George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

Well, in that case…

From Watch Your Ads – A media memo by George Duncan

Well, in that case…

Having written a few thousand catalog blurbs back in the day, my eye was drawn to a blurb for an outdoor light in Sporty’s Tool Shop. Following a robust description of the product, the copy nails home the sale with the statement, “Recommended by Hal Shevers, Founder.” Well, if the guy who made it recommends it, what the hell…

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Sanjay Gupta? Really?

One of the most disturbing ads I’ve seen in a long time, came not on TV, but snuck in through my email. I say it snuck in because it appeared to come from CNN. The title related to Type 2 diabetes and I imagine anyone who suffers from that disease would be hard pressed not to check it out. When I clicked on the link, up popped a testimonial type announcement from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNNs resident medical expert. From that point on, the ad was a masterful piece of writing that recalled many of the “long copy” letters that direct marketers have historically used to market newsletters, financial advisory services, miracle diets, and like this, so-called medical breakthroughs. On screen copy tracked the audio word for word, which went on for about fifteen minutes. As I said, long copy. Here were laid out all the appeals to fear, user testimonials and other techniques honed over the years by writers working in this form. The guy who discovered this amazing breakthrough (not Gupta) wants the whole world to profit from his discovery, but, simple as it may be, he can’t seem to bring himself to tell us what it is. No, that will cost $37 at the end of the pitch. (Even the 37 is a technique using two odd numbers for credibility). Another sign of this ad coming from sleaze city was the exit screens, so endless and insistent that I had to shut down and restart the computer in order to get out of it. Sorry to see Dr. Gupta lend his name and reputation to this sorry pitch and I hope it doesn’t hurt people, though it paints sufferers’ doctors and the pharmaceutical industry as a giant conspiracy that’s trying to kill them. (The web site, for those interested, is

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Oh, stuff it!

I saw Brian Schweitzer, former governor of Montana, on a discussion panel on CNN recently. He’s always struck me as good guy. His contribution to the discussion amounted to about 30 words when Dana Bash, the moderator, interrupted him in mid-sentence with “that’s all we have time for” and a thank you for coming all the way from Montana (I assume to CNN’s studio in New York). It underscored for me the many times I’ve wondered why these discussion shows can’t plan their time a little better. I’m damn tired of seeing interesting people cut off in mid-sentence like that, especially, when I particularly would like to hear what they were going to say. I guess getting on TV is viewed as worth the traveling for next to nothing, but I like to think I’d tell them to assure me of sufficient time to speak or stuff it.

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Thanks, Donald. I had almost forgotten

I had almost forgotten that old saying, “she had blood coming out of her eyes, her wherever, ears and mouth” until Mr. Trump – that old wordsmith – used it to describe debate moderator Megyn Kelly. Visigothan origin, I believe. Gosh, I can recall when it was such a popular saying, it was all you heard everywhere you went. It was a delightful surprise when Donald pulled out that old chestnut and reminded us that he is clearly the most articulate candidate to ever run for president.

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Kars4Kids needs a recall

Kars4Kids is a charity which, judging from their website, funds a variety of programs for children. It would be difficult to know that from their ad. For starters, it’s drowning in cute. Four super cute kids are pretending to play and lip synch the theme on what look like fake musical instruments. I found it repulsive. Why not get real kids playing real instruments? That would be interesting. And the sing-song nature of the theme makes it difficult to understand what they’re saying. Recall the ad guys, and try again. The kids you’re trying to help deserve it.

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Just sayin’

There doesn’t seem to be much left to say about Donald Trump’s campaigning style that hasn’t been written by now by smarter pens than mine. He clearly meets George Will’s observation that he is a man “deranged by ego.” His campaign is little more than an extension of his reality TV experience, appealing, as Michael Smerconish said, to the lowest common denominator just as reality TV does. I think it’s that denominator that concerns me most, i.e., the Republican sycophants who whoop and holler at his every brag and insult and who will eventually be voters. At a town hall gathering in New Hampshire — where more than 50% of his presentation, I noted, was about him — he was bragging as per usual about his reconstruction of Penn Station in Washington being “on time and under budget” and the crowd went nuts! What has his Penn Station project have to do with them? Nothing. But they are so drawn in by his dog and pony show they cheer anything because he “says it like it is.” Never mind defining what “it” is, exactly, or what he is saying about it, if anything.

There’s another, more disturbing aspect to the Trump boom, though I haven’t seen it suggested anywhere…yet. The prime movers behind his candidacy have been the conservative “base,” referring to those disaffected mobs we saw carrying racist Obama signs, images and effigies ever since the 2008 campaign. “Take our country back” can also be considered a dog whistle for those who never accepted President Obama’s legitimacy essentially because he is African American. It was Trump who led the “birther” attack on the president suggesting Kenyan origin, etc. For those reacting to the president’s blackness, can you think of anyone whiter than Donald Trump? Almost as I’m writing this, former KKK Wizard David Duke and the white supremacist web site StormFront both endorsed Trump. Just sayin’.

As a Democrat, I really should delight in the Republican Party’s self-immolation at Trump’s hands, but I don’t. Much as I differ with Republican policies, I care about our country more. I just pray we’re not losing our collective mind to this charlatan.


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