Sunday, August 30, 2009

Skiing Letter Leaves Me Cold

Ted Ligerty, 2006 Olympic gold medalist, alpine skiing (and 2010 hopeful) needs a new copywriter.

I read his letter seeking donations for one reason: the lead was so bad, I thought it would make a good example of what NOT to do in a direct mail piece. I was right.

The lead was so bad I said - literally, out loud - "WHO CARES?!"

The offensive sentence:
If you had to guess, what would you say the most important time of the year is for a competitive alpine skier like me?

Do I care? no
Is it clever and/or crafty? no
Do I want to read more? no

Even before the letter failed, however, Ligety's list failed to deliver. Why did I get the fundraising plea? It's a mystery.

Am I a skier? no
Have I donated to the Olympic committee (or any related entity)? no

I haven't even entered a contest (that I know of) vaguely related to the Olympics.

Copywriting fails for a lot of reasons. In this case, it wasn't very good and it wasn't sent to the right audience.

Sorry, Ted, 'sno good.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Case for Having an Editor - or Friend

I've been reading a lot of medical journal articles this week (not as bad as it sounds) and finding embarrassing errors, like this:

"Mortal Combat, for instead, is embedded in violence."

(Once you shake off the icky grammar, you can see the author probably meant "instance")

Another, in a questionnaire:

"The think you're most likely to do in your leisure time."

(Pretty sure the author meant "thing")

In both cases, the authors are highly-educated, world-renown scientists. Apparently, they're also prone to the same stupid mistakes the rest of us make when we spend long hours in coffee-fueled typing sessions.

When the errors are few, or found on page 57 of an otherwise solid research paper, they're excusable, yes? Usually, yes.

When the error is on your website where you're selling swimming pools, pink tiaras, or vitamin supplements... you run the risk of losing the sale.

Get an editor, or a friend that reads v e r y c a r e f u l l y.