Posts tagged ‘Alex Nguyen’

The holidays — a time for the timeless

For the company holiday card, I was posed the question, “What is your favorite thing about the season?” That’s like asking me what my favorite song or movie is, and that provokes two tiny problems. There’s either the fact that the list of holiday traditions is seemingly endless or that I really didn’t have a tradition growing up — my family is from Vietnam, it’s a surprise we even celebrate the holidays.

Though my familial traditions are suffering, there are quite a few things that make the holidays unique to me. For one, I will only watch the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve — I simply refuse to watch it any other day of the year. Another piece of the season that I absolutely adore is the timeless nature of certain brands. Like we always say at X.Y.Zag, we can make advertising pertinent to almost anything (except for maybe the CIA, or the Patriot Act — you can never talk about that, unless you’re prepared for the consequences).

My favorite example of a brand’s Christmas campaign that holds its own year after year is Coca-Cola. The brand definitely has some things going for them (i.e. nostalgia and its pinpoint execution of, for lack of a better term, holiday goodness).

What I find interesting is that Coca-Cola had three distinct holiday campaigns when I was growing up, each carrying a different time period and overlapping one another. In the end though, whenever someone thinks about a sensory-overload inducing Christmas caravan or fun loving, CGI polar bears, they think Coke.

First there is, “The Holidays are Coming” campaign. Long been a tradition for Coke, the campaign disappeared in 2001. It was later replaced by the cuddly CGI polar bears, and, strangely enough revived in 2007 when Coca-Cola cited numerous phone calls from customers saying the campaign marks the beginning of the season for many.

Next, here are the aforementioned polar bears. Back when the campaign was introduced, it was truly state-of-the-art.

And finally, there are the nostalgic print advertisements that feature Santa. I absolutely love these because I am a fan of advertising in the 50s and 60s, where illustrations ruled.

To me, these advertisements really do epitomize the holiday season. And because of Coke’s perverse awareness throughout the world, it’s easy to assume that these ads really do enforce the brand name.

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12/11/2009 at 3:16 PM Leave a comment

The countdown to June

I may be in the minority at the moment — I’m a huge football (soccer) fan. Today was a big deal for my kind. In South Africa, celebrities and representatives gathered to present the tournament draw for next year’s World Cup — a football fan’s paradise and a glimpse of the beautiful game to a mass audience.

Honestly, I don’t understand why the draw is done nearly seven months before the tournament; I guess it’s intended to build up the hype machine for the games, and in my profession, the marketing.

The rights to broadcast the World Cup span hundreds of networks across the globe, so it’s safe to say that the month-long tournament next June will be a cash cow.

I really hope Heineken does not snag major sponsorship rights to the big dance, because their treatment of Europe’s Champion’s League drives me off the wall. Imagine this advertisement being played 15 times before and after every match — and that’s not an exaggeration.

Being a worldwide event, I’m sure there will be a diverse bunch of World Cup-themed advertisements saturating the market soon.

Here is the final draw for the 2010 World Cup. I’m definitely going to be fighting over favoritism and patriotism as England, my favorite football squad, is going to take on the United States in the first round.

Group A
South Africa
Mexico
Uruguay
France

Group B
Argentina
Nigeria
South Korea
Greece

Group C
England
United States
Algeria
Slovenia

Group D
Germany
Australia
Serbia
Ghana

Group E
Netherlands
Denmark
Japan
Cameroon

Group F
Italy
Paraguay
New Zealand
Slovakia

Group G
Brazil
North Korea
Ivory Coast
Portugal

Group H
Spain
Switzerland
Honduras
Chile

World Cup Fever will be spreading quickly next year. For my sake, I hope the tournament will serve as a breakthrough for soccer in America. Even if that means the United States has to take down England, again.

12/04/2009 at 4:21 PM Leave a comment

Rah Rah TCU!

What a weekend it was to be a Horned Frog.

From a football standpoint, the TCU Horned Frog program took a huge leap towards its first BCS berth. With two games left, we are 10-0 and looking to crash the party.

But from a marketing standpoint, the program set a new benchmark to match the attention it deserves — a dose of hype from Nike, ESPN’s College Gameday coverage and a record crowd at Amon G. Carter Stadium served as catalysts.

Leading up to the weekend, Nike, through their Pro Combat campaign, unveiled the new uniforms and accessories the players and coaches would wear for one game. TCU was chosen among a group of 9 much larger football programs (think UT, Florida, and OU). The campaign worked perfectly — students and community were excited to see what the Beaverton, Oregon conglomerate had in store for the Frogs, and it definitely started some conversations around the area.

On Saturday, students, fans and alumni camped through the wee hours of the morning and then cheered loud and proud as ESPN’s College Gameday broadcast live from campus — a first for the university. Gameday was a huge opportunity for the nation to see the campus and students of the relatively (to its BCS competitor’s) small private university. This was the best PR anybody could ask for.

I think Chris Fowler said it best to the TCU fans as he left the Gameday set, “We’ll be back, just keep doing what you’re doing.” Kirk Herbstreit added that crazed Frog fans created a crowd that was one of the best he has seen, rivaling the spirit of schools like Clemson.

This is the national exposure that TCU is certainly not used to, but no one could tell. During Saturday’s game, Coach Gary Patterson was assigning players the duty of pumping up the crowd and senior defensive end Jerry Hughes was basking in the limelight — a completely dominant performance certainly helps.

Go Frogs!

Here are some photos from various sources (myself, Facebook and Keith Robinson Photography):

11/16/2009 at 6:16 PM Leave a comment

Lessons Learned, Part 2

AlexYesterday, Kelsey got the ball rolling for X.Y.Zag’s special blog theme this week. To reiterate, every staff member will post a few things they have learned and loved about agency life in honor of Zag’s six-month anniversary.

Over here, everyone has a different hat to wear; I fall on the creative side of things (but that doesn’t mean I have stayed there — more on that later). Because of these differences, we all take something unique from Zag as a whole.

Here are a a couple of things I have learned in lieu of our six month anniversary as a writer:

  • A copywriter’s job isn’t glamourous, but it’s very important. I like to say we are the first line of defense for clarity. We write messages that are clear and concise and edit content for the same criteria. It doesn’t matter what type of job it is, a copywriter/editor will find their way into it.
  • In a small agency like ours, job titles tend to shift around. Though I am formally a copywriter, I have had to do a lot of work related to account service such as research and presenting. Getting out of my comfort zone has been interesting, but ultimately worthwhile.
  • Tag lines are the bane of my existence. Writing short, simple and sweet is nice. But it’s definitely easier said than done. In most cases, I will write 20 or 30 tag ideas in a list, and it will naturally whittle away to the best one, which is really time-consuming.
  • An AP Stylebook is a (media) writer’s best friend. With our wide and diverse client base, I have had to deal with some strange grammar and style issues, and our work would have greatly suffered if it weren’t for this inexpensive paperback.
  • Like Kelsey said yesterday, enjoy the little things. We are service-oriented in this business, so we have to be constantly open and available for clients. The moments we have free time are spread out pretty thin, but it’s more about the quality in the time you spend rather than the quantity.

Get ready to read tomorrow’s post from our butt kickin’ account executive Collin — he’ll definitely have some interesting things to say (in a good way of course).

11/10/2009 at 11:40 AM Leave a comment

Halloween in review

AlexWho would’ve thought that attending a few Halloween parties this weekend would be a learning experience?

Taking a day out of the year to be somebody else is always interesting. If there is anything I can take away from Halloween this year, it is that the holiday is an overt demonstration of trends and pop culture within our communities, and each costume carries a marketing message.

As consumers, we naturally follow fads. This year I saw a good mix of Halloween mainstays like Superman, Batman and Catwoman; these are established brands that show up every year like clockwork. But there were also a large number of costumes that easily reflect recent events and trends within our society.

According to CNN, some of the most popular costumes this year were of celebrities who recently passed away. I can attest to this because I saw a fair share of Michael Jackson impersonators this weekend — including the creepiest mask of the King of Pop I have ever seen, donned by a small child.

There were a couple of other inventive costumes reflecting the year that was and is. I got a real kick out of people creating last minute guises as the balloon boy and Lady Gaga, another big trend this year.

There are of course a few costumes that I really, really hated this year. The sheer amount of Kate Gosselin wigs drove me insane and the whole Twilight vampire schtick really set the genre back.

One of the hidden functions of these costumes is to drive a brand through free publicity. Whether it is a person, place or symbol, whenever somebody puts on a costume, they are basically a street team for the given persona.

All I know is that I’m happy that The Joker did not make a return this year. Why? I’m afraid of clowns, so you can understand how much of a nightmare my past Halloween was.

Moving forward, it’s now November, and there’s plenty to celebrate in the coming weeks. For one, it will be our agency’s six-month anniversary soon! Thanksgiving and Christmas are kind of a big deal too.

11/02/2009 at 4:42 PM Leave a comment

Style versus subtance

AlexScott Porter, copywriter for GCG Marketing, loaned me a book titled “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads” by Luke Sullivan. In the opening pages, the author posed the question, “If an advertisement is memorable, does that make it good?” Think about that for a moment while I write a memo.

(Note to self: return the book to Scott, you’ve had it since July.

Okay, back to the question.

To me, Sullivan’s thought relies heavily on the context and placement of the advertisement. An advertisement can be memorable, but there is a big difference between ‘establishing’ and ‘established’ brands.

At Zag, we serve a lot of clients that are still new to marketing themselves, so the number one goal for any of the projects I execute is to inform and create awareness for the brand or product – in this case, the advertisement has to balance information and attention-grabbing visuals to serve its purpose: battle the clutter of today’s fast-paced, attention-deficit society.

When a brand is already synonymous with the product it sells, I believe they is much more leeway to make an advertisement that has little or nothing to do about the product. It won’t necessarily be a good, informative advertisement, but market leaders are there for a reason. Here is an example by Levi’s. I love the visuals and presentation, but a clear message is tough to identify:

For the businesses we cater toward, the main struggle is achieving the right balance of style and substance to make their advertisements and collateral materials shine. We live in a era where the average American sees 3,000 advertisements a day and an acceptable return rate on direct mail campaigns is two percent.

There are established brand leaders with deep pockets and there are budding businesses that want exposure. This is what makes the creative process exciting for a writer and an art director of a small agency. We have to make the most with what we have, and to me that requires the resourcefulness of McGuyver. Who doesn’t like McGuyver?

10/19/2009 at 12:48 PM Leave a comment

A different type of creative writing

AlexThree years ago, I came to TCU as a naive advertising student. I was a journalist for nearly three years in high school, so reporting and writing were the only things I could do well. I didn’t want to pursue the newsroom because (a) the money is slim, (b) the hours are strange and (c) the road to recognition is long and rife with ethical dilemmas.

Luckily, my skill-set helped me along a different avenue.

I majored in advertising and public relations with the intent of becoming an account executive. I pictured myself wearing tailored suits to the office, making phone calls to clients while tossing pencils into the ceiling and grabbing three martini lunches (okay, I may watch a little too much Mad Men). Things turned out differently.

Today, I’m a copywriter here at Zag – and I’m completely enamored with my work.

The question I get asked the most about my position is, “what exactly do you do”?

Simply put, chop the “copy” off of my title and think of me as a writer. Yes, I am a writer, but there’s more to it.

Copywriters, a part of the creative realm of marketing, produce copy (words) and help develop concepts for advertising collateral and campaigns. Some jobs require a lot of copy, like annual reports, while others may only need a simple tagline to coincide with a captivating photo. The diversity in my work is what I love – one day in the office is never the same as another.

The toughest part of my job is creating clarity. Our fast-paced world doesn’t have time to decipher a tagline: you have to write as clearly as humanly possible (though a blog might not be a great reflection of said concept).

Making eight words speak a hundred is definitely easier said than done, especially when we’re expected to write at a sixth-grade level.

I’d like to think of myself as the first line of defense for clarity; art directors and designers are the yin to my yang. They make sure the words I write are legible. This is a team business; successful copywriters owe their colleagues countless round of drinks.

My stint as a copywriter has really pulled me into the world of advertising, but now it’s my turn to pull my own rope and find my niche. I’ll admit, thinking about the future is terrifying, probably as much as my trip to Cutting Edge will be next month.

Who knows? I may have found my niche already. The only thing I am sure of right now is that I love what I’m doing, and that’s all that matters.  Life is much more fulfilling when you show up to work aching for something to do. I certainly owe a lot to Zag for helping me.

09/28/2009 at 11:24 AM Leave a comment

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