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September 18th, 2011

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06:14 am - Actually I think it's grown, self-indulgent but still has, its moments
The CW network, the result of those star-crossed WB/UPN network breeding experiments in the mid 2000s, has given the MBTA a lot of good money to make sure that I know that 30 Rock, which is now old enough to be syndicated but still not old enough to drink, will be appearing on their Boston affiliate five times a week.

They have done so by placing brightly colored posters around the subway system which feature headshots of the wacky main castmembers, each headshot accompanied by a really lame attempt at a zingy slogan. It wants to be perfect marketing drivel: Enough references to connect with existing viewers, but not enough to alienate potential newcomers. The only problem is the plan. The poster sure hopes that "What the what?" appearing over Tina Fey's smiling face will compel me to rush to the set at whatever time the CW is airing the show, but I don't think it'll happen. Ditto "You don't know Jack!" above Alec Baldwin. (They could only find contextless catchphrases for two out of five characters so the other three, including poor Alec, are represented by generic wackiness.)

At least they're not in word balloons or thought bubbles.

But of course this is not the focus of the poster. Nay, in order to design a successful poster you need something eye-catching and big, something that the kids today would say "pops". Like a slogan. A big slogan! But short, if it's going to be big. And it will be!

Why, if you were clever enough you could even come up with a cool, catchy, popping-and-locking slogan that plays off the show's name, maybe even a pun which has never, ever, ever graced the top of an amateur media review. In order to make it really eye-catching, however, and skew the ad demo towards pedants and other people whose teeth involuntarily grind themselves to dust when they see really crappy grammar, all you have to do is think really hard for twenty seconds and then squeeze out something like this, which I will faithfully recreate for you now with all punctuation and line breaks intact:
30 ROCK,
Do you hear all that machinery whirring away? Those are the dynamos I just hooked up to the graves of Strunk and White. Our power needs are now met well into the next decade.

I was all set to prepare an amusing little dialog set in Marketing (scenario: Idiotic hypothetical questions from management force plucky copy writer to add needless punctuation) but I could not come up with a situation which could even vaguely justify the useless comma. Yes, "30 ROCK ROCKS!" on its own line like that looks weird and redundant, but that's what the line break was for.

You can't even worry about the line break forcing the brain to ignore redundancy like that classic "PARIS IN THE THE SPRING" exercise, because each line is printed in a different color. And besides, if your brain ignores redundancy, then you're going to read the slogan as either "30 ROCK" or "30 ROCKS!" Or maybe just "30" if you're a real stickler. I'm not sure if the color scheme is kind to the colorblind, but strike the "Maybe colorblind people won't get it" theory from your Overthinking List anyway because there's absolutely no way that kind of consideration could have been paid to this project. Hell, I've probably spent more time complaining about it than it took 'em to make it. (And that includes the time they spent using the little freehand lasso tool in Photoshop around each headshot.)

I do still believe in the glory of the noble, common-sensical cubemonkey in the face of ignorant middle management, and I also believe deep down in my heart that there was at least one person involved in the creation process who knew that this was wrong. This is why my scenario involved a creator type (who naturally is correct!) who gets cajoled into adding what he or she knew was an ignominiously placed comma and in doing so gives up, oh, I dunno, either Artistic Integrity or Personal Principles, you pick, in exchange for job security.

I would finish with a pithy little quip suggesting that the CW expand its ad budget so it wouldn't have to outsource its poster work to Mrs. Prelutsky's 8th grade graphic design class, but honestly that would only serve as an insult to Mrs. Prelutsky's 8th grade graphic design class.

Oh, who am I kidding, absolutely nobody over there noticed or gave a good goddamn. And it's just a stupid extraenous comma, for crying out loud; the least of the poster's worries. It's not as if the ad copy had included, say, the phrase "would of". Or ethnic slurs. Those who are smart enough to catch it should presumably be cool enough to let it slide. But it's late, I can't sleep, I'm already grumpy, probably entering a manic phase, and this kind of cranky nitpicking is what you do on the Internet so I'm doing it. The ad campaign is all in vain, anyway; I couldn't even tell you which channel number the CW network is on over here.

Tomorrow, let me tell you how I really feel about that thing I saw/ate/heard/slept on.

Why wait? Moses, what is up with LJ's new editing window? Minimal vertical space between lines and arrow keys that don't work the way they're supposed to. Sure, up and down arrows move up and down lines, but they always take you to the beginning of each line, even if there's text above or below that you're trying to move the goddamn cursor to. It's wholly counterintuitive and incredibly annoying, but it's an understandable enough design mistake. If made by someone who had never used any kind of word processing software before.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2011 12:18 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I actually sort of assumed, looking at it, that some Marketing Brain decided it was so simple that they didn't need to have a copywriter look at it.

I will not be watching it because, if I *were* watching live tv at 11 at night, I would be watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, no doubt just like Tina Fey does.
[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
When I was in college, I copyedited a campus magazine. I don't claim to be the pickiest person about grammar and punctuation, but it was enough work just keeping out the most egregious errors. The most frequent mistake was putting the comma after, rather than before, the word and joining two clauses.

The most frustrating thing was that nobody thought it was worthwhile to run photo captions past me, so they frequently had terrible errors in them.
[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
OH I NOTICED (hi, I'm from UHub). I just kind of gawped at it and thought, "Wow, that's dumb." It does grate on me every time I see it and I for one appreciate your grammatically correct well-punctuated rant. Also, yes, about the editor, I thought I had just had too much gin when I was trying to edit and the arrow kept going over to the beginning of the line. Glad to know it's them and not memy alcoholism.

Edited at 2011-09-18 01:33 pm (UTC)
Date:September 18th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
While I agree with everything in this post, I have to also note that this marketing campaign is also responsible for hiring 30 (!) actors, giving them wigs and page jackets, and setting them loose as a herd of Kenneths to hand out flyers and promote the show. And this is a beautiful thing.
[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to see you giving Mrs. Prelutsky's 8th grade graphic design class the benefit of the doubt. They're doing the best they can with limited resources.
[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Forget everything you know about 8th grade design shops. Mrs. Prelutsky has assembled some of the greatest minds of the junior high art world and put them together in one period. We're talking kids who have had their stuff showcased in the front hall five, six times. I'm not talking about the little windows in front of the art room--that's small-time peanuts--I mean the front hall. Next to the trophy cases. Do you comprehend the magnitude of the raw talent she's harnessed here?
[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
That type of comma needs a name. Commas are normally named after educational institutions, aren't they?
[User Picture]
Date:September 26th, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
They have those posters in Minneapolis too. Not sure what channel they're on. Probably 45, which is the foster-home for syndication in the Twin Cities.

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