Reminiscing about the old Bayshore Independent, the newspaper we used to work for, Patty and I soon came around to the paper’s weekly “Find Andy Indy!” contest.
Andy was a little cartoon character always concealed somewhere in one of the ads, the idea being to get people to look more closely at the ads. If you could tell us where Andy Indy was that week, you’d win a week’s grocery order at one of the local supermarkets.
The important point was, you didn’t call us, we called you. We’d pick the name of a reader at random, call her on the phone, and ask if she’d found Andy Indy. If she had, she’d win. We made this very clear every week in the Andy Indy Contest Rules box on the front page.
None of our efforts could save our receptionist from being driven mad, every day, by people calling and excitedly reporting, “I found Andy Indy!” By the end of the day she was ready for the rubber room. But really, whoever was near enough to one of our phones to answer it had a good chance of hearing “I found Andy Indy!”
No, no! You don’t call us: we call you. See? It says so in the Rules box! But the prospect of a week’s groceries for free blinded readers to anything we might care to publish in the Rules box. “You can collect your prize at any Fongo’s People’s Emporium the next time you’re in Uzbekistan” would have made no impression on these readers. Free stuff is free stuff!
(Reminds me of another weekly newspaper I worked on, where we wanted to see if people paid any attention to the captions we ran under certain decorative photographs. So we ran outrageous, preposterous captions and waited for people to react. Which they never did! Example: “If you are one of dozens of Americans suffering from the dread disease, Eatamus abuggus, you will see this as a picture of a nice little footbridge in Holmdel Park with a little bit of snow on it. If you’re healthy, you will see the Battleship New Jersey pounding the tar out of Haiphong harbor.”
People just do not pay attention.)