George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

Help you may not need

From Watch Your Ads – A media memo by George Duncan

Help you may not need

Several ads are running on both radio and TV by tax services offering help to taxpayers who are seriously behind in their debt to the IRS. They threaten all sorts of dire consequences for people who owe the IRS from garnisheeing paychecks to taking your house, your first born and your ¼” drill. But unless you’re Al Capone or John Gotti, it’s just sales hype. They make a big deal of their IRS expertise and they may be able to provide assistance, but before you leap into their costly arms, take a look at the IRS program they’re referencing. It’s called the Fresh Start Initiative and I’ll bet you could read it for yourself. It’s a package of debt relief policies offering various ways to get straight with the Gov. It includes special consideration for the unemployed and for self-employed folks whose business has gone south due to the economy. For details, check out a series of short videos called “Owe Taxes? Understanding IRS Collection Efforts.” It’s available on the IRS website,

Incidentally, Quicken Loans is trying much the same thing with HARP – the Homeowners Affordable Refinance Program. It’s a new program set up to help folks refinance at lowest possible cost. If you’re willing to pay Quicken Loans to read it to you, be my guest, but first get complete details with a click at

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Taking the pain out of family

Every so often an ad comes along that’s more than an ad. It uses ad space to communicate a message we all need to see from time to time. A good example is a new ad by Tylenol that stresses the definition of family – a statement in this case of what “family values” really means. “When were you first considered a family?” the ad asks amid visuals of straight families and couples. “When did you first fight to be considered a family?” the ad continues, as it shifts the context with visuals of a lesbian couple, a gay couple with a baby, an interracial family, a single mom with two kids and more. Finally, the voiceover declares the point of the ad, “Family isn’t defined by who you love, but how.” Congratulations to the folks at Tylenol and McNeil PPC, Inc.

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At last! The real you!

In case you’re wondering where the “real you” has disappeared – what with annoying interruptions like marriage, work, raising a family, and the rest of that crap, Mazda has the answer. It’s their little red sports car – you know, like the little red sports car you had years ago (or fantasized) before life came along and ruined everything. Just jump behind the wheel, don your slick sports cap and gun it! Before you know it, as the ad promises, you’ll “get back to being you.” They’ll stop looking for you after a while.

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Brand or sales?

I’ve commented frequently in this space about ads that seem to me to be over-produced. They emphasize a mini – make that micro – drama as a way of attracting attention like Flo’s family gathering for Progressive Insurance, but in the process, in my view, the product benefits and identity become lost. Sometimes it’s a matter of the creative group taking charge of the ads, with little concern for marketing principles.  Ask them about it and they’ll likely tell you they’re doing brand marketing, not sales. OK, but is TV a great medium for brand marketing? It is if you have unlimited budget to run stuff everywhere all the time and your product is available everywhere all the time. Repetition is still the cornerstone of marketing. In fact, a recent study compared the top sellers on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. They found that the greater the repetition of lyrics, the better the song did on the chart. But for the rest of us, the best use of that pricey TV space is response marketing. i.e., direct the viewer to a web site or an 800 number and make it worth their while to click or call.  The mnemonic for that is AIDA: get Attention, arouse Interest, promote Desire, call to Action. It applied originally – and more effectively – to direct mail and other print media, but with the proliferation of the web and the URL, it’s being used there, more or less successfully. For most small businesses and businesses that require an inquiry rather than a sale, it’s essential. End of seminar.

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Lions and tigers, oh my!

I’ve commented before on the lousy job somebody is doing with continuity of ads on Comcast. One ad runs into another, etc. The latest is a hoot. Right on top of a scary ad for James Patterson’s latest horrific offering, ZOO, where the animals all turn killers, came an ad for Tiger Home Inspection—complete with live tiger! Hide the kids!

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Is there no escape?

Speaking of animals in ads, I dislike being intimidated, no matter how valid the issue.  The shingles people are still at it, selling a pricey shingles vaccination (at your pharmacy) by telling anyone who had measles as a kid the “the virus is still inside you.” Yaaagh! Get that stuff out of me! But wait – now comes an ad for a vaccination for whooping cough. I just got a quick look at it, but it shows a wolf or something (fox?) holding an infant. Quick, call Children’s Services!

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Just Sayin…

If there’s any characteristic more dangerous than arrogance in a public official – like a president – it’s arrogance coupled with ignorance – as Donald Trump proved in an interview with Jake Tapper this week. The man has no real answer to anything other than the kind of “he stinks” stupidity I haven’t heard since 6th grade. Spitting out ad hominem insults and hyperbolic generalities which I suppose he thinks are policy statements, the man is little more than Rush Limbaugh with hair.  But hey – he’s chalking up the numbers in the polls, especially in New Hampshire. Who am I to criticize the Republicans’ apparent choice for president?

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Then there’s Ted Cruz who, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ACA decision, referred to the court as “a handful of unelected judges” as though they had just materialized out of thin air. Guess he forgot he voted for Justice Roberts.

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Keep clickin’



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