But who can combat the cause of Omnaris TV spots?

My nose is twitching over the TV spots for Omnaris prescription nasal spray that are running now. ‘Cause they really stink.

In these cartoony spots , an army of tiny guys in white military outfits and helmets jam the nozzle of a nose spray bottle up a woman’s giant nostril and pull the trigger to “combat the cause of nasal allergy symptoms.” But who can combat the cause of horrible commercials like these?

A few points:

1. The spots are so badly drawn that at first, I thought they were test spots or animatics.

2. All the “soldiers” combating nasal allergy symptoms look exactly alike. Creepy.

3. When the “commander” speaks, his mouth opens and shuts like a nutcracker.

4. The guy’s eyes look crossed. Would you follow a cross-eyed, nutcracker-mouthed commander into the hellish depths of a woman’s nasal passages?

5. Finally, it irks me that the advertiser used animation to avoid paying on-camera talent. Of course, if they had planned to use real people, the budget for the spot would have been bazillions, and the concept would never have seen the light of day. But it’s too late to stop it now.

These Omnaris commercials are so primitive and childish, they’re insulting. On a pharmaceutical discussion board, one of the participants said they “suck.” Yep. That’s the word.

Another wondered where the required side effects warnings were. Well, the “commander” said that you may suffer dry mouth and some other minor discomfort. But there’s no paragraph of mouse-type elaborating the point. And there are plenty of warnings to be aware of here.

The cause of Omnaris TV spots? A “just don’t give a damn” attitude toward the viewer’s sensibilities, artistic integrity, or quality in general. And if they don’t give a damn about making a quality TV commercial, how much do they care about making a quality product?

I wonder how sales are going…

Friday Funnies

Start the weekend off right with a few giggles!

“I was really nervous about an apology to Sarah Palin. So what I did to get my confidence up … I rehearsed by apologizing to Tina Fey.”

—Comedian David Letterman

“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in a tight race… On Sunday, he was on the Iranian talk show, ‘Eliminate the Press.'”

—Comedian David Letterman

“When the economy fell apart I thought ‘Oh no! What’s going to happen to me?’ And then nothing happened. Because I have … nothing. No savings, no investments, no mortgage. It’s like the world is rewarding me for being a transient screwup.”

—Comedienne Ophira Eisenberg

“Until the financial crisis, I thought a 401(k) was an unusually long marathon. I couldn’t understand why my co-workers kept signing me up. To me, it was just a way to mess up a Sunday.”

—Comedienne Claudia Cogan

More humor here.

How ya gonna keep ’em down at Store A, after they’ve seen Store B? Positioning.

Once upon a time, there was a little island called Nowhere. On this island, there was just one of each kind of store. A grocery store, a car dealership, an insurance agency, a bank, and so on. It had been that way for 40 years. When visitors arrived, the first thing they noticed was the absence of advertising. No newspaper ads (No newspaper, actually), no store banners screaming “50% Off Sale!” No Grand Openings. No billboards. No radio or TV commercials. How weird.nowhere

Actually, it was quite natural, since none of these businesses had any competitors. If you wanted groceries, there was only one place to go. Same with all the other Nowhere businesses. So nobody needed to bother their heads with a thing called “positioning.” That is, explaining to customers and prospects what you offer that’s better than what your competitor offers. No competition, no advertising. Simple.
grocery store
Everything was toodling along on in its friendly, non-competitive way on Nowhere, until one day, a second grocery store opened on the other side of the island. Steve, the manager of Grocery Store A, the original store, went into panic mode. The new store, Store B, was drawing away some of A’s customers with a newer look, bigger produce section, wider aisles and discounted prices. They’ve been posting handbills all over town inviting people to come in for a free hot dog and fries and a tour of the new store. How you gonna keep ’em down in Store A, after they’ve seen Store B? Good question. The answer is positioning Store A as a better choice than Store B in the minds of customers.

Steve thinks of some meaningful benefits Store A offers versus Store B:

Think beautiful thoughts...

Think wonderful thoughts...

• We’ve been in business for 40 years, so we know what Nowhere residents want and need.
• We’re family-owned, whereas Store B is part of an impersonal international chain.
• We know you, your parents, and their parents by name.
• We’re not the cheapest, but we’re the best.
• Our store personnel are experienced. When you ask them a question about produce or meat, they know the answer.
• We’re closer to the main highway, so easier to get to.
• We support the Nowhere women’s softball team, AIDS walk, and various community service organizations.
• We offer bagging, carrying bags to your car, and drive-up service.

Whereas, Store B:
• Is staffed with young, inexperienced people.
• Has department managers who are from Somewhere island, where customers have very different tastes and lifestyles.
• Is a longer drive for most Nowhere residents.
• Offers cheaper prices because their stock is mostly off-brands from overseas.
• Is staffed with strangers who don’t know you.
• Is managed by a company executive from Belgium, who is unfamiliar with Nowhere’s environment.
• Carries items that Store A found Nowhere residents didn’t like.
• Has a long learning curve to know the community the way Store A does.
• Doesn’t sponsor community events.
• Keeps half the lights turned off to save on utilities, so you can’t see very well.
• Makes you bag your own groceries.
• Offers no carryout or drive-up conveniences.

Some positioning statements begin to emerge. Store A is “the one you know, and the one that knows you.” It’s the store where you find the things YOU want. A place that delivers exceptional expertise and service versus Store B.
Basically, “If you like a convenient store with an experienced staff that has known and taken care of you and your family for two generations, come to Store A. (As opposed to an impersonal, inconvenient new store with inexperienced help where you’re on your own, that is, Store B.)”

The positioning statement will have to be focused into a brief, memorable advertising tagline Store A can use in its advertising flyers (Steve realizes now he needs to start advertising to counter his competitor’s advertising, and probably to offer some discounted items and special events.).

TevyeStore B will probably position itself as the lower-cost alternative. Some people will always go for lower price. Nothing to be done about it. But many more people make purchases based on emotional connections or habit. That’s why “Tradition” is a big plus for many shoppers. And Store A has that going for it in spades.

So if any business has competitors — and outside of Nowhere, all businesses do — they must position themselves versus competition. And whether it’s in print, radio, TV, web messages, flyers or social media marketing, they must target and deliver their positioning messages to prospects and customers through some form of advertising.

sparringSo how do you begin to develop an effective positioning? By identifying your main competitor and making your strongest case for your business versus that competitor. Give it your best shot. With a strong strategy and focused messages targeted to the right audience, your communication campaign will, given enough time and an adequate media budget, yield positive business results for you.

Before you say it, I know, times are tough. Some businesses are laying off employees and putting off advertising and promotion. Buying “room in the box,” or space in the customer’s mind, is not cheap. But if you don’t do it, you leave a vacuum where your competitor can stake out territory. Then you’ll spend a lot more later trying to vacate the squatter from your former space.

Could you use help devising your most effective positioning, marketing strategy and creative strategy? Call me at 913-236-7595. Let me put my 20 years of ad agency experience to work for you. Together, we can position your business against your competition — to win.

‘Cause there’s no place like Nowhere.

“Art & Copy” film reveals origins of famous ad campaigns

TO the list of great copy writers in advertising, add an unlikely name: Gary Gilmore.

Mr. Gilmore, the notorious spree-killer, uttered the words “Let’s do it” just before a firing squad executed him in Utah in 1977. Years later, the phrase became the inspiration for Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

wheres the beef 004
A new film, “Art & Copy,” tells the story of some of the most famous advertising campaigns in America (over the past 30 years or so). What’s astounding about them is that many nearly were killed before emerging, sometimes not so triumphantly, from a battle with various ad agency and client creativity smotherers.

Some, thought to be “just okay” at the time, turned out to be hugely viral (though that word didn’t exist at the time). Like “Where’s the beef?” And even “Just Do It.”

Read the NYTimes story about the documentary, which features real “Mad Men” and “Mad Women” of the 60s, who created some of the most memorable campaigns of all time.

A little humor to brighten your day

“Town hall meetings across the country have been disrupted by angry protesters who are against Obama’s new health care plan. Things could have gotten violent but nobody can afford to actually get hurt.”

—Comedian Jimmy Fallon
“Transformers II [is] on track to be the biggest box office opening of all time. It’s incredible—somebody has finally found a way to make money using American cars.”

—Comedian Jimmy Fallon

“MySpace has fired 60 percent of its workforce. They notified workers as fast as possible. They left messages on their Facebook pages.”

—Comedian Craig Ferguson

More humor here.

When advertising is an empty pinata. . .

Imagine a gaily colored pinata swinging over the head of a blindfolded birthday girl or boy. Excited kids are ringed around the child who’s swinging a stick to break it open, giggling in anticipation of a cascade of delicious sweets. But what if the pinata turns out to be empty? Que lastima! Party over.

So imagine the same disappointment over an advertising campaign that cost a lot of money and time but didn’t work. The effort was all por nada. Why? Because even though the advertising looked appealing, it wasn’t based on a well-thought-out strategy. Like the empty pinata, it promised something but didn’t deliver. So I say —

Creativity without strategy is an empty pinata.

Someone's about to be very disappointed...

A creative execution without a sound strategy behind it won’t earn the best results for a client. It might win the creative team an ad show award, but if that’s the goal, is the advertising doing what the client needs? Or is it only designed to break through an out-of-town Associate Creative Director’s early-morning stupor on judging day, so s/he will notice a clever, cute, or outrageous piece?

There’s nothing wrong with awards, of course. I’m proud of the handsome Omni Best of Show award (bookend) on my office shelf. But I’m much prouder of the great results I’ve gotten for clients with strategic marketing and advertising. Like the following:

• A manufacturing company client whose multi-media campaign earned them a 1400% return on their investment

• An insurance company client whose three-part direct mail campaign went 400% over goal — after the first mailing

• A full-page newspaper ad that drew 150 applications for 12 positions with a KC company opening a new office in Jefferson City, MO

I can help you achieve your business goals — via the strategic application of creativity.

Call me now, and let’s get started. ‘Cause nobody wants an empty pinata. pouting-child

Phone: 913-236-7595
Email: liz@lizcraigwriter.com

Who needs a writer?

After all, everybody knows how to type, right? And most people can put together a subject and a predicate, a noun and a verb. They can get their point across, if not so elegantly, using basic grammar. So who needs a writer?

Words, words, words...

Words, words, words...

I’d say everybody does. Well, being a writer, of course I’d say that. But truly, I believe anyone who’s in business, either as an entrepreneur or marketing maven of an established company, needs a writer. If not to write their brochure, ad or business letter, at least to cast an eagle eye over their copy and rid it of bad punctuation and spelling.

Simple proofreading is only the beginning of what a writer can do for business communicators, though.

• A writer can tell you if your copy needs to be broken up into smaller chunks, instead of being a solid column of gray. Confronted with an unbroken block of text, the reader’s eye balks and wanders away in search of white space.

• A writer can make “just okay” copy more intriquing. Zingier verbs and peppier adjectives pump up the interest level. And the right rhythm and arrangement of words can make paragraphs end with a bang, not a whimper.

• Writing is really thinking, expressed in words. Everybody knows how to think, too, right? But sometimes, people need a writer to help them organize those thoughts for greatest impact.
• Writing is also a craft. Like a woodworker who hones his skills in building fine furniture over years of training and practice, a writer sharpens his or her ability to communicate. S/he reads a lot. Studies good writing. Takes classes. Shares knowledge and techniques with other writers. Over time, a good writer becomes better and better at the craft.

• It’s hard to write about yourself or your business because you’re so close to it. A writer, an outsider with a 30,000-foot view, may see benefits your business offers that you hadn’t even thought of.

So —

If you are a brilliant business manager, restaurateur or plumber, you really know your stuff in your field. But you may not be a whiz at writing compelling sales or marketing copy about your business. There’s no shame in that. Let a writer tell your story — in a brochure, on a website, in a TV or radio commercial, on a billboard or via social media marketing.

Let a writer interview you about your business. Share your passion, your experience, your victory stories, your funny stories, your ups and downs. And from that interview, the writer will produce a communication that gets across all your best attributes, the value you offer, and the one powerful reason a client or customer should do business with you instead of the other guy or gal. Strong, focused communications help you build relationships with prospects and loyal clients or customers. And relationships build your business.

So who needs a writer? Maybe you?

Celiac disease and a gluten-free diet

About 1% of people in the world are gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease. That means they can’t eat any products containing wheat (also rye, barley, and sometimes oats), or their intestines’ ability to extract nutrients from foods can be destroyed. That leaves the sufferer open to the possibility of malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis or cancer. Nice, huh?

I found out I was gluten-intolerant a few years ago, when the KC Star ran a full-page story about the condition. Before that, I had been eliminating various foods from my diet, one by one, trying to detect which was the baddie causing my intestinal problems. It never occurred to me that my favorite foods — pasta, bread, crackers, cookies and bagels — could be the culprits. I eliminated wheat products from my diet, and wonder of wonders, the symptoms disappeared.

Hey! Rice Chex and some other Chex products are now gluten-free!

Hey! Rice Chex and some other Chex products are now gluten-free!

How did I go all my life without symptoms and have them suddenly appear? That’s a mystery to me. It’s a hereditary condition, but maybe, like cancer, you can have the “X factor” for it but not get symptoms unless stress sets them off. I can tell you, being a freelancer has its share of stressors.

Now I buy gluten-free bread (though I have made some in my breadmaker), pizza, cookies and crackers, as well as gluten-free frozen dinners. But lately, I’ve been cooking more because of the high cost of gluten-free foods.

Actually, it’s not too hard or expensive to cook gluten-free. You just have to avoid the middle aisles in the grocery store (where processed foods, most of which contain wheat, barley or rye, are shelved) and learn to read the mouse print on food packages.

The items around the perimeter of the store — fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken and beef — are gluten-free. So is tofu, which is a good protein source. Rice and potatoes are gluten-free and cheap. You still have to buy expensive gluten-free pasta, though, and there is no such thing as a good gluten-free bagel, darn it. But with a little extra effort in planning and cooking, you can eat well and healthily without smashing your piggy bank.
As it turns out, you may get a tax deduction for the extra amount you have to pay for gluten-free products versus non-gluten-free products. And if you have a cafeteria plan at work, you may be able to sock money away in it to pay the difference.

Truly, I believe more than 1% of the population is gluten-intolerant; they just don’t know what is wrong with them. As this article points out, there are no medications to treat celiac disease, so doctors, who receive most of their information from pharma reps, don’t know much about it. Gluten intolerance often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed as irritable bowel symptom, Crohn’s or other disorder.

If you suspect wheat may be causing you problems, find out more here, even more here. And everything you can imagine wanting to know about the disease and its symptoms at Celiac.com.

All that’s needed to diagnose celiac disease is an inexpensive blood test. So if you suspect you may have it, get thee to a doctor for the test.

Or, if you want to try gluten-free living first and see if it makes a difference, you can find loads of gluten-free recipes online. Just Google. And good luck and good health to you.

Why do hurting companies cut advertising first?

A friend of mine, Michael Irvin, posted an article that poses the age-old question, “When business is bad, why is advertising the first thing to be cut?”

Michael says, “I don’t get it.” I don’t, either.
There’s a concept called “no more room in the box.” The box is the customer’s brain, and the things that fill it up are brands and products (at least for this discussion). The box can only hold so many brands or products at any one time. If s/he adds more beyond that limit, something’s gotta go.

For example, if Sunkist orange soda quits advertising and marketing, but Tropicana orange soda surges ahead in advertising, Sunkist probably will lose business to Tropicana, because people simply forget about the brand. When Tropicana muscled into the box, it pushed Sunkist right out like a homeless squatter.

Of course, I’m a loyal Sunkist fan, so I wouldn’t switch to Tropicana without a lot of ad impressions, or coupons, or perhaps a report that Sunkist caused warts. Once your brand gets into the box, it’s hard to dislodge. But if you simply stop advertising, you abandon any claim to that box space you worked so hard and spent so much to get. You give your competitor a free pass. Now, why would you do that?

Website music can drive you wild.

Music can soothe the savage breast, but on a website, it can drive you wild.

Let’s say I work at a computer in a short cubicle in a quiet office. Back at home, there’s a hole in my dining room wall that the plumbers made in an attempt to get at a problem pipe. I have a few minutes, so I search “drywall companies” and see that ABC Drywall, Inc. is near my house. Cool. I go to their site to see what types of projects this company handles.

coveringearsThe home page opens, and instantly, loud, frenetic bluegrass picking nearly blasts me off my chair. Adrenalin starts pumping, and I’m thinking, “HELP! MAKE IT STOP!” But I CAN’T TURN IT OFF. There’s no “Music off” button. I could mute the sound on my computer, but that takes too long. I’m out of there as fast as I can hit “Command-Q.” My next-cubicle neighbor peers over the partition at me, frowning. I shouldn’t be looking into drywallers on the company computer anyway, but you can’t call drywallers at night.

If the objective was to get rid of Web visitors as quickly as possible, ABC Drywall, Inc. definitely achieved it. I’ll call XYZ Drywall, LLC, instead. Their site is nice and quiet.

So if you have your heart set on playing your favorite music on your website, whether it’s cowboy yodeling, Hawaiian ukelele tunes or heavy metal, please also provide a “MUSIC OFF” button. If you do, your visitors may stick around long enough to get your message and decide to do business with you. And that would be a good thing.