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The low-pressure sales front appears to be stuck

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The Low-Pressure “We” Generation Remains in the FLow Pressure Areaorecast

If you’re in the voice-over business, it’s doubtlessly not lost on you that almost nobody wants traditional announcer delivery in the auditions you’re getting.  The instructions generally go something like this: NO ANNOUNCERS OR DISC JOCKEYS.  FRIENDLY, PERSONAL, ONE-TO-ONE DELIVERY.

In one of his recent postings, Roy Williams said, “When America was living through a ‘Me’ generation, we admired bold, assertive people. This was the time when multilevel marketing thrived and hard-sell pressure tactics worked best.  But when the pendulum swung into a ‘We’ generation – such as we’re in today – we admire people who are considerate.”

This is reflected in the feel and texture of commercials today, the ones that are working, anyway.

Happily, the WE mood of the country invites communication in which voice talents talk TO viewers and listeners, not AT them.

How long will this low-pressure system remain in place over the world of advertising and voice-acting delivery?  For now, there are no discernible signs of change in the offing.

And our notion about that is that it’s a good thing.


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January 5th, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Small Bests Bigger

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Radio LivesIn a recent blog titled An End of Radio, marketing guru Seth Godin had a less than glowing prognosis about the future of radio.  Seth is a pretty smart guy, but when he said in the post, “Just as newspapers fell off a cliff, radio is about to follow,” I realized that he is probably a big-market media guy.  (And…I suppose all gurus must have a point of view; after all, that’s what makes them gurus, right?)

However, I’ve seen some very strong indications that small-market newspapers and radio stations are not at all ready to be thrown into the same doomsday hopper with some of the major-market media and shredded into oblivion.

Somewhere near the middle of October, I had an occasion to visit a small/medium-ish radio market in Southern Utah, where radio is anything but dead, at least the business of radio.  I honestly don’t know about actual radio listenership numbers in that market, but my somewhat cursory observation revealed a dynamically profitable and progressive operation.

As an example of the antithesis of this, I know of a small-market radio station somewhere in American that runs a ton of network comedic fillers during the Rush Limbaugh show.  Wow!  What a great place to offer spiff spots for good clients or promotions or name-dropping locally produced (and sponsored) vignettes.  I think every time I hear one of those fillers, “There’s a missed opportunity.”  Yeah, I understand, it’s really a budget issue to just let the automation run with it.

Well…it seems to us that as long as small-market local radio stations and newspapers remember what they are – local – they will continue to do well for quite some time into the future.

My hometown (pop: 10K) newspaper in North Carolina has 112-percent penetration.  How is that possible?  Because they play the local card to the max.  The founder of the newspaper in the early 50s gave his employees one edict that remains its constant refrain even today: names, names, names.  Everybody reads that paper to see what’s happening with or to whom.

I’m not sure where, but I recently read a quote that applies here: “Remember, radio is the original word-of-mouth medium.”  And what better way to make that happen than by being very local with lots of names, clients and, of course, killer community involvement

Our notion about this is that small-market local stations have a real advantage over big-city radio: they can be profitable.


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December 18th, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Physician, Heal Thyself

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Ogilvy Quote



This David Ogilvy quote showed up on my LinkedIn page.  Not surprisingly, it’s from Ogilvy & Mather ad agency.  Apparently, they’re taking the quote to heart.

Some years ago, I asked a longtime adman for whom I have a great deal of respect why ad agencies didn’t advertise more.  His response was that it might make them look desperate.  But that was then; this is now.  Traditional media didn’t offer the plethora of options – subtle and otherwise – available with social media, as is evidenced by the O&M LinkedIn post.

This somewhat follows the notion presented in a recent post of making sure all websites (and all other materials and communications) are designed outside in – from the client’s point of view – addressing his/her needs, wants and pain.

There are many opportunities to speak to solutions for clients’ problems through blogs, helpful tweets, Facebook postings and shares, YouTube, special mobile apps, etc., etc.  The options are multitudinous.

Of these, an informative blog is one of the best because it can be linked in an e-mail list and shared on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  And a blog offers previous postings by category in its archive.

Yeah, it’s now cool for an ad agency or broadcast organization to advertise to its clients and potential clients.  And there are now lots of crazy-affordable or just plain no-cost ways to do it.

Anyway, that’s our notion about this.  Knock em dead.


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November 20th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Self Promotion


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There’s a relative newcomer to the affordable online shave business…and I love their marketing.

No, this is not about the Dollar Shave Club.  We know of their tremendous success and funny, off-the-wall videos.  In fact, DSC is now getting into traditional marketing with television.

This is about Harry’s, a company that sells quality shaving products that are reasonably priced.  One of my sons bought me a Harry’s shaving kit for my birthday and I can attest to that quality.

But what I really love is the simplicity of their marketing and product presentation.

Harry Products with Logos

Shaving should be simple and these people are all about simplicity.  From their very clear and clean full logo to the H’ to the hairy wooly mammoth, it’s tidy and straightforward stuff.

A visit to their terrifically uncluttered website gets right to showing you their products, pricing and benefits.

Like Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s offers a plan to fit your beard so you choose the frequency at which you receive new blades.  Of course, the plans are optional and you can just order when you want.  Orders over $10 ship free.

Whoa!  This is not a paid ad for Harry’s.  I just think marketing this cool and, yes, simple should get a tip of my BYU Cougars cap.


Read more about Harry’s here.

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November 13th, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Inside Looking Out?

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The View from Where?

Outside Looking In

I read a post recently from Roy H. Williams in which he expressed the idea that many websites are incorrectly built inside out.  Roy suggests that viewers (potential customers, clients, etc.) are on the outside looking in and, thus, a website should be built from the outside in – from the customer’s (client’s) perspective.

Sometimes, in our desire to tell clients and potential clients about us, we forget about them.

Some years ago I worked for an advertising company that built a beautiful, spacious building to house its considerable production capabilities.  There were several editing bays, an audio bay and a large sound stage.  It was truly a terrific facility.

Well, with all this capability, it naturally followed that we needed to let clients and potential clients know about it.  So…our very talented editors put together an amazing production with theatrical music that dramatically promoted our production and creative capabilities.

We would play this little two to three minute production at the beginning of pitches…until one day we didn’t.  We came to realized somehow it was not having the impact on clients we desired.

In retrospect, I now understand that it was “inside out”, as opposed to an “outside in” approach.  It was about us, not the client.  Not a good way to start a presentation.  (In fairness, I was one who was a great proponent of this production.)

It occurs to me now that an ad agency’s production capabilities, media buying prowess, great creativity, etc., etc. and a broadcaster’s ratings, cume, coverage area, programming, etc., etc. are all only “features”, not benefits, when viewed from the outside in – the client’s perspective.

If I might be so bold, I would suggest that your “benefit” to each client is what you do to change his business and his life, solving his problems, easing his pain.

So…consider this an invitation to review your website, your collaterals and all your marketing, online and off, to make sure it’s totally “outside in”.


The Roy H. Williams post mentioned at the beginning can be found here.

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November 2nd, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Funneling for Focus

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Does Your Copy Funnel Down?

One of the smartest guys I ever knew in this biz often used (uses) the term funnel down.  When I first heard him use it in relation to advertising, I thought, “Yeah, that makes perfect sense.”  As in a marketing concept funneling down to its natural conclusion.  Or…a presentation (pitch) funneling down a prospect’s thoughts to the point at which you want him/her/them to arrive.  It’s about focus.

So…does your TV, radio, print copy or digital content always funnel down to the place you want your clients’ customers to go?  (“Place” being figurative, literal or both.)

For retail – especially for products with a short purchase cycle – offering real value with a reason to act soon are always key.

Though positioned differently, this funneling down also applies to selling durable goods like refrigerators, cars and homes.

However, in both cases, leaving a lasting brand identity – we prefer to call it client identity – is important.  After all, a chance to talk to someone is a chance to sell something, now or later.

At Rhino Writes we believe that the last funnel-down in copy is to a meaningful tagline, a tagline that reinforces or summarizes the client’s identity and reflects the language of the offer in a powerful conclusion…AND speaks directly to a benefit.

What’s a meaningful tagline?  Only an XYZ Home Gives YOU a Ten-year Warranty; You’ll Like the Way You Look, We Guarantee It; Home of Eazzzy Terms; Like a Rock; Momma Mia’s Pizza – Half the Price, Twice the Toppings; The More You Compare, the More You Know You Want a Honda; Main Street Auto Supply – We’ve Got Your Part and Your Price…Every Time.

Pretty simple stuff:  Lead (Attraction) -> What -> Where -> When -> Why (How Much) -> Tagline

The order through the funnel might vary a bit, except, of course, for the tagline; however, also including the tagline in part or whole earlier in the copy adjacent to the client’s name is a great idea.

It’s about funneling (focusing) your clients’ copy down to a conclusion that sells.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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January 27th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Profitability, not number of clients

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I ran across an edition of a company newsletter I wrote in 2005, while creative director of an Arizona ad agency. It was written for the benefit of our retail clients, but its message is very much applicable to agencies and broadcast operations.

Surely, your agency or station(s) can have more income by selling more clients (which is a good thing), but the true route to greater profitability might be in selling more to each existing client.

That old maxim about it being cheaper (and more profitable) to keep an existing customer than find a new one comes to mind.

Our little chart here, though not perfect, pretty much illustrates this idea.

Jeffrey Gitomer, sales guru and president of Buy Gitomer, says there are some great reasons to sell more to existing clients:

They already know you.  They like you (hopefully).  You have established rapport.  Confidence and trust have been built.  They already partially use your services.  They’ll return your call.  They’ll be more receptive to your new offering.  They don’t have to be sold on you.

Upselling is the name of the game in retail today.  I promise you that your nearby Subway will ask you every time if you want to add bacon or avocado. Cha-ching!  So…why can’t agencies and broadcasters do the same?

Actually, I’m thinking this concept probably applies to broadcasters more than agencies, though not always.

Especially in local markets, why shouldn’t established broadcasters offer social media, web design and content, print design, YouTube video scripts (maybe even production outsourcing), long-form videos, point-of-purchase sales concepts, business promotions, marketing plans, etc., etc., etc.?  The possibilities are legion.

Quoting Gitomer, “Why go out and cold call, when your customer base is ready to be milked.  They’re waiting for you, dripping with business!”

We agree.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


Disclaimer: For you grammar-heads out there, I realize because we’re dealing with number not quantity in this case, the “Less” in our headline should be “Fewer,” but you rarely hear Fewer is More.  Poetic license, please.

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January 13th, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Upselling

Good Ideas Are Contagious

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This Christmas promotion pulled off by Westjet Airlines to the great surprise and delight of the passengers on two of its flights might just be one of the best conceived and executed promotions of all time.

Our condolences to the socks and underwear guy.  But, hey, he got what he wanted, which is what any business promotion should be about, right?

At Rhino Writes we believe the elements of a great promotion are surprise, delight and value (more than expected).

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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December 20th, 2013 at 9:47 am

Posted in Ideas,Promotions

Yes. Taglines…Again.

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We’ve discussed (okay, ranted about) taglines before and thought we had quelled the savage beast within that urged those earlier posts.

Then…we saw this Michelin commercial.

As with many major-brand taglines today, A better Way Forward says absolutely nothing in terms of benefits.  It in no way sums up the commercial by answering my question of why I should want Michelin’s remake of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to slam some tires onto my car.

A Better Way Forward actually sounds like another of those inane taglines used so prevalently today by auto manufacturers.  It’s frightfully close to Toyota’s old tagline, Moving Forward, or that brand’s current – and equally meaningless – Let’s Go Places.

However, we do think an adaptation of a line in the actual copy of that Michelin commercial would make a great tagline: Michelin Stops You Up to 10% Shorter.  Albeit a bit long, that really funnels the message down to why I should protect my family and me with Michelin tires this winter.

One other thought: taglines that reiterate a benefit in the message are more memorable.  Think about the taglines you remember most, and you’ll probably find them loaded with direct or implied benefits.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


For more on this topic, click on “Taglines” under Categories to the right.

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December 4th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Taglines

Hey, It’s About Time Someone Talked to Me As If I Were a Person

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When I was a Top-40 DJ (that dates me), back when AM was still king of the airwaves (so does that), I thought it would be great to sound like Charlie Tuna of KHJ in Los Angeles (as does that).  That was a misguided notion for most of my DJ days.

I remember later working at a station in Salt Lake City, when a grizzled old radio veteran complained about the lighter-voiced morning man by saying, “You’ve got to have pipes!”  Well, that lighter-voice morning guy’s program was the most-listened-to thing on the station, and not just because it was the morning show.

I was reminded of all this when I read an article titled The Voice-Over Gets a Makeover; subtitle: Goodbye, “Voice of God.”  Hello, Julia Roberts.

The article, about real-sounding celebrity voice-over talent, says, “Announcers are out, real people are in. This is perhaps the broadest trend in voice-overs, and it’s been building for 10 years or so. There’s far less call these days for the traditional announcer type—the guy with the booming baritone and the clean, well-rounded tones.”

Having my own home recording equipment and getting somewhat back into the VO business, I have, in recent weeks, listened to a lot of celebrity VO’d commercials.

Among my favorites are Tim Allen (Chevy and Pure Michigan), Will Arnett (Bank of America and GMC), Dennis Leary (Ford F-150), Bryan Cranston (Apple iPad Air), Kevin Spacy (Honda), Tom Selleck (Go RVing and Florida Orange Juice), George Clooney (Jeep).  There are many more.

Why are these guys so good?  For one thing, they talk to you, not at you.  Second, they are very real.  Third, they are very personable, exuding a feeling of trustworthiness.  They are voice actors.

This is even true for the last bastion of big, hard sell: car commercials.  What has been the case for a time with regional car commercials, is now becoming more commonplace for local car commercials as well.  Fleeting are the days when car commercials were loud, big and fast.  People don’t believe that crap anymore.

The takeaway:  At Rhino Writes we believe voice-overs should be real, personable and, thus, believable.  For selling stuff, that’s what really works.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


For your dining and dancing pleasure, here are links to some celebrity voice-over commercials.

Celebrity VO 01

Celebrity VO 02

Celebrity VO 03

Celebrity VO 04

Celebrity VO 05

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November 26th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Voice Overs

First, They’ve Gotta Remember Your Name

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The first personal computer I remember seeing was the Apple II.  It was one of a handful on display at a computer expo at a Washington, DC, hotel in the late seventies.

I say “remember seeing” because of all the other PC-ish names represented, none stuck with me.    Most of them had sci-fi sounding names or a couple of letters followed by some numbers.  They were totally forgettable.

If there was a Commodore there, I just don’t remember it.   And there was probably some offering by IBM with a three-digit number attached, maybe even something from Atari (not a super common name back then).

The Apple name stuck with me when the others didn’t because of its simplicity, and it seemed counterintuitive that something electronic would be named after a fruit.

(Read a passage here from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs about how the Apple Computers name came to be.)

So, the point of all this is that the name of a business, product or service does matter – very much.

Clearly, the simpler, more common, more practical a company, product or service name is, the more memorable it is.  Initials, numbers, even acronyms are really difficult to remember.  Let us add that made-up names that don’t mean anything are also very difficult to remember.

A simple, everyday company name is even more powerful when the name says what it does, makes or sells.  In the beginning, Apple was Apple Computers and McDonald’s was McDonald’s Hamburgers.

The formula: specific, simple, straightforward, short.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.

By the way, we’re LB-VO; what’s your name?  Wait.  What was I saying about initials being difficult to remember?  Well, okay fine: Larson Bennett Voice Overs.


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November 14th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Business Names

Misguided Pursuit of Perfection

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Is this the intentionally most mistargeted product commercial of the year?

Perhaps Lexus is way too desperate not to become what someone has recently called the possible next Buick of the comfortable generation.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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November 7th, 2013 at 8:16 am

Posted in Positioning

Number 5 of Posts on Client Pitches: Storytelling

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>>Listen to this post by clicking here <<

As we recently said in the first post of this little series on client pitches, the very first words from the presenter should be all about the client and how what’s about to be presented will make his/her life better and more profitable.

After that, there are few better ways to bring an audience into the process than by telling a story.  Stories will engage those listening to the pitch as they follow its progression from the beginning through the middle to the end.

A story like this will give the prospect a vision of what can happen for his/her business:

One day we received a call from a guy who wanted us to help him kick start his recliner business.  That’s all he sold: recliners.  So…we drove way out on Rt. 60 to a small cinder block building.  It must have been a converted house because it had what loosely could be called a front porch.  There was a rather amateurish looking sign above the porch: Best Recliners-That’s It. On that porch were two recliners, each with a hand-written price on it…. 

…I’m sure you’d recognize the name of that business now.  You see it on TV every day:  Best West Furniture.  They now have four locations.  Now…it might not be in your plans to have multiple locations, but what we’re about here today is helping you realize your potential and reach your goals. 

In the middle of that simple story, a brief summary would be related of how the station(s) or agency helped turn a simple recliner business into a major furniture retailer.

NOTE: Working incidental details into a story makes it more interesting, memorable and impactful.

Stories are visceral, emotional and personally relatable, with the rational nuts and bolts of the pitch supporting and giving credence to the emotion.

A quote from John Steinbeck speaks well to this:

“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.”  

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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October 30th, 2013 at 11:39 am

Posted in Pitches,Storytelling

Number 4 of Short Posts on Client Pitches: “Make Your Audience Willing Accomplices”

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In their book Made to Stick, brothers Dan and Chip Heath relate a terrific story about the importance of bringing the audience to whom you are pitching into the process as participants, not just observers.

It’s the story of a Jerry Kaplan’s presentation to a huge venture capital firm, as he pitched his idea for one of the first notebook-size computers.

As he waited his turn to present, Kaplan watched others come and go in their nice suits and power ties, carrying projectors, fancy charts and such.  He was wearing a sport jacket with an open-collared shirt and carrying only a maroon portfolio with a blank pad of paper inside.

After entering a boardroom filled with powerful people surrounding a long conference table, what he did next could only be called a moment of genius.

The entrepreneur casually tossed the maroon portfolio onto the table.  All eyes watched it slide along the glossy surface and come to a stop.

Kaplan then said something like, “What you’re looking at is the size and shape of the next generation of personal computers.”

“The maroon portfolio presented a challenge to the boardroom participants – a way of focusing their thoughts …. It changed their attitude from reactive and critical to active and creative [as they started offering ways it could work],” says a passage from the book.

As it did with Kaplan’s venture capitalists, using something concrete in your pitch that piques the imagination can make willing accomplices and participants of your audience.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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October 16th, 2013 at 10:31 am

Going Full Circle in Advertising Copywriting

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If you show a pistol in Act 1, you must fire the gun in Act 3.*

While recently working on a project for an ad agency client, we were reminded of that bit of live-theater lore.  At Rhino Writes we like to call it “closing the loop” in copywriting.

The project included developing 30-second slice-of-life concepts featuring on-camera acting talent, copywriting and storyboards.  The openings featured the actors with lines that led nicely into price/item offers, following which the actors’ lines funneled down to a strong tagline.  But due to worries about the length of the copy, it just wasn’t connecting together somehow.

Actually, in this case, we weren’t opening the loop (we weren’t showing the pistol at the beginning).  We had great concepts which led to nice offers and a strong .45-caliber close.

The solution came from one of the agency AEs who worked with the client.  By adding just a word or two from the tagline before the offer – Bam! – we closed the loop and told a complete story.

Generally, the opposite is true.  We’ll see a great commercial concept or beginning of a great story that sells, only to never see the concept consummated.

The takeaway: Writing advertising copy is a circle, not a straight line.  You’ve gotta close the loop.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


*Thanks to Jay Gladwell — a video production guy in Florida, and the husband of one my nieces — for once reminding me of this theater adage.  I had written a blog that never quite fired the gun (closed the loop) on a point, after “showing it” earlier in the post.

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October 9th, 2013 at 9:29 am

Posted in Copywriting

Number 3 of Short Posts on Client Pitches

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To start, here’s a quote from Jonathan Ives, world-famous head of design at Apple: “We are absolutely consumed by trying to develop a solution that is very simple, because as physical beings we understand clarity.”

Those notions of simplicity and clarity permeate everything Apple does, including their keynote product rollout events.

That brings us to the topic of this post: the importance of using beautiful, clear, simple, minimally wordy imagery in client presentations.

Here are just a few “slides” used at the recent world-wide introduction on the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.

We’ve said this before; we’ll say it again here.  Everything about Apple speaks to simplicity: their user-friendly design, their print ads, their television commercials, their website…AND their presentations.

It’s possible we should take a cue from these guys when it comes to simple, clear imagery in client pitches.  After all, Apple has recently been named the Best Global Brand in…let’s see…the ENTIRE WORLD!  They replaced Coke, which dropped to number three, behind now number two Google.

The takeaway:  Keep it beautiful.  Keep it simple.  Keep it clear.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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October 4th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Pitches,Simplicity

Number 2 of Short Posts on Client Pitches – A Revisit to PowerPoint

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#1 PowerPoint shouldn’t tell the story.  It should only help tell it.

#2 PowerPoint shouldn’t repeat a presenter’s points (words).  It should empower (augment) them.

#3 PowerPoint slides shouldn’t have more than 5 or 6 words, if any at all.

#4 PowerPoint slides are even better with impactful color images, with no words at all.  But NOT clipart; it’s not real and, thus, is almost meaningless.

#5 PowerPoint transitions, entrances and exits that are highly animated – unless the action specifically aids in making a point – are a distraction to the message.

#6 PowerPoint pitches should hammer home one major point repeatedly.

Actually, number six is more about the message – the story – than it is about PowerPoint.  An overarching theme (one main point reiterated throughout) is so critical to every pitch we wanted to include that notion here.

Throw out those five or six yawn-inducing and very forgettable PowerPoint bulleted sentences.  A single image will galvanize the words you speak about growing your prospect’s business.

It is essential that the entire presentation be detailed (not a printout of the PowerPoint slides) in a colorful leave-behind book(let) for the prospect’s later re-consumption.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


More on PowerPoint here.

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August 28th, 2013 at 10:37 am

Posted in Pitches,PowerPoint

Number 1 of Short Posts on Client Pitches: As We’ve Said…

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After watching AMC’s second-season premiere of The Pitch, we’ve decided to write a few short posts on our view of client pitches.

As our little Einstein offering at the top indicates, clients to whom one is presenting, whether potential or existing, are interesting in hearing one thing in a pitch: how it will help them.  Period.

Here at the Rhino Writes Institute of Anti-Mumbo-Jumbo, we like to…well… sermonize that every presentation should be all about the client: first, last and in the middle.

As we said here, the very first words out of a presenter’s mouth should be exactly about what his/her agency or station is going to do for the client.  The very first words.

Today, we’re going to show you how we will help you increase your market share to new levels by….

There’s just no better way to get their attention.

Not stories, not humor, not we’re glad to be here, not, not, not.

People are most interested in themselves.  It isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a fact.

So hit them where they live right off the top…the very top.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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August 21st, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Now…We All Think Different

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This Friday, Jobs — a bio-drama starring Ashton Kutcher and based on the life of Steve Jobs — opens in theaters nationwide.

One of the scenes in the movie is of Steve Jobs doing the voice-over for a 1997 Apple Think Different commercial, The Crazy Ones.

Apparently, Jobs was initially reluctant to voice the commercial because he wanted the ad to be about Apple, not him.  He later consented and did the voice-over.

Regrettably, his version did not air, but rather a version voiced by Richard Dreyfuss.

We say “regrettably” not because Dreyfuss’ version wasn’t terrific, but it seems to us that Job’s inflection and pacing gives some insight into the person, his intelligence and genius.

Think Different was developed by TBWA\Chiat\Day ad agency, but you can bet Jobs was very hands on in its development.

Following are the two commercials.  First, Jobs’ voiceover, then that of Dreyfuss.



NOTE:  Many people mistakenly assume that Think Different is incorrect grammar.  However, here at the Rhino Writes Institute of Anti-Mumbo-Jumbo, we believe that “Different” is intended in the campaign as a noun, not an adverb.

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August 13th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Posted in Steve Jobs

Not that we recommend it…

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Like a gastroscopic image of a bleeding ulcer, you try not to look, but it’s unavoidable.

It’s as if the web regurgitated a box of Crayolas.

Like something the cat dragged in, then regretted it.

In the blog comment that turned us onto this…this …whatever it is, the guy says it’s the number-one car leasing outfit in the UK.

A maze.  A jumble.  Inscrutable.  Confusing.  And…you get a free song.

BUT…it works (in the UK). Go figure.

If simplicity has an evil extreme polar opposite in the universe, THIS is it.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


For more on websites, go here or click on “websites” in the archive categories to the right.

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August 9th, 2013 at 9:15 am

Posted in Brand

It’s a Keeper

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When the collective marketing savvy of a board of directors equals zip, advertising stupidity ensues.

We’re referring to the Board of Directors of Men’s Wearhouse [sic] ousting back in June of George Zimmer as the advertising face and voice of the nationwide chain of men’s clothiers.  It had something to do with a power move.

So…forget that and put egos (his and the board’s) aside and hire him to continue as the spokesperson.

Admittedly, we’re looking at this purely from a marketing point of view.  A point of view that says when you have a long-established iconic identity and tagline in your advertising that built your company and really works, something that EVERYONE and his/her dog immediately recognizes, don’t change it.

We’re guessing that anyone who’s spent more than three days watching television can see that bewhiskered face and hear that increasingly croaky voice: You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.

That tagline enjoys a ubiquitous recall that should make most creatives and copywriters green with envy.

It has all the qualities of a great tagline.  It’s simple; it’s clear; it communicates a big-time benefit.

At Rhino Writes, we believe every tagline should have ALL THREE of those elements.

In fact, were it not already in use, we would love to have suggested something very close to it for a line of men’s care products we’ve been involved in positioning.  Maybe sans the “guarantee” part, although that works for Zimmer.

Great taglines and iconic spokespersons should change rarely…if ever.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


For more on taglines, click the “Taglines” category under Archives up in the right column of this page.

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August 3rd, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Taglines

Big, Medium, Little Campaign…it Doesn’t Matter

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We had about decided to rest the almost relentless campaign Rhino Writes has been waging (ad nauseam) against Burying the Lead.

Then…we saw this commercial.

Sure, we get what they’re trying to do here: with the new Virgin plan, you’ll look for ways to destroy your current phone just to get it.

BUTwhy they would want to destroy their phones is buried (almost thrown away) in a 5-second tag at the end.

Sure, it’s clever how people “accidently” ruin their phones, but to bury what seems to be an incredibly hot offer at the end with a sped-up announcer is a huge waste of the real message…the lead:

“Get a new Apple iPhone 5 with no contract and unlimited data and messaging             for just $30 per month.”

We believe Virgin Mobil would have better served if the lead message came seconds into the message right after the balcony scene at the beginning, then again after the boiling water and microwave scenes, and again at the end after the lawnmower scene.

Then again, that wouldn’t be cool would it?  Just effective.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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July 31st, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Back to the Future of Radio

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We recently ran across a blog story titled, “Shouldn’t Radio Be Fun?” (Read it here.)

Now, creativity and “fun” in most major market morning shows are defined as two people pushing the boundaries beyond anything resembling propriety, with a vacuous-minded news girl or guy giggling at every tasteless inference.  What used to be creativity in major-market radio is now mostly just a mindless daily excursion into third-grade bathroom humor.  And it’s no different in almost every major market: same blue drivel, different names.

Currently, I’m living in a small market in Arizona that’s a bit isolated (3 hours from Phoenix), where the morning radio is as local as the newspaper.  It’s about local people doing the most everyday things.  I’m not saying that’s creativity, but it is fresh and real.

Back in the 1930s, radio became THE way people became connected to what was happening in this huge country, as the government licensed a series of 10,000 and 50,000-watt stations across the land.  The stations were networked together, offering news and some entertainment, but much of the programming was local.

From these local stations came many great entertainers and great radio personalities that I know only from college coms 101. There was no one way to do things.  The shows were as varied as the personalities.

Perhaps radio became less fun and a homogenous rehash of itself when it became big business back in the eighties and nineties.  When accounting started running the show and the name of the game was acquisitions, perhaps the bottom line began to wring the delight and creativity out of the medium.  Today, it’s more about duplication and automation.

In sort, I agree with the with the blog mentioned at the top.  Maybe radio needs to reinvent itself and become fun, and stop trying to be carbon copies of Howard Stern.

I’m thinking big markets could take a hint from smaller local markets, at least as to individuality.

Look, though I was never a great radio personality, when I cut my teeth on radio in the 70s and 80s, morning show prep and spending hours in production working on bits for the next morning was the order of the day.  Humor took thought, and did not take the copout potty-mouth route.  Now, regrettably, it seems that winging it with a mix of tawdry twaddle and inane innuendo is the official playbook of many major market morning radio shows.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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July 24th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Brand

That Was Then; This Is…

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Whoa!  This is not as grim as all that; not as serious as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s lament, American Pie.  But to those of us back in the day who played Roberta Flack back to back with the Doors, this might elicit feelings along those lines.

Actually, this post might be more aptly titled 1985: The Year Top-40 Died…or 1985: The Year Radio Lost Its Mass-appeal Format.

In 1985, Radio and Records – the erstwhile go-to publication for what music radio stations were and should be playing – totally broke up the notion of top-40’s mass-appeal radio with the introduction of the CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) chart.

After that, it was CHR, Easy Listening, Country and later something called Pop Adult.  (Not totally sure of the chronology of all that.) Now the formats are legion, perhaps leaving County as today’s mass-appeal format.

We suppose the good thing about this fragmentation is that it gives a lot more choices to listeners and more options for stations to explore niche audience opportunities.

But, alas, gone are the days when we played Close to You on the same playlist with Start Me Up, and Bridge over Troubled Water with Smoke On the Water. Seriously, we did.

That was then; this is now.  Nonetheless, thank heaven for classic rock.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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June 11th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Radio Formats

Sharing the Responsibility for ROI

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Here’s something remarkably lacking in profoundness, or really high in the duh factor.  (Take your pick.)  In retail advertising, the ONLY true measure of ROI is sales.

Not the number of Facebook likes; not how many hits a You Tube video can boast; not some nebulous click-through rate; not the number of inquiries.  In retail, it’s real sales.

Here at the posh but not overly ostentatious Rhino Writes Institute of Anti-Mumbo-Jumbo high rise, we say pox upon the purveyors of the old my only job is to get them through the door; it’s up to the client to sell them hokum.

Yeah, that’s pretty much a copout, amigo(a)!

If you’ve ventured to read this blog more than once, you’ve no doubt run across the term marketing partnership.

Obviously, that means much more than just creating and producing great commercials and good placement and schedules.  It’s about sharing the responsibility with the client for ROI… both for an event and long term.

What does that look like?

Like this: working with the client to ensure the sales offers are great and what customers want, helping with sales display concepts, assisting the coordination (synergy) of the broadcast, print and internet message, creating events…and much more.  It’s about whatever it takes to work with a client as if a partner.

It’s doggone comforting when a client knows s/he isn’t hanging out there alone.  We think this is about jointly celebrating the successes and owning the other-than-successes.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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June 2nd, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Rhino on Radio

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Frequency vs. Reach in Radio (and Television)

From the Prospective of a Non Media Specialist

When I first started in radio as a weekender at a small station, a grizzled old pro, who had been around many blocks many more times than once, told me to take care that the needle on the tone arm didn’t inoculate me and turn me into a lifelong radio junkie. I should have listened. Truly, the medium is a seductress.

Yes, back then we played records. (Dude, how old are you?!) The needle – actually, it’s also called a stylus, but “needle” fits the story better – is the thing that runs in the grooves of a record and is connected to a tone arm, also called a pickup arm. You can barely see it over my right arm. (Holy cow! Was I ever that thin?)

Working in advertising the last several years has given me a new perspective on the medium I first fell in love with, even before I got my novice ham radio license. As a kid back then, there was just something indescribably magic about the disembodied voices that came at me through the very tiny speaker of my Sony transistor radio.

But I digress.

Before moving to the creative side of advertising, as an AE, I occasionally suggested media schedules for clients.

When I ran across the above image, I wondered how, faced with the decision, I would buy radio today, especially with a limited budget.

First of all – and mind you, I’m no media placement specialist by any stretch, nor do I want to be – I believe I would choose frequency over reach. And if I were working with a modest-ish budget, I think I would buy just the one medium, and probably just one station. No media mixing here with limited dollars.

In my early years as a DJ, I heard the salespeople talking about ROS buys. (Do those still exist by that name?) That stood for Run of Schedule, which meant a client’s commercials would run all over the clock, day and night, but mostly at night when inventory was tight. (Truth is spoken here.) Not a good plan for a scant budget.

So, yeah, I’m staying with the idea that frequency trumps reach. Wait. Don’t get me wrong. Reach is important, but, as you know, only if frequency is present.

Based on the fact that every radio station has an audience of some kind in the morning, I would buy the highest rated station I could afford and be the sole sponsor of a listener-attentive feature such as either the seven-thirty or eight o’clock morning news EVERY morning, five days a week. If not one of those two, then some other feature on that station with high listenership that aired at the same time every day in that time period.

Boom! That’s it, my entire budget.

One might ask, “What about all the other people who aren’t listening at seven-thirty or eight in the morning?”

Well, I don’t get them. But at least, albeit with a limited budget, I’m going to burn my client’s name, recurring offers, tagline and brand into the brains of those same people who are in the same place at the same time doing the same thing every morning in that important day part.

Two things are important here: 1) sponsorship of a listener-attentive feature, 2) specificity of a locked-in time daily. Surely, this will cost more than even specifying a day part, but it’s the best bang for the buck I can think of.

After all, success in advertising is cumulative, right? And…did I just hear the word consistency?

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


Afterthoughts: I’m not even totally sure why this post took the direction it did. I found that photo and, for whatever reason, started thinking about radio and reach/frequency. On a rare occasion – as with this one – I title my posts after seeing where they’re going.

Though I can’t imagine any radio station is having trouble selling morning news and other daily fixed-time features, maybe this bit of a ramble will give someone some ammo for getting a premium price for such listener-attentive features as morning news and sports.

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March 9th, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Radio Buys

The Client Who Knew Too Much – The Curse of Knowledge

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Alfred Hitchcock, forgive us the parody of your movie title, The Man Who Knew Too Much.

There’s no doubt.  Your client’s knowledge of his/her business is vital as a marketing partner in the commercial-making or print-ad-designing process.  Client input is the backbone of the creative process.  BUT…when it comes to writing advertising copy, the customer (client) is not always right.   (Big gasp from the audience, followed by, “What?!  How dare you?!”)

Why would we even say such a thing?  Because of a little problem the Brothers Heath (Chip and Dan in Made to Stick) call The Curse of Knowledge.

Basically, The Curse of Knowledge means that just because a speaker, business owner, presenter, salesperson, etc. knows something, s/he assumes that everyone (the audience, listener, viewer, reader) knows it…and that it is important to them.

Something that’s an everyday part of your client’s world might be totally arcane to a prospect or customer.  Or worse, totally unimportant to a customer in making a buying decision.

In his book, The Secret Formula of the Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams gives a great example of this: “A few years ago, Pennzoil spent millions of dollars shouting to America, ‘Pennzoil is the only leading brand of motor oil to meet the 1996 S.A.E. requirements two years early.’”

You can bet the house on one thing: the client wanted that in the copy

Well, “…meeting S.A.E requirements two years early….” sounds like it might be a good thing, but who dah heck cares?  More important, did that little piece of knowledge (something that was a big deal to Pennzoil) have any impact on sales.  Probably not.

We would be more impressed with a benefit-filled tagline like: “The oil proven to make our car run longer.”

Hey, it’s great to please a client with copy she or he likes, but as advertising professionals, it’s not so pleasing when that client later looks at us wondering where the results are.

In the advertising business, we all earn our bones when we successfully massage a client’s basic idea into copy that really sells.

The takeaway: Clients know a lot about their businesses, but when it comes to writing copy that sells, they can know too much.  That’s The Curse of Knowledge.  Focus a client’s offers, tagline and copy so that it answers their customers’ foremost question, “Why should I care?”

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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March 4th, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Whom Are You About?

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It’s just human nature.

When we mere mortals read or hear something that meshes with our belief system, we almost always automatically hold that something as truth.

Well, I read something the other day that totally agrees with Rhino Writes doctrine…AND it is, in fact, truth.

How’s that for a spot of myopia?

We received an excellent e-mail (blog) called Drew’s Marketing Minute written by, we assume, a guy named Drew.  (Hey, we’re nothing if not perceptive here at the Rhino Writes Institute of Anti-Mumbo-Jumbo.)

The title of the post was Actually, It Isn’t All About You.

Here’s a quote from the post:

“…all too often, brands and companies … behave as though it’s all about them. They talk about themselves incessantly and they behave as though they are a gift to the people they’re supposed to serve.”

And then this quote that’s so totally in line with Anti-Mumbo-Jumbo dogma that we’ve practically canonized the concept.

“If you aren’t talking about what really matters to your customers [clients] and potential customers [clients] — odds are, you’re talking about yourself.”

So…check your website, your sales materials, your presentation method, etc.  Are they all about how great your agency or broadcast operation is…OR are they – from the top – all about the client?

We talked about that here.

Even our humble website home page tagline adheres to the all-about-the-client attitude.  And we’re not marketing geniuses.  Are we?  Wait.  Let me rethink that.  Hmmmm?  No, we’re not, unless the definition of geniuses is hard workers.  But we’ve learned a couple of things about human nature.

Clearly, at some point, you want to make known your core competencies, but the lead in your collaterals, website and presentations should always be all about the client or prospect.

Things like your station’s coverage, or your agency’s media buying, in-house production, etc. are mere features when compared to the real benefit you offer the client: success.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


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February 10th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

For those of us who are forever broadcasters at heart

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We lost an American icon about this time of year back in 2009.

That thought occurred to me during the airing of one particular commercial in Sunday’s Super Bowl.  I voiced that sentiment to my son Daniel, who was watching the game with me.  He agreed.

From rural markets served by small stations with antennas in the middle of cow pastures…to major-market 50-killowatt giants, his big, syllable-perfect, pause-punctuated delivery, born and bred in the heartland, echoed across America for 15-minutes at noon local time, with shorter versions mornings and inspiring stories of achievement usually late afternoons.

Whether or not you agreed with the political bent of his commentary mixed with news, you must agree that his one-of-a-kind style was compelling and his manner mesmeric.

It was great to again hear his inimitable voice in this Super Bowl commercial.

My son and I agreed that in all likelihood there will never be another Paul Harvey, intoning in exacting enunciation, “Hello, Americans.”

But, an American icon?  Yeah, I’m staying with that.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.  Gooooood……day.


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February 6th, 2013 at 9:14 am

Posted in Brand

Hey, It’s All In the Game

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This year the Super Bowl 60 and 30-second high rollers apparently want to get their money’s worth by pre-releasing their mega-bucks offerings on YouTube and wherever they can get free exposure before the big game.

For example, this 10-million-dollar investment from Volkswagen.  Yeah, 10-million.  Not sure if that includes airtime or not, but probably not.

Does that live up to VW’s simpler entry (Darth Vader kid) last year into the annual mine’s-bigger-than-yours-one-upmanship commercial competition that happens to take place during a football game?

Hey, the Super Bowl commercials are fun to watch, whether they sell anything or not.  And this year’s VW commercial made me feel good as I watched it.  BUT, it didn’t change my mind one way or the other about making my next car a Volkswagen.

However, I’m guessing that in the end, direct, quantifiable ROI doesn’t matter to VW or any of the other contestants in the Monday morning water-cooler sweepstakes.  Just like the people who can afford to be at the game, it’s all about being there…right?

Besides, all the hoopla is good for advertising generally, whatever the playing field.

Anyway, that’s how it looks from here.


Here’s more on the making of that VW commercial from USA Today.

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January 28th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Brand