Many years ago at The Bayshore Independent, where I was managing editor, we wished to convince our advertisers that people who read our weekly newspaper were reading the ads, too. So the sales department came up with a cunning plan.
They invented this tiny cartoon character called Andy Indy, and every week, Andy Indy’s image would be concealed in an ad. We had a bigger image on the front page every week, showing readers what Andy looks like and explaining the incredibly simple rules of the contest.
Each week, we would select a reader at random, call her on the phone, and ask if she could tell us where Andy Indy was. If she could, she won a nice free dinner at one of our participating restaurants. We call you, we ask you, and if you know the answer, you win.
And every business day, without fail, at least 20 people would call our office to proclaim, breathlessly, “I found Andy Indy!” After a few days of this, you could go mad. They’d even call us on production nights.
What about “We call you” couldn’t these people understand? It got to be so that everybody there, reporters, editors, office staff, art department, sales, and even the kid who swept the floors, got more than his fill of “I found Andy Indy!” I wrote up an obituary for Andy Indy which the typesetter blew up and hung on the wall.
(Yeah, Lee, but don’t you get it? It was free stuff! People will try just about anything to get free stuff. Even if it’s stuff they don’t really want. So ignore the contest rules, grab that phone, and be ready to shout for all you’re worth–“I FOUND ANDY INDY!!!”)
I wonder how many of our staff still wake up screaming, 40 years later.