Friday, December 3, 2010

Enjoy the end of December

It’s almost that time of year again. The time when we wind up our work and take a well earned break.

I’m talking of course about Christmas. But maybe I shouldn’t.

Recently I had the tricky task of writing about the Christmas break without using the word Christmas. After ‘festive season’ and ‘holiday break’ I ran out of synonyms.

Despite my best efforts the written piece had a strange ‘beat around the bush’ tone to it. Not surprising really when the subject I was writing about could not be written.

The reason I couldn’t write the C word is still a bit unclear to me. The client was an American company. Apparently in the US some people are concerned that saying Christmas at Christmas time will offend non-Christians.

It’s an interesting concept. And one I thought was confined to the US, until yesterday when an unnamed NSW bureaucrat gave directions on Christmas office decorations. She issued an email saying, ''Be respectful of other cultures and religious beliefs. Do not select religious decorations such as nativity scenes.''

As a child living in Singapore I can assure you I was never offended by alternative religious holidays. I gladly took the day off school for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and Chinese New Year. I had no idea what they all meant. I just enjoyed the dangerous fireworks and bean flavoured lollies.

My (Aussie) mate Troy who resides in Shanghai has chosen not to take holidays at Christmas, preferring to take off Chinese New Year with the rest of the office. I’m pretty sure he isn’t offended either.

And while I was shooting in Japan, progress was slowed by the annual ‘ride your bicycle into Tokyo’ holiday. We weren’t insulted at all. Delayed, yes. Perplexed, yes. Offended, no.

To quote consultant Alan Weiss, “You don’t have to “believe” in anything other than good will to others to have a happy and renewing time during the holidays.”

I think that’s the best advice of all.

So, I wish all AdNotes readers a wonderful and relaxing festive, occasion, season, break, holiday … um… thingy.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Free Rolls Royce with every purchase

Who doesn’t love a GWP or ‘Gift with purchase’ - a free pair of socks with your cold tablets, a free cookbook with your cream cheese?

The good old GWP took an interesting turn recently when Stuart Ashton started thinking creatively.

You probably haven’t heard of Stuart, but he’d give a lot of professional marketers a run for their money.

Stuart and his wife Jean were selling their Mosman home and they thought it would be a good idea to throw in a little incentive, or GWP as we marketers call it.

The gift? A Rolls Royce car!

A free Rolls Royce sounds fantastic. RR has done a sterling job of attaching a luxury image to what is a very old-fashioned gas-guzzler. We don’t say ‘the Toyota of lawn mowers’ for example, we say ‘the Rolls Royce of lawn mowers’.

I wondered what this gold plated GWP was actually worth. A quick trip online told me his 1979 Rolls Royce was worth about $20 thousand. Not bad but hardly what you might expect to pay for true automotive luxury. And selling such a car on the open market could take months or even years.

The next stage in Stuart’s marketing campaign is a PR one. The free Roller story earned him a half page of free publicity on page 6 of the Mosman Daily where his regular house for sale ads were appearing. The synergies are almost too complete! Of course the story appeared online as well and I believe gained a little radio coverage too.

Stuart created a very neat marketing campaign on a very tight budget.

He provided a GWP that had the perfect balance of appearing to be very valuable while in fact not costing the marketer that much at all.

This appearance of value created an interesting PR opportunity that was followed in the very publication in which his target market was browsing.

Good media coverage, sure, but with all this ‘conversation’ did the house actually sell?


Stuart and Jean not only sold the house, they got $150,000 above their reserve. A very good result in what is currently a flat housing market.

The final price was $2.25 million. So the cost of Stuart’s GWP and associated buzz represented only 0.008% of the total sale.

Maybe some of the big promotions agencies should give Stuart a call.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's all about You

I was writing a headline for a lawn care company a few years ago. It wasn’t exactly award winning but it got straight to the point. As I wrote “XXX repairs your damaged lawn”, I wondered if how long the ‘your’ would last. Sure enough the client came back with “XXX repairs damaged lawns”

In sweep of the red pen we had moved from a conversation between XXX and a person with lawn problems, to an announcement by the mighty XXX corporation about lawns in general, directed to the entire universe. I’m sure the line made the executives at XXX feel more important but I’m equally sure it sold fewer bags of XXX Lawn Repair.

Consumers are people. And people are pretty self-absorbed. People don’t care about ‘lawns’ they care about ‘their lawn’. Sure, they can make the mental jump from a marketers demographic to themselves, but why make them jump at all?

I’ve never met a demographic. I hope I never do. They sound large, crowded and homogeneous. But I’ve met a lot of people. People are interested in their roof, their kids education, their overflowing toilet ....

Even Qantas uses the line ‘It’s all about you.’ It’s perfect for business class travel, which should be all about the customer. Earlier Qantas advertising was much more from the ‘We’ve bought 5 new planes’ school of communication. To which most business class passengers would rightly reply, ‘Who cares?’

Being ‘All about you’ shouldn’t stop at prestige brands or luxury services. I can’t think of any product or service that can’t be better sold by honing in on the individual and solving his or her problem.

Dale Carnegie in his book ‘How to win friends and influence people’, said the sound of a persons name is the sweetest sound of all to them. Advertising can’t refer to people by name, but it can say ‘you’ or ‘your’ and get much closer to people’s hearts. And best of all, most of your competitors (see, I’m doing it now) either don’t know or don’t care that they are speaking to a demographic rather than a person.

What a simple way to make your customers feel better about your brand.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Worn out words

A few months ago I railed against clichés (the story was picked up by the marketing section of The Australian newspaper. Mention in the ‘real’ media! Quite a proud moment for AdNotes).

Little did I know a federal election was around the corner (oops a cliché!) It’s been an opportunity for both sides of politics to join up lots of clichés and call it a campaign.

But more irritating, to me anyway, are individual words that just get used too often. These are not strictly speaking Cliches, just words that suddenly seem to appear in every sentence or conversation.

There’s one that seems to be everywhere at the moment.

This little word has seen active service for centuries and used to evoke images of knights in armour battling dragons.

But recently it has evolved into a monster itself: a kind of irradiated moth from a sixties Japanese movie.

News-readers use it. Politicians use it. My 14 year old uses it. I try not to use it but it comes out anyway.

This overworked word is … challenge.

It can stand for anything from an ‘almost impossible task’ like plugging an oil leak in the US, to a ‘chore’ like peeling a potato on Masterchef.

But, I knew 'challenge' had lost all value when I picked up a flyer at St George Bank. The flyer invited me to ‘Challenge us for a better home loan deal.”

Poor ‘challenge’ now means nothing more than 'to ask’.

Like printing too many Zimbabwean dollars, overusing a word devalues it to the point where it has no worth or particular meaning.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Masterchef - More research for smart marketers

I've written a story for Mumbrella. It's the second instalment on MasterChef and how the show is a great piece of market research for all marketers. Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More bitching about pitching

Here's some thoughts from veteran Ad man, Drayton Bird, on pitching, why it's a waste of money and what to do instead. Good advice I reckon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Making powerpoint have a point

I was asked to give a talk to a group of potential clients the other day. They reckon public speaking is a fear worse than death for many people. The thought of speaking didn’t faze me. It was the accompanying powerpoint I had to create that had me worried.

I recalled, with a shiver, a drug education presentation at my kids’ school. This wasn’t death by powerpoint, it was genocide by powerpoint.

Dozens of text heavy pages rolled on as the plastic chair dug further into my back. In desperation I started following the powerpoint page numbers … 69, 70 …blah blah blah. I couldn’t walk out. My reputation as a caring parent would be ruined … 78, 79. Finally it was over. I couldn’t wait to get home and open a bottle of wine. Ironic, eh?

It was the worst use of powerpoint I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some stinkers. Naturally, I wanted my talk to be better than the drug one.

Most powerpoint presentations aren’t that bad, but they aren’t that good either. They’re just there: the speaker’s notes writ large and stuck on the wall. Yawn.

Then I remembered another powerpoint presentation that couldn’t have been more different. It was given by my great mate Troy. Troy is a copywriter, but one with a strong visual sense. He took the usual powerpoint and turned it on it’s head.

He didn’t want people gazing at his notes, he wanted people listening to his words.

He decided that the big screen would show mostly pictures to add a counterpoint to what was being said. He spent hours finding just the right shots to fill the screen. The images were big and arresting. They added to what was being said. They broke the talk into digestible chunks.

Text would be as rare as a diamond rather than as common as gravel. It would act as chapter headings to remind the audience what the focus of each section was about.

I’m sure you’ve guessed that Troy’s presentation was a triumph. It was the best powerpoint most of us had ever seen.

So I just stole Troy’s technique.

My presentation took a long time to plan, write, find shots, practise and memorise. But it worked. It worked as a delivery of facts and more importantly it worked as a memorable piece of communication.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010


Like them or hate them, they’re here to stay. At the end of the day, clichés are just a part of doing business, aren’t they, part of the landscape?

Well, yes and no.

Clichés are so entrenched in marketing communication that they are hard to pin down.

Ok I really have to stop this now.

My Granny thought that clichés were just plain lazy, like swearing.

Chris Pash thinks they’re fun.

Chris is director of content licensing at Dow Jones & Co Asia-Pacific. Among his many duties is the running of a kind of “cliché-ometer”. This digital marvel sifts the Dow Jones Factiva database, currently holding over 25,000 newspaper, magazine and online publications.

According to Chris, our old friend ‘at the end of the day’ is the current winner and has been used 21,000 times worldwide in the last three months. That’s a lot of wasted column inches.

Chris’ main focus is journalism. You can see an interview with him here:

But we in the wider marketing world are not guilt-free of the heavy use of clichés.

To test my claim I visited four advertising agency websites. I felt there was a certain sameness to a lot of the words used.

Agency 1 – Information rich, compelling strategic idea, engaging ideas.

Agency 2 – Integrated communications, committed to a holistic approach, strategic collaboration, consistent message across all touch points.

Agency 3 – Brand architecture, long-term customer relationships, strategic customer engagement programs, executing personal and engaging customer experiences.

It’s not a crime to trot out business clichés … unless what you sell is creativity, originality and ideas. It’s ironic that each website professes to an expertise in communication and connecting with consumers and yet, does so in such a hackneyed and interchangeable way.

They tell potential clients that this agency has no imagination.

I suspect with a list of the right buzz-words almost anyone could write copy for an agency website … and possibly win a few pitches.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Thursday, April 29, 2010

TV ads now 95% off!

Have you noticed more TV commercials on air seem to come from overseas?

I wondered how many spots originated offshore. So a while back I did a little high tech research. Watching TV and counting with my fingers, I was able to come up with a magic number, for the FMCG sector anyway.

Over a few weeks, in every ad break, I’d pop up one finger on my left hand for Australian made and one on my right hand for overseas made. When I wasn’t sure, which wasn’t often, no finger went up.

When my family finally got sick of this habit and stopped me I found that just over 50% of all FMCG ads on Australian TV had been created overseas!

That was way higher than I expected but it makes sense really. The cost saving to clients is enormous. Changing the voice over and putting a new pack shot at the end could save a marketer over 95% of the cost of shooting the whole spot here. Even re-shooting new scenes to ‘Aussie’ the ad up a bit might bring the saving to 90%. It’s hard to argue with savings like that.

So this surprising percentage might suggest a change in the way creative agencies do things.

Unfortunately not. My marketer mates tell me briefing a TV adaptation is a lonely experience. No one in the agency really wants to know. Usually a junior producer, with zero creative help, will begrudgingly accept the job.

When the adapted million Euro ad makes it to our screens the lack of agency care is often obvious.

We creatives would all love the open brief, the blank cheque and the clean sheet of paper to show our genius. But being creative isn’t always about turning the world on its head. It can also be about answering a client’s problem in an elegant and cost effective way.

In fact I put my ‘money where my mouth is’ and wrote a book about it. The TVC Renovation Manual is written with marketers in mind. It’s a guide to adapting overseas TVCs for the best results and the best price.

If you’d like a copy call me on (02) 9929 0588 and I’ll drop one off absolutely free.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I hear Music

It seems that every time I see a new TV commercial these days it has a song or piece of music that sounds kind of familiar.

It’s easy to see (or hear) why familiar songs are so popular. They bring a familiarity and likability to your new spot. As a marketer you are effectively renting their popularity.

But rented popularity is not cheap. I’ve recently been doing a lot of work finding good music for a low cost. Let me share my findings.

First of all we have to understand the difference between publishing rights and recording rights. Publishing rights are given by the composer (or their heirs) based on channel, location and duration. Eg. Free to air, Pay TV, Internet, 12 months, Australia and NZ only. The fee for publishing rights varies by artist and record company, but for a well-known song expect to start at $75,000.

Now that’s just for the right to use the piece. If you want the actual performance that made the track so famous add another $75,000. Of course you can hire some talented mussos to record the song for a lot less, but everyone will know it’s not Aretha Franklin

So you’re looking at a starting price of $150,000 for publishing and performance rights. Add your agency markup. Add the artist’s ‘creative conditions’. Add a bit because everyone wants this artist at the moment, and your pleasant pop song is starting to give you a real headache.

Is there an alternative Tony?

Yes. A couple.

Option 1) Commission original music. It’s 100% yours. It will cost a tenth of the figure above. And it can be what-ever style you want. BUT it’s an unknown. You have to take a leap of faith. AND there is always the temptation to dabble, to dial up the branding, to have a go at this music lark. My advice? Don’t.

Either accept the piece or ask for another one. You want music that sounds like it came from a musician, not a marketer.

Option 2) Find existing music that is out of copyright. When you do this, the nasty $75,000 publishing rights disappear in a puff of smoke!

You still need to decide between an existing performed track or creating your own. Creating your own might be $15k. But finding an existing performance could be even less.

OK so what constitutes ‘out of copyright’? It’s different in every country. (In France if a composer dies fighting for his country his descendants get a bonus 30 years. I love that)

But here in Australia there are two rules. Copyright applies to music for up to 70 years after a composer dies. UNLESS he/she died before 1955 in which case it’s 50 years. You can find out more at:'_copyright_length

Option 3) Find an up and coming band and sign them for peanuts. It has happened, but it’s messy, and time consuming. If you want to go down this road, make the music the core of the idea and be prepared to let it lead the campaign.

So there’s three ways … hang on. I almost forgot. Stock music.

Option 4) Stock Music. If it’s just to fill in the background a bit, stock music can be insanely cheap. I’m talking under $100! On one job, I had used up the client’s sound budget, so I paid for the music out of my own pocket! That’s how cheap it can be. Of course the tunes are pretty simple, but there’s a wide choice and if that’s all you need, it’s almost free.

So there’s FOUR ways to make your commercials sing (sorry couldn’t resist).

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What are words worth?

The right words can earn your company millions of dollars.

That’s a big claim. Can I back it up? Yes. Let’s look at LG. LG is a quality Korean consumer electrical company. Prior to 1997 they were called Lucky Goldstar. Their products were as yuck as their name: all black plastic and gold foil. Really quite horrible and down market.

They wanted to rebrand and be considered amongst the big names in fridges, TVs, washing machines etc. So the name changed from Lucky Goldstar to LG. But they needed a slogan.

My good friend and creative Geoff Fischer took the brand name and extended LG to Life’s Good.

This line had three benefits. First, the brand name reminded you of the slogan and vice versa. Second the slogan summed up the improvement LG would bring to the consumer. Third it could work on any product line AND the company as a whole. ‘Life’s Good’ just seemed right.

LG launched in Australia in 1997 on the platform of Life’s Good. The actual products were cleaned up too. They now looked like their competition: an important factor in consumer electronics.

To say that Life’s Good helped LG become a major brand is a massive understatement. The slogan is now used worldwide by LG and LG is one of the worlds best regarded domestic electrical brands.

So what would you pay for such a line?

A1. By the word. I was once asked to write similar sales lines for a large news company. They paid for advertising copy in the same way they paid for editorial – by the word. So Life’s Good would have cost them about $2.

A2. By the hour. Creative is often charged by the hour depending on who works on the job. I charge $100. If I was contracted to a large multinational agency the same work would be charged at $300 - $400 per hour. So by this scale Life’s Good could be worth between $100 and $400. Still ridiculously cheap.

A3. By the improvement it makes to your business. We didn’t know it at the time but those two little words have played a huge role in LG’s success. I believe the line is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in increased sales and brand building to LG. But I’m fairly sure LG didn’t pay that.

So what’s the answer? I think marketers should set a price that reflects the importance to their brand and business. If you need a quick short-term answer, budget accordingly. If the project is a complete brand re-focus, as with LG, make a big deal of it. Get your creative suppliers excited. Get lots of ideas.

Spend the money.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feeling Viral?

This month I wrote a piece for AdNotes about a viral ad for Coke that I felt just didn't seem 'viral' ... or good. The editor of Mumbrella got wind of it and they've been running it for a few days.

So why not pop over there and have a look?

One of the fun things about Mumbrella is that the readers are a pretty vocal bunch and contributers have to have pretty thick skin. So far I've been accused of as being silly, wrong, a hypocrite and a user of crack!

No worse than some creative presentations then.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cardboard Marketing

I’ve just come back from a terrific Christmas holiday in New Zealand. My family and I drove all over the North Island, the less glamorous and more practical sister to the South Island.

Our final night was in windy Wellington and the family voted me as official pizza collection and delivery guy.

I had noticed a Pizza shop near our hotel. Or rather I had noticed a woman leaving the shop carrying a huge pizza box. The really massive ones they have in American movies and sitcoms. The ones big enough for the whole cast of Friends to munch on. The giant box had stuck in my head. I’d never seen one so big in real life.

I found the store pretty easily. It was called Wholly Pizza and specialized in thin crust, simple topping, large New York style pizzas. I chose a modest 14 inch size, rather than the 20 inch New York-size. And as it baked, I chatted with the owner, an ex-marketer of all things.

When it was ready my new friend slipped the 14 inch pizza into the giant 20 inch box. We only have one size of box, he told me. Strange, I thought.

So I made my way back to the hotel … in the wind … with a 20 inch pizza box. Of course it flapped around a bit. And being 20 inches wide I had to step out on the road just to get around groups of people on the footpath.

Every time I did someone would comment. Did I have enough to eat? Did I need a hand eating all that pizza? And so on.
Then, when I arrived at the hotel lift, a party of four was just ahead of me. Again with the jokes. ‘You’ll need a whole lift for that baby’. Although this turned out to be no joke. I had to let them go ahead without me. There was just not enough room for them, me and my gigantic pizza box.

As I entered the hotel room my wife and kids were surprised by the big box and I had to explain that there was a smaller pizza within.

We ate it and it was delicious.

But as I chewed I started thinking about the marketing implications of what just happened. In the space of a few minutes three or four groups of people (other than me the purchaser) had been touched by the Wholly Pizza brand. And I had originally gone there because I saw someone else with a big box.

Clever marketing communication is nearly always about ‘zigging’ when others ’zag’. But your zag doesn’t have to be complex or expensive or high tech. It can be as simple as a piece of folded cardboard.