.

This blog is filled with stuff that simply comes to mind that's too long to tweet.

It's mostly my observations as I try to make it in the advertising industry. It keeps me writing and, hopefully, gets you reading.

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  • February 20, 2012 11:34 pm

    Not Feeling The Love On Valentine’s Day or, Superbowl 2012

    I decided to make last week’s Valentines Day a special one and spend it with my greatest love - ads.

    Having not caught up with this year’s Superbowl ads, it seemed like the perfect thing to do as I sat at my Mac with my can of Soup-For-One.

    First of all, what the hell was up with all the celebrity cameos? Was there some hidden competition between all the brands to use a celebrity most creatively (most of which failed)?

    God, the list goes on. It’s like the cast for the movie to follow Valentines Day and New Year’s Eve; Superbowl Sunday.

    Acura - Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno

    Dannon Oikos Greek Yoghurt - John Stamos (the Knights Templar called, they have their eyes on your relic)

    Pepsi - Elton John (and apparently that chick won X Factor)

    Hulu Plus - Will Arnett (come on!)

    Kia - Adrianna Lima, Motley Crew

    Time Warner Cable - Ricky Gervais

    Samsung Mobile - The Darkness (who looks like shit, by the way)

    Chrysler - Clint Eastwood

    Honda - Matthew Broderick

    The Voice - Betty White (someone had to do it)

    Telefora - Adrianna Lima



    Ok, THE GOOD. (I guess there were a few).

    NBC - Brotherhood of Man: Entertaining and fun.

    Chevy Silverado - 2012: Nice thought. The second guy’s line is a bit of a killer though.

    Kia - Dream Car: Pretty cool. Nice line at the end. Even with the cameos, it works for me.

    Volkswagon - The Dog Strikes Back: Interesting, funny. Not sure if all the Star Wars stuff at the end was truly necessary, it’s just milking the success of last year’s ad.

    NFL - Timeline: Kept me interested. Casual, informative and nicely shot.

    Samsung Mobile - Thing Called Love: The Applephiliacs finally turn to Samsung and get out of line. An elaborate party ensues starring The Darkness. Kind of entertaining and the self-deprecating joke at the end was a nice touch.

    M&M’s - Just My Shell: Funny, love the M&M’s dude.

    Budweiser - Return of the King: Nice, uplifting ad.

    Doritos - Man’s Best Friend: Funny. You can’t help but giggle. 

    Acura - Transactions: Wacky and cool. Jerry Seinfeld does a good job in this one.

    Chevy - Happy Grad: Entertaining, funny.

    Prudential Financial - Day One Linda Guthrie: Simple, nice line.



    THE BAD

    Dannon Oikos Greek Yoghurt - The Tease: Meh. A woman head butts John Stamos for her Greek yoghurt. Could’ve saved the money spent on John and done something more exciting.

    Pepsi - King’s Court: This is only mildly funny (barely) because of the celebrity cameos.

    Toyota Camry - Reinvented: Cheesy. Silly.

    Budweiser - Eternal Optimism: Seems like a Coke ‘Open Happiness’ ad. Even the colour reminds me of Coke. Says the same old crap: ‘we’ve been with you through all the good times.’ Nicely shot, but meh.

    Cadillac - Green Hell: It looks like any other ad with a performance car being tested. Green Hell could’ve been any other race track.

    Time Warner Cable - Enjoy Better: Show and tell narration technique, nothing new. And Ricky Gervais to add some appeal. Seriously, were celebrities a prerequisite?

    Bridgestone - Performance Football: Since when did Kevin Butler leave Playstation and join Bridgestone?

    Chrysler - Halftime in America: Big speech by another big celebrity. Too much like the Eminem one last year.

    Cars.com - Confidence: WTF?

    Hyundai - Cheetah: Ooh, looks like another car vs animal commercial, oh wait! The cheetah turns on the guy who opened the cage! Still meh.



    THE UGLY

    Audi - Vampire Party: Are you kidding me? Nail the vampire idea inside a coffin once and for all. I figured by this point, if you’re going to do vampires, it would be something different. Oh haha, I get it, you referenced Twilight. No. Still lame.

    Camry - Connections: Boring! Seen it. Many, many times. Next.

    Bud Light Platinum - Work: Lame, cliche.

    Go Daddy: All crap.



    THE REST: All get the ‘meh’ sigh.

    You may agree if you check out the rest at the Ad Blitz YouTube channel.

    All in all, was not impressed with the stuff put out this year. It made for a bitter Valentine’s.

  • October 4, 2011 5:43 am
    Anonymous:  Hi!, do you think that Nolita's "No Anorexia" fashion marketing campaign has been successful? If so what would be your short analysis for it?

    Hi Anonymous,

    Personally, I don’t think the Nolita ‘No Anorexia’ ad is as good as it could be. 

    I think the media placement is very good. To run the ad during Milan Fashion Week, probably next to billboards featuring models for other very prestigious designers, is brave and bold.

    Next, the imagery used is powerful. It’s eye-catching and controversial and sends a very powerful visual message. Although, I think it shouts at people, rather than engaging them.

    Where I think the ad falls flat, is the copy. No anorexia.

    First, what does this mean? What is Nolita saying? That it’s against anorexia in general? Against using anorexic models? It it saying that they themselves don’t use anorexic models? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem clear to me.

    Second, this doesn’t really leave me with much to think about afterward. Had there been a smartly crafted line, then I might walk away with something a little less superficial than,

    "Holy shit, a naked anorexic woman."

    The copy, which seems a tad imperative, coupled with the intense visual, makes the message seem forceful in a way. It’s discomforting.

    I understand this ad campaign received a colossal amount of press, which I wouldn’t doubt; overall, it’s a brave piece of communication. I also don’t doubt that it raised the issue of anorexia to the light for that period of time.

    But the question I ask is how long did the heightened awareness last for and did anything come out of it?

    Four years down the track, I’m not sure if there were any long term ripples that ad caused. I hear that it gets brought up in an advertising class or two as a case study. I’m also not sure if a whole lot of people can recall the ad. But maybe they can, I’m probably just out of the loop, to be honest.

    I would welcome contributions to this.

  • September 20, 2011 12:37 pm

    It’s Largely Luck or, Sometimes Father Fate Wants To Give You A Leg Up

    So the other week, as I have previously pointed out, Yew Leong Tan dropped by Lucideas for a chat.

    He spoke to us about his illustrious 23-year career working at Leo Burnett Malaysia for 16 of them, eventually becoming Executive Creative Director with Yasmin Ahmad. He spoke specifically about the amazing work he and Yasmin did for Petronas.

    I also learned a secret to how they sold that amazing work.

    It wasn’t the hours. Although, that probably would’ve helped.

    It wasn’t superior Powerpoint presentations. However, I’ve been told that Smart Art and animations can arguably make or break your client meeting.

    I wasn’t really any major skill that anyone can simply develop over the course of their career.

    It was mostly luck.

    Hmph. Well, shit.

    Being more spiritually inclined. Yew Leong called it ‘God’s Will’.

    He said it was a good idea, yes. But it was also persuasively presented.

    To open-minded clients.

    Whom they had a trusting relationship with.

    That’s quite a few factors.

    There was one particular idea that wouldn’t be where it is today without a stroke of luck.

    Many industry professionals will be familiar with the TVC Tan Hong Ming in Love.

    In 2008, it won at Cannes, the Clios, D&AD, the Media Spikes, the Kancils, the Andy Awards, One Show, the Asia Pacific AdFest, the CUP Awards plus many others.

    What’s interesting is the charm and charisma that cherries the idea was born out of luck.

    Let’s note that it takes a rather humble creative to admit this.

    What’s magic about this is as they were filming, the bell rang and little Ummi came out and what happened next was totally unscripted. The look of happy shock on Hong Ming’s face was genuine and perfect. The only bit of direction given was when Yasmin told them both to walk away (her voice was cut out obviously).

    Again, this would never have happened if they didn’t randomly decide to film by the classrooms and filmed by a tree on the field as originally planned.

    It just happened.

    Everything fell into place of fate’s own volition.

    I doubt this is first nor the last time you’ll hear a story like this. I know I’ve heard it more times than Charlie Sheen’s had sex.

    Industry stars have called the secret to successful work all sorts of name; modestly referring to it as luck, God’s Will, an alignment of stars, or a very intricate pattern of wearing unwashed lucky underwear every second day after lunch time except on Tuesdays.

    Knowing this I suppose we can all relax a bit, knowing that sometimes our successes are out of our control.

    Having said this, that’s not to actually say you can’t work towards it.

    Considering the above stories about the ECDs at Leo Burnett Malaysia, easily persuading a client helps if they’re open-minded, which helps if you have a trusting relationship, which takes a lot of work to achieve.

    The random decision to film Hong Ming near the classrooms led to Ummi wandering onto the shoot early, which led to her unscripted admission of considering Hong Mong her boyfriend, triggering his priceless expression of shock and delight. The icing on the cake was Yasmin’s direction to walk away, an on the spot decision which comes from years of experience making films.

    So yes, I suppose I do agree that a lot of the time when creating great work, things simply fall into place.

    But it is the insertion of your hard work and dedication that positions those things directly above where you’d like them to fall.

  • August 28, 2011 1:27 am

    In-situ or, What I Learned When I Was Being A Weasel

    Last year, I spent my Easter holiday hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. A phenomenal experience. If you’re ever in New Zealand, and only do one thing that’s naturery, make it that.

    The day my friend, Abby and I completed the hike, we went to steak house near our lodge. We shared a table with a boisterous couple who were going to do the hike the next day.

    We got talking, and it turned out that the woman was an executive for DB Breweries. A dream client.

    Now, at the time there was a small rumour going around at the time that DB was putting themselves up for pitch following an enormous change at Saatchi & Saatchi Auckland with the CEO and the ECD leaving the agency thus undergoing a significant leadership change.

    So I figured I’d dig.

    I commented on a billboard I had seen for Heineken in downtown Auckland. It was executed on a particular ad space that covered two sides of a shopping mall. The headline ran along and around the corner of the building, making it only readable from a very particular angle. Most of the time, you only saw half of the headline from where you were on the surrounding streets.

    She agreed. It wasn’t one of their billboards she was most proud of.

    She said to me,

    "When they showed us the layout, it was one, long strip. And looking at it like that, it looked great. What we should’ve asked for, was to see it in-situ."

    Totally.

    A lot of advertising looks great on the screen of the designer’s Mac, or on your Creative Director’s desk, or on the boardroom table. But the question you have to ask is how does the work look in the real world?

    As creatives, we are always being reminded that the work we do is not principally for us, but for them, the consumers.

    And one important element to consider rather thoroughly is the context the ad is in.

    Where is the billboard? What magazine is it in? What website? What are the people likely to be doing when they view it?

    When all these questions (and many, many more) are considered and creatively answered, you get something closer to effective and cool.

    In a previous post about portfolio advice, I quoted Bob Barrie, ECD for BDM*. The one thing he asks when looking at a portfolio is, are the ideas real-world applicable? It’s one thing to have creative ideas, but something else entirely if you have creative ideas that work.

    Looking at your work they way your audience will see it will, quite simply, help pick out all the grit you only tend to notice after the ad has run, otherwise referred to as when it’s far, far too late.



    *My god, the ad industry is alphabetical, isn’t it?

  • April 19, 2011 1:41 am

    Judge An Ad School By Its Ads or, Getting Schooled Again


    Is that an eagle wearing a trencher? Christ…

    My agency, Lucideas recently did some work for a new client, a local advertising school which had some God-awful stuff trying to cram 27 messages into one print ad.

    My Creative Director, Zac Labang said that this was one of those blatant opportunities to do something cool and award-winning. I suppose you can’t ask for much better when the client themselves ask for something award-winning, not to mention the client is an AD SCHOOL; one of the best kinds of clients.

    I instantly lit up. I felt like I was back at university, getting briefed and, like all university ad briefs, there were no rules; no brand guidelines, no sponsor’s message, no Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

    Just a simple idea to go on a page in the newspaper.

    Rather relaxing, compared to what is usually asked of an ad campaign these days.

    And like university, I found myself being schooled once again in things that you really ought to remember when creating advertising.

    Having said that, we’re always re-learning stuff. Droga5 Creative Director, Guy Roberts once said to me before giving me advice,

    "Here’s something I was taught when I was 17, and again when I was 19, and again at 21, and when I was 25…"

    What I re-learnt this time:

    SMASH THE CATEGORY.

    Zac reiterated what Paul White first taught this to me a couple of years ago. It’s the ‘zig when everyone else zags’ principle; it’s part of what Paul Arden meant when he wrote ‘Whatever you think, think the opposite’. Simply look at the competition and go in a different direction to what they do.

    Looking through the newspaper at all the colleges’ ads ‘persuading’ students to come to their open days, the first point was to do an ad that was simple and uncluttered. The sea of stock photography of smiling students said to us that an actual idea in our ad would make it stand out.

    This was too easy. The above ‘zagging’ is what you should be doing anyway. The fact that schools boasting effective communication courses were not doing their ads like this to begin with is embarrassing.

    SHOW, DON’T TELL.

    Again something you learn right off the bat in any ad school worth its salt. In this case, we saw one ad in particular that sang out amongst the bullet points, text boxes, sponsor logos and the other three headlines (no joke) that they ‘develop you to be an industry-ready communicator’. How? By showing exactly what not to do? Talk about irony.

    Don’t state the claim, simply prove it in the way you do an ad ESPECIALLY if you’re an ad school. I mean, shit, practice what you preach.

    Helps cut back on the body copy too.

    Speaking of which…

    TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR.

    In your communication, there could be a slight chance that the reason you think you’re hot shit means nothing to the consumer.

    A student looking for a good college isn’t trying to compare their ability to equip them with global skills in a borderless world nor is interested in the fact that the university has leading research intensive facilities.

    Research does come in handy when figuring out what your audience what’s to hear. If you know what they want, then talking to them will be just like drinking through a straw without tipping the bottle up: simple enough, but if you still have trouble, then you’re kind of retarded.

    Finally…

    KEEP REFERRING TO THE BRIEF.

    You can make kick ass ads, but if they don’t say what needs to be said, the they’re about as useful as a mesh condom.

    When coming up with the initial concepts, I read the brief once and went to work. Each half decent thought was quickly drawn up and stuck to the wall, by the time it was time to meet, I went in with about 20-odd ideas.

    More than anyone else who came to the meeting.

    All of them off brief (by a smidge).

    Yep, felt like I was back at university. 

  • April 15, 2011 8:40 pm
    The Copywriter’s getting into design now… Jeez, I suppose I better write something next week.
Just a poster concept I was mucking around with the other day. I want to print it on poster paper and hang in my office. I like it’s simplicity. It’s probably been done before, but I don’t know. What do you think? View high resolution

    The Copywriter’s getting into design now… Jeez, I suppose I better write something next week.

    Just a poster concept I was mucking around with the other day. I want to print it on poster paper and hang in my office. I like it’s simplicity. It’s probably been done before, but I don’t know. What do you think?

  • April 12, 2011 12:32 am
    helloyoucreatives:

Breasts are born to grow together. Part of the Pink Ribbon series.

I never know what to think when I see a breast cancer ad with a topless woman as the visual.
Sure, it’s the subject matter and it’s one of the only times a topless woman is appropriate, but I can’t help but think that it’s an ‘easy’ way to get attention because it’s essentially a topless woman.
Also, I realise that my point of view is very male. I saw this ad, I thought ‘nice tits’.
Having said this, females (or just more mature people in general) may see this and see the beauty of two breasts, symmetrical, paired, together and healthy.
Putting the copy over the visual ensures that the copy gets read. Good move. Otherwise the ad begins to liken itself to most centrefolds in men’s magazines.
As for the copy itself, I love it. The treatment is very readable (it could be the illustrative typography that I love, but it works). The idea that breasts deserve to grow old together is nice and struck a small chord in me.
Maybe others will see it and will buy Pink Ribbon Magazine to support this very idea.
Or maybe, guys will buy the magazine secretly hoping it’s full of more topless women.
Either way, magazines get sold and money goes toward breast cancer, I guess.  View high resolution

    helloyoucreatives:

    Breasts are born to grow together. Part of the Pink Ribbon series.

    I never know what to think when I see a breast cancer ad with a topless woman as the visual.

    Sure, it’s the subject matter and it’s one of the only times a topless woman is appropriate, but I can’t help but think that it’s an ‘easy’ way to get attention because it’s essentially a topless woman.

    Also, I realise that my point of view is very male. I saw this ad, I thought ‘nice tits’.

    Having said this, females (or just more mature people in general) may see this and see the beauty of two breasts, symmetrical, paired, together and healthy.

    Putting the copy over the visual ensures that the copy gets read. Good move. Otherwise the ad begins to liken itself to most centrefolds in men’s magazines.

    As for the copy itself, I love it. The treatment is very readable (it could be the illustrative typography that I love, but it works). The idea that breasts deserve to grow old together is nice and struck a small chord in me.

    Maybe others will see it and will buy Pink Ribbon Magazine to support this very idea.

    Or maybe, guys will buy the magazine secretly hoping it’s full of more topless women.

    Either way, magazines get sold and money goes toward breast cancer, I guess. 

  • March 4, 2011 9:00 am

    That Warm Feeling Of Nostalgia or, Nineties Ads.

    Everyone loves that feeling of days gone by. That feeling comes to me whenever I have one of those Youtube sessions when I look up ads I remember from the Nineties. Does that mean I was born to love advertising? Or is it because I’m so fanatical about it that it dominates my childhood memories also?

    It’s funny. These ads are the only ads I’ve ever looked at without judging their creativity. They are forever awesome because they will always represent so much more than an iced fruity treat or peanut flavoured spread.

    So as my last post written in New Zealand, I give you The Good Times of New Zealand Ads.

    PLEASE NOTE: To fully appreciate the following, have an extensive knowledge of NZ ads from the late Eighties to the late Nineties. Otherwise, international people may like to indulge in some old kiwi ads, as long as they don’t judge, for they are precious. 

    (Click image to watch)


    Fruju


    ETA - Ripples


    Air New Zealand


    McDonald’s - Big Mac


    McDonald’s - Kiwiburger


    Mainland Cheese


    TV3 Promo - the old logo


    Lotto - Instant Kiwi


    Lotto - Instant Kiwi


    Lotto - Instant Kiwi


    Toyota - Bugger Ad


    Pascalls


    Lotto - Double Dip


    Sanitarium - Peanut Butter Nutter


    Cadbury - Crunchie


    Cadbury - Creme Egg


    Lotto - Saturday Draw


    Nestle - Pixie Caramel


    Polar Pop


    Georgie Pie


    Speights (R.I.P. Frank Whitten)


    Kiwi Bacon (not nineties, but funny)

  • March 2, 2011 12:08 pm

    Women’s Rights In Advertising or, Tampon Ads

    They’ve attained the right to vote, the right to work and the right not to be groped while doing so. But I feel that there is one minute thing that women should have the right to: write tampon/pad ads exclusively.

    This latest Libra tampon ad I’ve seen on television is such a piss-take of women as they go shopping for their hygiene products - practically orgasming over a new tampon with 5 new lame and minuscule features.

    But maybe that’s the point - it is a piss-take because not even women give two craps about the new features of this tampon in real life and there’s no way of seriously promoting them.

    Which makes me look back on past feminine hygiene product ads. Sure enough, they’re all told from the guy’s point of view. Having said this, they are hilarious (most of them), even the one above gets a laugh out of me. But wait, last I checked, I did not have a vagina, thus eliminating me (and all men) from the target market. And these are women’s products. So what do the women think of these ads?

    Some examples: (Click image to view)

    Comparison

    Wonderboy
     

    Mousey
     

    Pool
     

    This next one is obviously fake, but I pissed myself laughing - had to show you.

    Clotex
     

    These are women’s products. Shouldn’t they have women’s insights? But then again…

     

    If this is the kind of shit women would write, then let the men write the ads for feminine hygiene products. They may not speak to the target market essentially, but at least they make the rest of us chuckle (even if it is an the expense of women’s issues).

  • February 8, 2011 10:08 am

    The Superbowl Ads 2011 or, The Reason I Watch The Superbowl

    It’s that time of year again, Superbowl! But for me, it’s not about the sport. Did the Packers or Steelers win? Couldn’t care less. For me, and maybe a few other ad men and women out there it’s about seeing the brands that paid out the wazoo to have their ads seen by over 100,000,000 viewers.

    Some of these ads are great, some are good, some are horse shite.

    See them all on the Youtube Ad Blitz

    Pepsico ran it’s Crash The Superbowl contest where it aired six user-generated commercials for Pepsi and Doritos, chosen from 5,600 entries. Prize money was a cool $5 million. Not bad (except for most of those winning ads). Click the link to see all six.

    MY FAVOURITES:

    Old Luxury - Audi

    The Best Part - Doritos

    Product Placement - Bud Light

    House Sitting - Doritos

    Wild West - Budweiser

    Anachronistic City - Hyundai

    Ozzy and Bieber - Best Buy

    The Force - Volkswagen

    Border - Coca Cola

    MY LEAST FAVOURITE (TO SAY THE LEAST)

    Love Hurts - Pepsi Max

    Dog Sitter - Bud Light

    The Contract - Go Daddy

    Torpedo Cooler - Pepsi Max

    The New GoDaddy.Co Girl - Go Daddy

    After Glow - Sealy Posturepedic

    NOT AMAZING, BUT NICE

    Best Fans Ever - NFL

    First Date - Pepsi Max

    Carma - Bridgestone

    Miss Evelyn - Chevy Camaro

    No Calories? Pssh! - Pepsi Max

    MASSIVE BUDGETS

    One Epic Ride - Kia Optima

    Seige - Coca Cola

    Black Beetle - Volkswagen

    Welcome - Mercedes Benz

    Kizashi vs. Wicked Weather - Suzuki

    UPCOMING FILM SPOTS

    Thor

    Captain America: The First Avenger

    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

    Cowboys & Aliens

    Limitless

    Fast Five (Fast and the Furious 5)

    Rio

    Anything that I missed in that list received a solid “Meh”.

    Until next year.