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Toyota is running a Super Bowl campaign called:

THE ‘CAMRY EFFECT A FRIEND’ GIVEAWAY Every Camry has a story. Yours could start on February 5th.

I see some Twitter comments mentioning this is grammatically incorrect or obscure. I understand advertising campaigns may juggle the English language to create an effect (no pun) however in and of itself, is "effect a friend" proper usage in any context?

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3 Answers

Toyota's ad campaign is "The Camry Effect."

Camry Effect is a concept; it's not meant to be read as two unrelated words.

If we represent Camry Effect by the noun CE, Toyota's ad agency is turning CE into a verb, and saying "CE a friend."

It's like taking "The Very Bad Buzzword" and turning it into "Very Bad Buzzword a friend."

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And then slapping giveaway onto the end of the whole sorry mess: "The 'Very Bad Buzzword a Friend' Giveaway". –  Hugo Feb 5 '12 at 22:02
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Used, that way, effect means to cause to come into existence. So to "effect a friend" is to cause a friend to come into existence.

I think we're supposed to understand it as "Camry effect a friend". That is, roughly, cause a friend to experience the effect of owning a Camry by winning them one.

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Sorry I didn't see this answer as I was writing mine at the same time. I think that this is a possible interpretation but I also think that the word 'friendship' would need to substitute the word 'friend' to make it correct. Having said that, it is an advertisement and advertisers have poetic licence and perhaps they found this version more catchy and appealing. In any event, (in my eyes) it is an odd little phrase. –  Rachel Feb 5 '12 at 6:34
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Heh, "Camry effect a friend" is horrible. They're verbizing a noun phrase. I would argue that at best, it is only acceptable if Camry-effect is hyphenated; otherwise it looks nonsensical. –  Jez Feb 5 '12 at 14:26
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'Effect' can be a noun (meaning, primarily and inter alia, the result of something) or a verb (to cause something to happen i.e. to bring about).

Although I am unaware whether or not this is necessarily the issue in question, 'effect' is prone to confusion with 'affect' (in brief, a verb meaning to have an influence/impact on something/someone).

Here are some examples:

'Is Sally's depression an effect of her father's death'. - 'Effect' = noun --> is the depression is a result of her father's death?

'Sally's father's death effected change in all areas of her life.' - 'Effect' = verb --> the death caused change in Sally's life.

'The death of Sally's father really affected her'. - 'Affect' = verb --> The death had a significant impact on Sally.

You may already know all of this but I am trying to demonstrate that we couldn't really say, 'effect a friend'. That would mean 'to cause a friend'. You could say, 'Their perilous journey effected a lifelong friendship' but to 'cause a friend' in itself, in my view, is incomplete and meaningless. I would say that this slogan is grammatically incorrect and I think you raise a good point as to whether or not there is a play on words happening here.

I'm personally missing the point of the slogan. The only way it could make any sense to me is perhaps if the competition involves winning a camry in order to give it to somebody which would effect a friendship. However, this interpretation seems a bit stretched and, in any case, the word 'friendship' would be preferable to 'friend'. I wonder what was going on in the mind of the person who came up with the slogan - is there something clever that we're missing? (probably not!) or is it just poor English? (which in my opinion seems to be the case!)

I apologise for my final sentences (namely, "is there something clever that we're missing? (probably not!) or is it just poor English? (which in my opinion seems to be the case!)") as, in all honesty and despite my love of punctuation, I'm not sure where the question marks should be and I'm aware that the comments in parentheses do not constitute complete sentences. I'm not raising a question here I'm just letting you know that I'm aware of the errors and perhaps these sentences are ripe for editing.

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To "effect" something is not just to cause it, but to cause it to come into being. To "effect a change" is to cause that change to come into being. To "effect a friend" is to cause a friend to come into being. I'm not sure why you think that's incomplete and meaningless. If one was friendless, one might pray that god would "effect a friend" for you, that is, bring one into being. I don't think there's any poetic license involved (unless we're supposed to understand it as "Camry effect a friend"), I think they just chose the wrong word. –  David Schwartz Feb 5 '12 at 6:48
    
Sorry David, you're absolutely right! I actually wrote that and then deleted it. Even with that meaning in mind, the phrase itself would only make sense is a scenario like my hypothetical wherein you will make a friend because you won the camry (so maybe you win the car to give it away). With your definition that I overlooked you can certainly say, 'effect a friend' but as you said I think they did choose the wrong word. There would be more appropriate contexts in which to use 'effect a friend' as you described it. –  Rachel Feb 5 '12 at 6:54
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