Aetna’s new tagline “joins” the other big brand flops

You don’t join us. We join you.

Could there be a more tone deaf tagline at a time when the government (aided by Aetna and other insurance companies) is trying to make it more difficult for individuals and families to get and afford health insurance?

As one of those people in peril, here’s what I hear: You don’t join us. We decide if we want to join you.

Watch and, more importantly, listen to their first commercial in their new ad campaign:

Health is having the freedom to do what you want to do with your life. Every single day. So at Aetna, we promise to keep finding new ways to join you, so nothing gets in your way. because no matter where it is you’re going or whatever stage of life you’re in, we believe that when it comes to health you don’t join us, we join you.

Freedom means we have the freedom to decide, we have the freedom to choose which doctors we want to go to and what care to receive. Health insurance, more and more, is about restricting those freedoms in the name of preserving big profits for the health insurers. And now, they’re telling us–literally–“you don’t join us.” They have the power–“we join you.” Not what they meant, but that doesn’t matter.

We “keep finding new ways to join you”–the intent was a good one, as evidenced by this commercial below.

But they should have kept working on the wording because the one thing that trips it up is “You don’t join us.”

Readers come to your messages with their own preconceptions and apply their own tone. Don’t give them a chance to interpret it as negative.

Their concept is: Your healthcare journey can be difficult, we’ll join you.

Old man from Aetna Jump adHaving a partner in your healthcare is a good thing, like that friend who joins you for support and helps you along the way. The problem is that’s a concept, not a tagline. It seems like they got too hung up on the “we join you” part and were never quite able to articulate that concept.

Taglines aren’t easy.

Everyone has to put their ego aside and be willing to kill the ideas they want badly but that don’t work. You must think of the many ways your audience will interpret the message and consider cultural and political circumstances. Then decide which way you want to go.

Boil it down to idea you want to convey and then go from there. In this case, “We’re here for you.”

Sometimes, that simple idea can be your tagline: Aetna. We’re here for you.

And there it is.

Aetna’s tagline may not be great, but their new set of commercials emotionally resonate well and will stay with you in a good way. Check them out on Aetna’s YouTube playlist





Yes, Nike, Greatness Has Been Found…in a Gatorade Ad

Greatness has been found, and, no, not in a Nike commercial. Instead, I found it in this Gatorade commercial. Check it out:

“Greatness isn’t given. Greatness is taken—taken in the summer when no one’s looking.”

I wasn’t even watching my TV when this ad came on, but the words made me stop what I was doing and look up.

“Oh no you didn’t!” I thought, “Nike just got burned!”

Yes, I realize the Gatorade ad has been out since July, but I hadn’t seen it until recently—after the Olympics.

If you’re like me—maybe even if you’re not like me—you bristled a little at the “Greatness has been found” campaign of Nike’s I covered after the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won gold at the Olympics and donned those t-shirts.

Even not in the context of that event, the slogan seems arrogant and is missing that “Just Do It” nature that Nike commercials usually are very good at selling.

The “Find your greatness” aspect of Nike’s campaign was better, but Gatorade goes one step further with the intense workout footage and the words in their ad, starring Robert Griffin III, better known as RG3—a man who knows how to work. This man didn’t “find” the Heisman trophy, he earned it. He didn’t find his way to a top draft pick and a starting role for the Washington Redskins—he worked hard and earned it.

That’s why I think Gatorade has struck gold with this ad. You know by now that I’m a fan of great copywriting and, indeed, greatness has been found in RG3’s Gatorade commercial. It’s worth repeating.

“Greatness isn’t given. Greatness is taken…taken in the summer…when no one’s looking.”

So true. Go take yours…um, in the winter. Sorry, summer’s over.

The Power of Paralympians Perfectly Expressed

Great advertising can’t always be summed up properly in words—you know it when you see it. The Lloyds TSB-sponsored Paralympics ads are so terrific, I had to share them with you today.

Athlete in wheelchair: 400 Metres in 46 Seconds, Just With His Arms

Bold headlines and graphic manipulation of the photos give a palpable sense of motion and power.

Oscar Pistorius running, headline: Don't Look at the Legs, Look at the Records

Using the most recognizable Paralympics athlete ever is a given. Most of us knew of Oscar Pistorius before he participated in the London Olympic Games. Watching him there probably made more people realize how athletic these “disabled” athletes are. This ad campaign pushes people to realize even more the excitement and power in the Paralympic Games, hopefully drawing in more of an audience.

Woman on horse: Making a Horse dance Isn't Easy. Without Legs It's Almost Impossible

You know I’m a fan of good copywriting, and these headlines are fantastic! Not only are they intriguing and entice you to want to see these athletes compete, but they also point out what you might be missing. Did you notice the woman above on the horse had no legs?

Two judo women: You Can't See It's a Perfect Throw. She Doesn't Need To.

In the above ad, you would’ve had no way of knowing if one (or both) of the athletes is blind–and that’s kind of the point.

Wheelchair athlete playing basketball: Tilt at 46 Degrees You're a Hero. Tilt at 47, It's Game Over

How perfect is that? I hope you were as impressed by these ads as I was. They made me want to see more, and that truly is a sign of great advertising.

Forget Zombies, Writers Need to Worry About the Robot Apocolypse

Photo by Middlewick from Morgue File

What if I told you this article was written by a computer? Would you read it?

Chances are, if you read Forbes, the Tribune or other Internet media powers (who refuse to be identified), you have already read articles written solely by computers.

Technology sometimes crosses a line, a very bad line. As humans having something computers don’t—morals—we need to draw that line.

I understand looking for efficiencies in a workplace or even an industry. But writing is a very distinct human endeavor.

Humans observe, intuit, react with emotions, add sarcasm and humor, and these human traits make prose of all kinds worth reading and identifying with.

Can a computer duplicate this? Maybe so. But should it?

Steven Levy, writing for WIRED magazine, reports in “The Rise of the Robot Reporter” (print title) that:

  • Within 15 years, more than 90 percent of news articles will be written by computers.
  • In 20 years, there will be no area in which a computer doesn’t write stories.
  • In 5 years a computer-generated story will win the Pulitzer Prize.

These predictions come from Kristian Hammond, Chief Technology Officer and cofounder of Narrative Science, the seeming leader of this new writer-killing industry.

Hammond would disagree with me on that “writer-killing” crack. In fact, he tried to defend his company by saying, “Nobody has lost a single job because of us.”

Let’s assume for a second his assertion is true. For how long will it stay true?

Read Levy’s article. It’s quite fascinating, really. Right now, top publications use Narrative Science technology to produce articles on finance, sports, and more. More sports are being covered than ever before because of this technology—Little League games and women’s softball have benefited quite a bit.

When you read the article, you can see a real use for this sort of technology, especially in helping writers, scientists, marketers and others research and review data to help them with their work.

But what about authenticity? A word so often hailed as the hallmark of expert communication in the digital age. does include a disclaimer about Narrative Science with all its computer-generated articles.

Narrative Science disclaimer from Forbes article

To me, including this disclaimer should be the rule—the law even. Otherwise, isn’t it fraud?

James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, comes to mind. He wrote and sold millions of copies of a very compelling story. Unfortunately for him, he called it a memoir, which means the story should’ve been true—at least as he recollected it.

Readers recoiled when they learned of Frey’s lie because they identified with the human emotion and struggle described in the book. They felt compassion and maybe even admiration toward Frey.

What happens when computers start writing more emotional stories? (Believe me, there will be an algorithm for that.) Isn’t presenting an emotional first-person account of an event or story fraud if it’s written by a computer?

Many questions need to be answered before we move forward with this technology. It’s about time we set a moral precedent and decide what we want for our future.

Narrative Science isn’t the only company out there doing this, but let’s remember Hammond trying to make us believe he’s not after people’s jobs. Now listen to CEO Stuart Frankel’s reaction when first looking at this technology himself:

Could this system create any kind of story, using any kind of data? Could it create stories good enough that people would pay to read them? The answers were positive enough to convince him that “there was a really big, exciting potential business here.”

Does that sound like a guy who’s concerned about writers losing their jobs—their livelihood?

Are you concerned? Should you be?

The Death of Innovation

With the holidays, my sister and nephew visiting and some other things going on for me this week, I decided to take the week off and repost one of my favorites (from Feb 2010). Hope you like it! To all my new readers, welcome! This will be new to you. Happy Holidays!!

It’s happening. Innovation is dying. Not the act of creating or introducing something truly innovative—the word itself. We are killing the meaning of it. True, the dictionary is as lazy as the rest of us—defining it merely as the introduction of something new. But innovation is more than that. Something that is truly innovative makes you say “wow.”

Don’t believe me? Did you notice Apple’s words introducing the iPad? “Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

Why didn’t they call it innovative? Because innovative is like poison ivy at summer camp. It has spread all over the place, except it doesn’t make anyone want to scratch anymore.

Google innovative and you’ll see what I mean. There are innovative cell phone rate plans, innovative insurance agencies, innovative banks, innovative savings accounts, innovative computer workshops, innovative plays made by innovative athletes…I could go on and on.

Companies now have Chief Innovation Officers, Heads of Innovation, and, my favorite, a Senior Brand Manager, Innovation & Business Development. The job listing for this last position states (and I’m not kidding), “…is a very strategic innovation & business development position in our [type of] business requiring a dynamic innovation marketer.

Agree with me yet?

Apple does. They know innovative is tired and worn out. That’s why they called their new product “revolutionary.” Even though I don’t forsee corporate Heads of Revolution or Chief Revolutionary Officers, I give us three years (maybe two) before we beat the crap out of that word too.

Telling us your product is innovative (or revolutionary) seems forced. Besides, isn’t the crowd the ultimate judge?

If your product doesn’t make us say “wow,” it’s not innovative. And if you told us it was, you’ve just lost our trust—and probably our business too.

So, go ahead, be innovative. But don’t tell us. Show us. And, hey, try being relevant, convenient, efficient and effective. That all works too.

Creative difference: Why being wrong is right

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  – Joseph Chilton Pearce

"Perfection" with red slashed circle over it

Being a copywriter or a designer is a tough job. We have to come up with idea after idea after idea to please different people and to fit different projects. And we think our ideas are damn good—otherwise we wouldn’t present them.

Of course, other people have ideas of their own so we’re used to all sorts of people telling us our ideas aren’t good enough. Even when we know they’re wrong, that can be a tough business to be in—especially if you’re a perfectionist.

What is perfectionism?

Many people think being a perfectionist is a good thing, that it means you only produce quality work. But having high standards and expecting to be perfect every time are different.

Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead…To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. The perfectionist calls this humility. In reality, it is egotism…Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough. – The Artist’s Way (p. 119-120)

Hi. My name is Coreen, and I’m a recovering perfectionist. Surprisingly (or not), I think a lot of creative people are perfectionists. They’re probably the ones you’ve never heard of—because they refuse to publish until something is perfect.

I was lucky because college helped mellow out my perfectionism. Getting the first D I’d ever gotten on a test, getting hammered on critique day in my writing classes—while disconcerting at first—really helped me distinguish between what was valuable feedback (internal and external) and what was not. Berating myself for not being perfect was not.

My passion to be creative and my quest to produce quality work are still in tact, but I’m okay with work not being perfect because creativity is a work in progress. What’s great about working with other creatives is that good ideas feed off of each other. And at some point, you have to let go…and that’s a good thing.

A perfectionist thinks nothing’s ever good enough. A good copywriter or designer thinks “how can we make this better?”

The perfectionist feels defeated and soon her passion for the work will die. The non-perfectionist remains excited about the possibilities, her passion still alive.

Being wrong gives us the opportunity to learn from someone else. It gives us the chance to make something better that more people will like and be satisfied with.

To break your perfectionist habits:

Give yourself deadlines

A creative mind often needs a trigger, a reason to start creating. Give yourself an hour to work on a project that would normally take three hours. Limit your work to that one hour so your adrenaline and creative juices kick in and your thoughts flow.

Encourage and enjoy teamwork

Watch and listen to how your coworkers develop ideas. Working as a team helps take pressure off and frees you up to learn, to see, to think and to contribute.

Open up to feedback

Ask people you trust what they think about your ideas or your work. Ask people you don’t trust too. Instead of being upset by seemingly negative feedback, be inspired. See this as a challenge for you to think and act differently.

Stop being afraid

Trust yourself most of all. You know what you’re doing. One shame of this economy is that it’s driving people back to perfectionism. People are afraid to lose their jobs, which means they’re also afraid to take risks and express new ideas. It’s time to stop being afraid.

Companies—managers and CEOs—have to step up and stop this cycle. Innovation and leadership come from having the space and the freedom to take creative risks and express all ideas.

Being right often comes after being wrong.


Want to go from perfectionist to creative genius? Read: Your Creative Genius Mindset: The Essential Qualities for “Outside the Box” Thinking

Ping: Becoming advertising masters?

A tarnished and struggling Tiger Woods means a vulnerable Nike Golf campaign too. And Ping has decided to strike.

Who needs a golf superstar when you have a British Open winner with a name no one can pronounce?

Ping’s most recent commercial is an example of how superior copywriting can make an ad. Take a look at the video and the script below:

There are two names on my bag. One nobody can pronounce, even after I won the British Open champ. The second name stands for innovation and performance—Ping.  Get custom fit today, and start making a name for yourself. It’s “Wisthazen” by the way.

Less than 50 words. Simple, to the point and subtle even. Who needs a flashy Tiger Woods when you have a wry British Open winner in Louis Oosthuizen?

Ping is smart. They’re not pretending you will know who their golfer is. They know you won’t recognize him and they’re taking full advantage of that, with a sly sense of humor and a powerful message. The man won the British Open with Ping golf clubs. Kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Since Tiger’s demise, golf fans have been in need of a new leading man. Without any one name stepping up to grab the spotlight, Ping is making moves to become the new leading brand.

Well played.

Plain Jane vs. Sesquipedalian Sam

Who would you want writing your marketing materials?Picture of Jane Jetson with money

Jane, who speaks simply in words that are easy to understand? Or Sam, a loquacious elocutionist who insists that utilizing an elevated vocabulary will enforce an auspicious level of austerity any audience will recognize as intellectually superior?

Wait just a minute, you might be thinking. What audience are we writing for? Ahh. You got me. I was trying to trick you, so let me answer clearly here:

  • If you’re writing for the general public, pick Jane.
  • If you’re writing for people who know English as a second language, choose Jane.
  • If you’re writing to a group of Harvard professors, opt for Jane.
  • If you’re writing to a collective of multi-degreed clinicians, select Jane.
  • If you’re writing to members of a Congressional committee, elect Jane.

Are you out of your mind? You are probably thinking this and wondering if you should stop reading now. After all, we’ve all seen and heard the words that Congress and clinicians and academics use. Heck, we’re pretty sure Sesquipedalian Sam works for all of them. And he probably works for lawyers and financial companies too.

But times are changing—and rightfully so.

In fact, the government is even leading the way. (Check out They have made some very public efforts to put up websites, print materials and create forms that people can understand.

Do you really want to lag behind the government? The most notorious snail on the sidewalk of progress?

Why keep it plain? Simple—to save money.

What?? You probably thought I was going to say to:

  • Help your readers understand
  • Build trust
  • Save time, because people scan more than they read

Yes, those are excellent reasons. But money motivates and you actually can save a ton of money by communicating more clearly.

Statistics on cost savings

  • As much as 40 percent of the total cost of managing all business transactions is spent on problems caused by poor communications.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs saved more than $40,000 per year just by revising one letter. (One letter!)
  • Federal Express saved $400,000 by rewriting ground-operation manuals—that was just in the first year. (Source)

You’ll save money by reducing lawsuits. The need for customer service calls will drop. And building trust builds business.

Look what happened when a Baltimore Sun headline writer used the word “limn.” (“Opposing votes limn difference in race.”) Readers complained with four-letter words of their own.

One reader, Carol N. Shaw (who graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Maryland) called using “limn” in a headline “unbelievably arrogant and patronizing.” And it is.

I’m all for increasing your vocabulary, but “limn” belongs in the crossword puzzle, not the headline. And, in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t belong in your marketing materials either.

The whole point is to use simple words to make it easy for your message to be read by all audiences.  Or, you can utilize multisyllabic verbiage to assist in engaging your audience in a continuum of communication.

The choice is yours. Do you want to sound smart or do you want to be smart?


For more on plain language, check out the Center for Plain Language, CDC’s Simply Put, and the Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN).

Why you should proofread your glob

We get it. You’re not a proofreader. Who cares about a few mistakes here and there? People will keep reading, right? Wong.

Appearance isn’t everything, but it is important. In one word, appearance is credibility. And that’s why you have to proofread.

Picture of Appearences salon. Yes, the misspelling is intentional.

The picture above shows a salon near me called Appearances or, sorry, “Appearences.” They previously had it spelled right on their door and wrong on an awning above the door. Then, they renovated. Now it’s obvious—they must’ve spelled the name wrong when they named the company. Yikes.

Proofreading is part of the job

Think of proofreading like getting dressed for a job interview. Every typo is a spot of coffee on your white shirt. And just like some people need help picking out the right outfit, some people need someone else to proofread their work.

Would you hire someone who comes to an interview with his shirt half tucked and a stain dribbling down his tie? No.

Keep that in mind because most people don’t want to read a blog, an article, a book or anything with obvious (preventable) mistakes.

Common mistakes to look out for:

Loose – something wobbly, not tight. Things come loose. Loose is an adjective, not a verb.

Lose – opposite of win and find. You lose games and items. Lose is a verb.

Advise – to counsel or suggest. Advise your child to go to college. It’s a verb.

Advice – words of direction or encouragement. You give advice. Advice is a noun.

Affect – to impact in some way. This is usually a verb. The noun has more to do with observable emotion.

Effect – a result of something happening, usually a noun. Can be used as a verb meaning to bring about, as in to effect change.

Assure – you assure people to make them feel better. I assure you this is true.

Insure – think insurance here. Insure is used to indicate protecting someone or something from financial liability.

Ensure – to make certain of something, to guarantee.

Example: I assure you our SWAT team will ensure the safety of the hostages, but it’s too late to insure the bank against any building damages if they’re not covered already.

Sloppy sends people away

In the print world, mistakes can be costly. Fixing errors at the printer results in extra charges. Obviously, online is different, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to relax your standards. Sloppy writing is great incentive for readers to bounce.

Spell check is knot your friend

Spell check is a grate tool. It catches sew many mistakes, ewe don’t really have too proof reed at all.

Get it? Don’t rely on spell check or you’ll have sentences like the above.

Grammar guidelines

In blogs, in my opinion, grammar is up to you. Writing, depending on your topic, is all about voice. It’s perfectly okay to not follow all grammar rules. In marketing, in books, and in blogs, that’s called style. Just make sure your style is readable and isn’t horrendously bad grammar.

Proofreading basics

Proofreading is not easy. Great proofreaders seem to have been born with a knack for it. I have worked as a proofreader, copy editor and writer, but I don’t like proofing my own work because I miss things. The closer you are to your material, the worse you are at proofreading it.

So, have a system. To start, you can follow these basic steps.

  1. Read through it once to make sure the words flow. In fact, read it out loud. Your ear will catch things your eyes don’t.
  2. Look at each word line by line. Reading lines from the bottom up is a good idea, especially if you know the material too well.
  3. Run spell check and see what pops up. Remember this isn’t foolproof. It’s merely one step.

If you’re still not confident with your proofreading skills, get someone else to proofread for you.


Good luck! Here are some fantastic resources to help. Grammar Girl breaks grammar rules into helpful hints that are easy to understand. Yahoo’s style guide covers more than proofreading and can help you with web writing, SEO and more.

Pardon me, I’m just the writer. What do I know?

Logo: Tales from the ScriptSo, there I was, watching the documentary, “Tales from the Script,” looking forward to learning about the lives of successful Hollywood screenwriters. Suddenly, I noticed their lives seemed a lot like mine.

Hey, advertising copywriters, marketing communications writers, and writers of any sort:  This is a movie for you.

See if any of these writing tidbits from the movie feel familiar. (I wish I could include them all!)

1. “Any jackwad on a street corner will tell you what they thought was wrong…”

Shane Black says this, and then adds, “I don’t go into an operating room and tell a surgeon ‘you used the wrong clamp’…”

But writers and most people in a creative profession are regularly subject to this treatment. The key is to develop a thick skin and keep an open mind.

After all, as Richard Rush says, “there are several right answers to all occasions. It’s ok that people completely disagree—that’s the creative process.”

2. “That was really good, but what we wanted was a buddy film.”

I’m sure when Jose Rivera presented his script then heard this, he was thinking the same thing copywriters often think: Why didn’t you tell me that in the beginning?

To avoid this colossal waste of time, ask a lot of questions. Not just about project specs and not just any question. Dig a little and see if the client has something already in mind. Ask things like:

  • Do you have a plan or ideas on how this will work out?
  • What words stand out to you when thinking of this?
  • What images do you see in your mind when you talk about it?

If your client says something like, “I want something cool or edgy,” find out what cool and edgy means to him.

3.  Know when to defend. Know when to let go.

That pretty much says it all. You can’t be resentful when someone changes your work. (Sometimes hard, I know.) That’s part of the job. You’re not in charge.

Decide when it’s important to speak up, but when it’s not, let it go and move on to your next project.

4. Actors change the words because they speak them, so they can hear what doesn’t work.

Yes, be an actor: Read your writing aloud. Better yet, get someone else to read it to you. If people change your work and it sounds bad, read it to them.

If you want to change someone else’s words, the same holds true. Say it loud, say it proud, and see which version sounds better.

5. Our (writers’) complaints are nothing compared to pipefitters, people working on ships or fighting overseas in military.

I don’t know why Mick Garris chose these professions in this order. I’m not sure he does either. But his point is loaded with truth. As he says, “to bitch about someone making a change to my script is just not worth it.”

And he’s right. (See #3.)

Parting paraphrase (of Joe Forte’s words)

If you define yourself only as a writer and have a bad day as a writer, that’s your whole world. It’s important to remember that you’re a brother or a sister, a mom or a dad, a friend or a mentor. It’s important to have hobbies and other interests that balance you out.

In my own words, when writing of any kind is no longer enjoyable, it’s time to stop. Life is too short, and working hours take up too much of that life to work in misery.


Like what you’ve heard so far? Check out the movie trailer.

I was not paid or even asked to talk about “Tales from the Script.” I watched it because I was interested and wrote about it because it was interesting (I hope you think so).