We get letters


Hi Paul,

I think Maclean’s has done a terrific job with the three covers this week. But credit really must go to the media director here at Bensimon Byrne, Tatania Tucker. The idea was to create an impactful magazine ad buy for our client Hyundai to launch their Genesis model. She and her team proposed the three cover idea to a number of magazines, including Macleans. Several took us up on it.

I’ll grant you that you guys have taken full advantage of it. And your art direction is outstanding. But it’s a little misleading to blog about it as purely an editorial concept.

Jack Bensimon

Bensimon Byrne


We get letters

  1. you tell him, jack! (also, can i please have a genesis?)

  2. Does Hyundai have an ad behind each cover?

  3. Unless Bensimon Byrne came up with the 3 cover/3 leader concept, Mr. Bensimon is somewhat off base. (I would be interested to see how other magazines used Ms. Tucker’s concept, because I suspect that without the 3 leaders justifying such a cover, it would be far less engaging.)

  4. Oh, so it’s just a way to sell cars. Okay, I’m now much less interesting in picking up a copy of Maclean’s. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  5. Don’t run yourself down, Shawn. I’m quite sure you’re just as interesting as always. And you’re welcome.

  6. As someone who teaches MBA students, I have to apologize on behalf of our field for creating the word ‘impactful’. We are truly sorry.

  7. I have just flagged your comment for abuse, Paul. Now you’re in for it.

  8. Noooooooooooo!!!!!

  9. Mike,
    Don’t be sorry – “impactful” is not a bad word at all and has no immediate replacement that I can think of.

    And as for the three-cover concept, it certainly satisfies my sense of irony that this bold editorial initiative originated as part of a sales campaign. And maybe it will help Scott get out of his 15 year old Accent and into some new wheels, so it’s all good!

  10. You guys are flogging Hyundais? My neighbor had one of the first models. It exploded every time you turned the key.

  11. Everytime? Obviously rather trivial explosions…

  12. The floor was made from old shoe-boxes!

  13. Anyone that uses ‘impactful’ probably also uses ‘action’ as a verb. Or ‘buy’ as a noun.

  14. “Everytime? Obviously rather trivial explosions…”

    Well… that is kind of how an internal combustion engine works.

  15. Hey Paul,

    Just between you and me, I’ve secured the patent for – get this now – a FOUR COVER magazine.

    Now I’ve got People magazine waving a fat wad of bills under my nose for the rights to this (something about a Britney, Lindsay, Paris and Jessica special…). But I like you guys at Maclean’s, so make me an offer…

  16. In all seriousness, my initial reaction to Mr. Bensimon was this:

    Seems to me to be a bit odd when an advertising or PR firm rushes to take credit for a national newsmagazine’s cover layout — a truly interesting one; during a national election — broadcasting that this was not a creative decision on the magazine’s part, but rather, a way to sell Hyundais.

    I can’t see how that helps.

  17. Mike,
    “Everytime? Obviously rather trivial explosions…”

    “Well… that is kind of how an internal combustion engine works.”

    In which case, a positive result. And the recycled shoe box floor – how green is that?

  18. Good Lord, how much more self-referential can the media get?

  19. Did he just tell me to look at the 3 page fold out in Genesis magazine? Okee dokee!

  20. Well, I suppose we could print T-shirts.

  21. My first reaction was that the letter was a free and easy way to create buzz for their client’s product at a high-traffic website. No doubt Bensimon has sent a link to this post to Hyundai.

    We’re all falling into their trap by continuing to talk about it…

  22. I will never forgive Hyundai for the Stellar. The most misleading name for a car. Ever. I swear I pushed that thing more than I drove it.

  23. Now I’m beginning to wonder if the brilliant and estimable Tania Tucker (swoon!) has in fact rigged this whole election thingy as a way to sell Elantras.

    Levels within levels, people. Think about it. The truth is out there.

  24. People, Bensimon/Hyundai are playing chess…
    Take your checkerboards elsewhere.

  25. I knew this whole thing smacked of a diabolical Korean conspiracy. They’re in league with the liberal mainstream media, people!

  26. I find it odd that Jack Bensimon would write in trying to claim credit. Aren’t ad people suppose to be like speech writers, we know they are there, but they aren’t supposed to claim credit for their work.

    Seen, not heard, should be Bensimon’s motto.

  27. “Don’t be sorry – “impactful” is not a bad word at all and has no immediate replacement that I can think of.” — Bill Simpson

    Hey, Bill, “impactful” is NOT a word, let alone a good one. And if you can’t think of a replacement, I suggest you look into some ESL classes.

  28. jwl: “I find it odd that Jack Bensimon would write in trying to claim credit. Aren’t ad people suppose to be like speech writers, we know they are there, but they aren’t supposed to claim credit for their work.”

    Right you are. But since B&B (as they’re known in the racket) wants to bathe in the glow of their genius, now would be a good time to remind readers that Bensimon Byrne was the brains behind the Martin Liberal’s “soldiers…in our streets” ad that played a big role in sinking the party for good in 2006. A grateful nation thanks you.

    I doubt Jack will be writing in to take credit.

  29. Hey Tim, how about “snottypedantful”, is that a word?

  30. Charles H: You’re right, although you’ll notice only one dictionary contains the word. Contrast that with the word “effective,” the first synonym that comes to my mind: results in 7 dictionaries. Let’s call it a neologism.

  31. Jeremy: Yes, only one dictionary has the word. However, since the comment was that it wasn’t a word to begin with, well… to paraphrase the Beatles:

    All you need is one! (Doot doo doo dee doo.) All you need is one! (Doot doo doo dee doo.) All you need is one! One! One is all you need.

  32. Bad form, Jack Bensimone.

    A sad necessity of working in advertising is you never take public credit for your ideas, ever, even if you’re convinced you’re a genius. In exchange you get heaps of money and the love of your children for dropping them off at school in a BMW instead of Hyundai.

    Feschuk gets the byline and the kids with permanent wedgie. You picked the Beemer. Deal with it.

  33. Feschuk’s kids have a permanent wedgie? Yikes! Is that impactful or what!

  34. I doubt the efficacy of words like impactful. They lack potency. Alternative words would be far more efficacious in expressing one self in english.

  35. Back in the Middle Ice Age when I was a student there were five words that, if used with persistence, could guarantee a pass in one business course – creative, innovative, pro-active, collegial, and collaborative.
    One superstar used them all in the same sentence.

  36. “Impactful” is not a word. Just because people start using it does not make it a word. If people keep this up, we’re going to have to restrict the productivity of the -ful suffix. Clarityful enough for ya?

    Plus, I think using “impactful” in the context of Hyundais is in very poor taste.

  37. “Just because people start using it does not make it a word.”

    Actually, that is EXACTLY what makes something a word.

    Consult the OED, and its excellent history on the many, words in the English language that were simply invented.

    I’m no fan of the word “impactful” myself, but if it gets written down in actual publications enough times, it will be a word.

    Tha language evolves.

  38. Bensimon Byrne?

    Isn’t that the same crowd that came up with the “Soldiers in the Streets” ad the last time out?

  39. That was meant to be “The” language evolves, but chalk it up to some completely unintentional irony.

  40. Actually, Matthew Fletcher, the OED is not the final authority on the nature of the English language.

    “The language evolves.” Yes, it does, but that does not mean that “the language” includes every bit of slang that happens to pass through our collective word-hoard every year. Otherwise there would be no language, or at least no basis for asserting that any particular word means anything.

    Say you misuse “nauseous” to mean “nauseated.” (Not that you would, but some do.) Does that change the meaning of the word? Is meaning purely a question of intention? Does the same apply to spelling? Why not?

    The path of relativism, my friend, begins with language. I beg you to shed your democratic instincts on that score.

  41. If anyone is curious, incidentally, exactly why “impactful” is both not a word and not worthy of being a word, here’s the reason:

    “Impact,” in the sense of “having an impact,” is the source of “impactful.” But “impact” in that sense is a metaphor. It envisions a big hurtling space-object (or something) striking the collective consciousness (or something) and leaving a permanent crater (or something). As a metaphor, I believe this is quite a recent one, no more than 50 or 60 years old (if that).

    Since “impact” in this sense is a metaphor, you can’t use the productive suffix -ful to make a new word from it, because that involves making the metaphorical noun concrete: as though it meant “impact” in a general sense. There is no such word in English, all impacts are specific. Thus “impactful” can’t mean “full of impact” because “impact” is not an abstract.

    What do you think, better than some half-assed online dictionary?

  42. The counter: English is not a dead language.

  43. Jack Mitchell

    You are what David Foster Wallace referred to as a SNOOT.

    Definition of a Snoot: “There are lots of epithets for people like this–Grammar Nazis, Usage Nerds, Syntax Snobs, the Grammar Battalion, the Language Police. The term I was raised with is SNOOT. The word might be slightly self-mocking, but those other terms are outright dysphemisms. A SNOOT can be defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it.

    I submit that we SNOOTs are just about the last remaining kind of truly elitist nerd. There are, granted, plenty of nerd-species in today’s America, and some of these are elitist within their own nerdy purview (e.g., the skinny, carbuncular, semi-autistic Computer Nerd moves instantly up on the totem pole of status when your screen freezes and now you need his help, and the bland condescension with which he performs the two occult keystrokes that unfreeze your screen is both elitist and situationally valid). But the SNOOT’s purview is interhuman social life itself. You don’t, after all (despite withering cultural pressure), have to use a computer, but you can’t escape language: Language is everything and everywhere; it’s what lets us have anything to do with one another; it’s what separates us from the animals; Genesis 11:7-10 and so on. And we SNOOTS know when and how to hyphenate phrasal adjectives and to keep participles from dangling, and we know that we know, and we know how very few other Americans know this stuff or even care, and we judge them accordingly.

    In ways that certain of us are uncomfortable about, SNOOTs’ attitudes about contemporary usage resemble religious/political conservatives’ attitudes about contemporary culture: We combine a missionary zeal and a near-neural faith in our beliefs’ importance with a curmudgeonly hell-in-a-handbasket despair at the way English is routinely manhandled and corrupted by supposedly literate adults. Plus a dash of the elitism of, say, Billy Zane in Titanic–a fellow SNOOT I know likes to say that listening to most people’s public English feels like watching somebody use a Stradivarius to pound nails. We are the Few, the Proud, the More or Less Constantly Appalled at Everyone Else.”

  44. Wow JWL : now that was a snootfull!

  45. Thanks, jwl, now I can self-identify!

    Well, it’s a fact that most people today – anglophones especially – don’t care about language, but that has not always been the case. The ordinary prose of newspapers and casual correspondence from the 19th century was way better than what you generally see today (though I think we’re pretty darn good here on the Maclean’s blogs, no?). In fairness, I wasn’t the one to bring up “insightful.”

    With all due respect to a dead man, I don’t see how being in favour of logic – the foundation of pedantry – is like being a religious fundamentalist. I’m glad to belong to any sect that has George Orwell as its patron saint.

    FWIW, I’m not against change in language, provided that that change proceeds in an orderly manner and does not involve the use of meaningless words.

    But now I’m sounding humourless, which is surely an essential feature of snootism.

    What’s the etymology of snoot, do you know? Sounds Saxon.

  46. Sorry, can’t bear to type “impactful,” but I meant to say I wasn’t the one to bring that one up.

  47. Jack M

    The essay on SNOOTs is one of the funniest things I ever read because there are one or two SNOOTs in my family and I recognized the symptoms. I thought of you because of the word Sprachgefühl and you seem to like foreign words/expressions. I just thought it was appropriate after I read your short post on why impactful is not a word.

    SNOOT an acronym for “Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance” or “Syntax Nudniks of Our Time”

    SNOOT (n) (highly colloq) is Wallace’s nuclear family’s nickname à clef for a really extreme usage fanatic, the sort of person whose idea of Sunday fun is to hunt for mistakes in the very prose of Safire’s column.

  48. Ah, wicked, thanks jwl! I’ll try and track down the Wallace essay. Bound to bolster my Sprachgemuetlichkeit.

  49. You guys have far too much time on your hands, but I am pleased to have kicked up some dust here. For what it’s worth, my mind always jumps to that most undignified of medical problems – the impacted stool – whenever I read about an “impactful” advertisement, since it just fits the meaning so well.

  50. I would rather be “snottypedantful” than one of the vandals sacking the language. Yes, of course, the language evolves, but some of us love it enough to want it to grow and change in a good way rather than be diminished and ultimately destroyed by politicians, ad men and MBAs.

  51. Back to the whole “credit for the idea” thing for a minute…

    From what I’ve been told, the concept was pitched by the Cottage Life team to Bensimon-Byrne, who then took it to other magazines, such as Maclean’s, Canadian Business, Profit and Moneysense.

    The idea ORIGINATED in the States, with the New Yorker, which published a triple cover in the spring.

    Marco Ursi
    Editor, Masthead (the magazine about magazines)

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