Monday, August 3, 2009

Thanks, Andrea

When I was in college, I worked as a production assistant at what was at the time the largest ad agency in Salt Lake City. When I went to business school, one of my marketing professors used the “Intel Inside” campaign as the benchmark for how to do branding. When he found out I used to work [as a complete and total peon] at the agency behind that campaign, his reaction was a little embarrassing.

Anyway, I had nothing to do with the campaign short of driving proofs or film to Fedex so the Intel brand managers could OK them or the magazine or newspaper could print them. And the campaign has really nothing to do with this blog post other than the fact that the last person to sign anything before it went before the client or went into production was our proofreader, Andrea.

Andrea was awesome and worth way more than what she got paid. When Microsoft had a glaring copy error in one of their Wall Street Journal ads, one of the copywriters posted it on the door of his office with a note that said “thanks, Andrea.”

Thanks to Andrea, I am adamant about using a serial comma before a conjunction, even though most of the copywriters HATED that she made them do that. I don’t remember the details, but Andrea told me there was a will or other legal document that stipulated that something was to be split between Party A, Party B and Party C. The courts decided, for lack of a serial comma, that Party A was to get 50%, while Party B and Party C were to split the other 50%. Had there been a comma before the “and,” the parties would have split it three ways equally.

I sometimes wish I had someone like Andrea to proofread my blog before I post. It would probably save some embarrassment. Of course Dug and Rachel are pretty good about letting me know of the really-obvious-to-everyone-but-me errors, which I can fix after posting. So considering how little is on the line with this blog, I should be happy just to have that.

OK, I’m having some trouble staying focused, but what I was eventually hoping to get at was that Andrea wasn’t just good about finding copy errors. She also would have prevented stuff like this from going out the door. Seriously? Did someone not notice that, or was it intentional? I’m going with intentional.

Of course some things not even a proofreader like Andrea would fix; they just need to be redone completely. But that’s why we employed some pretty good copywriters: to help save clients from themselves. Otherwise, you might end up with copy like this:

With careful consideration from an analytical approach of our core team and a collaborative effort from our consultants domestically and overseas, our business model has come full circle and represents the very best in resort entertainment possible. A comprehensive and in-depth marketing study in conjunction with steadfast planning sessions have led us to a rigorous regiment of continuous improvement and refinement to our new business model. We have determined how to maximize our impact to our community of [specified location] and plan to execute this model by the end of this year.

Our Mission is to provide the very best in quality family entertainment to our community and the surrounding area. We will continue a long standing tradition of excellence in entertainment and business that will bridge into the coming decades utilizing our 20 year history of providing the very best entertainment and decades of experience in the ever changing industry of entertainment and hospitality.

When I first read this, I thought it was a contest to see how many times they could re-use the words decades, entertainment, and industry in a statement that really doesn't tell me anything. Either that or a game of buzzword bingo* where one of the key participants didn’t know everyone else was kidding.

Thankfully the person who wrote this had the good sense to send it to his ad agency and ask them to clean it up. I just happened to rescue it from the cutting room floor, as it were, to use as an example. (No, it’s not my company or one I’m even associated with in any way or ever have been. I just sorta found it.)

If your company employs someone like Andrea that makes the rest of you Philistines look way, way better than you would on your own, go tell her thank you. She deserves that and a whole bunch more.

*When I was in B-school the rules were that once you got Bingo, you had to raise your hand and use the word “Bingo” in a comment rather than just yelling it out. The best execution of this I have ever seen was by a classmate, coincidentally also named Andrea, whose use of “Bingo” was so natural that I felt like delayed reaction man once I finally realized what was going on.