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Travel bag symbolizing the trip top Canadian copywriter Wolfgang Franke took to the Iberostar Grand Paraiso, the topic of a copywriting blog on the failings of travel advertising.

Thirty-year-old copywriting rant still true today

A long time ago, in a marketplace far away, I had the pleasure of beginning my advertising education at the feet of copywriting giant John Straiton. He had seen and done it all and was always willing to share what he liked and, even more important, what he didn't like. His favorite copywriting rants were reserved for vacation ad campaigns that featured young people at resorts that actually catered to much older guests.

I can still hear John saying, "why show pictures of young people, who rarely go to this resort because it is not for them and costs too much, when they could feature the people who actually go there and have far more disposable income than the average young person?"

It was a good question then – and it remains a good question now. Although more than 30 years have passed, marketers continue to chase young adults when they should be targeting a far more lucrative demographic: active, affluent, free-spending adults born between 1946–1964, known as Baby Boomers because they were born when baby making was, er, booming. I know this demo well because I am one of them (born 1953).

Canadian copywriter Wolfgang Franke with his wife at the Iberostar Grand Pairaiso, watching the shoot of a television commercial doomed to fail because it featured bad copywriting, done by a poor copywriter, following a bad marketing plan.Photo of my wife and I at the Iberostar Grand in Jamaica. It was taken by a member of the production crew that was at the resort to shoot a doomed TV ad for the vacation spot chain.

I have even seen first-hand the making of a television campaign that serves as a case study on how not to market to boomers. It happened several years ago, when my wife and I happened to be staying at an Iberostar Grand resort while a new television ad for the vacation spot was being shot. I witnessed the whole thing over the course of our one-week stay and could not believe what I was seeing.

There was one vacation-cliché shot after another and every scene featured a man and woman who looked nothing like the guests who were at the resort. They were too perfect, too thin and, most important, too young. Actual guests (including my lovely wife and myself) were sitting just outside of every scene – and none of them looked anything like the guests shown in the television ad.

I made a mental note to look for the finished television ad. It popped up a few months later, aired for a few weeks, and was never seen again. No surprise given the poor targeting and uninspired concept, which missed everything that makes the resort stand out from competitors.

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Iberostar Grand Hotels. They are truly grand in every way. Now if they could just find a copywriter who knew how to tell their story...

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