While this old saying may not make a reference to today’s world, it is still dead-accurate when it comes to the costs.
We know by now that words are not free, as a company needs to pay for writing, copywriting, translation, proofreading, and other similar services. However, regardless of the cost of the words, if we use them wrong, the entire success of a campaign may be in jeopardy.
True, it may seem like an exaggeration. How can a wrong word endanger an entire project?
Well, it depends on the word and where it is used in the campaign’s message. So, to show you the power of words, below are five of the most well-known proofreading screwups and their not-so-happy effects.
Why you Should Proofread Printed Materials
While web pages and ads can be edited, printed materials are a lot more sensitive. If you don’t believe us, just ask the Ottawa County, Michigan who, in the November 7, 2006 election ballot let slip a tiny typo that completely changed the context of one of the proposed items.
What was the mistake? Nothing extremely serious; they just misspelled the word public into pubic! So, what should have been a proposal “In the public interest” became one “In the pubic interest”.
This tiny typo ended up being a $40,000 expense for the county’s general fund and earned them a permanent mention in the proofreading screwups hall of fame.
The Devil is in the Detail
Each language has its own difficulties, but since English is universally used for commercials, we’ll talk about the correct use of the apostrophe.
First, let’s see what happens when this tiny symbol is missing:
In 2011, the clothing brand Old Navy used the lettering “Lets Go!” on an entire shipment of t-shirts. As you can imagine, they had to pull them out of stores and spend extra money to print and ship new t-shirts.
And, in case you’re wondering, the correct version is “Let’s Go!”
Another such example of proofreading fail comes from Victoria’s Secret, where the ad creators were too generous with the apostrophes. They used the following lettering for a campaign: ”You’ve never seen body’s like this!”.
The correct version is “You’ve never seen bodies like this!”
This misspelling is a lot easier to spot than the first one and it shows a gruesome misuse of the English language, which didn’t look well for such a well-established brand.
Remember when we told you proofreading fails are costly?
Well, in 2006, Alitalia (an Italian airline) learned this the hard way. Due to a clerical error, their site advertised a flight from Toronto to Cyprus at just $39 (the actual cost being $3,900). As you can imagine, customers didn’t wait too long to use the amazing discount and over 2,000 tickets were purchased before the company discovered the mistake.
The result of this proofreading screwup? A loss of over $7 million since the airline was forced to honour the price for the tickets that were already sold!
A PR Nightmare
We talked about the humiliation of brands and public figures and we talked about the financial implications of proofreading fails. But a small misplaced word can also cause a huge scandal, with deep implications for a lot of people.
This is what happened for Penguin publishing when they recommended people to season their pasta with “salt and freshly ground black people”. As you can imagine, the blowout was huge, and the company had to invest heavily in public relations to show it was just a mistake and there was no intention behind it.
We know proofreading doesn’t look like a big deal, but after reading all these stories, are you still willing to risk the success of your campaign and the reputation of your brand?
Keep in mind that all the stories above happened after the materials have been reviewed internally by several people. As it happens, professional proofreading is a valuable service because it gives you a fresh perspective on the material.