Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

31.8.16

The New Retail Account, Part One: Clyde Ulster Arrives.

CLYDE P. ULSTER WAS A SANDY-HAIRED FAT MAN WHO HAD A RED FACE AND WORE A SUIT THAT WAS TOO BIG, BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WOULD MAKE HIM LOOK SMALLER. IT DIDN'T. CLYDE P. ULSTER LOOKED LIKE AN ELEPHANT IN A COLLAPSED CIRCUS TENT.

MR ULSTER STARTED WORKING AT ADVERTISING AGENCY BLAKE BROWNING BURNS ONE WINTER. HE APPEARED LIKE SO MANY CONSULTANTS DO - HE TURNED UP EVERY NOW AND THEN UNANNOUNCED; AND BEFORE WE KNEW IT, HE PART OF THE PLACE, BORING US TO DEATH AT FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS AND LAUGHING TOO LOUD AT THE MD'S JOKES.

CLYDE DROVE A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD NAVY BLUE MERCEDES 400SEL WHICH WAS COVERED IN DUST AND HAD A BACK SEAT FULL OF JUNK UP TO THE WINDOW SILLS. THE JUNK INCLUDED PLASTIC-BOUND INCH-THICK PRINT-OUTS OF POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS, YELLOWING AND DOG-EARED. THAT MEANT CLYDE P. ULSTER HAD EITHER EXACTLY THE WRONG ATTITUDE ABOUT POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS, OR EXACTLY THE RIGHT ONE. I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT WHICH. THE REST OF THE JUNK INCLUDED RETAIL BUSINESS TENDER DOCUMENTS WITH GARISH COVERS FEATURING BAR CHARTS AND SALES GRAPHS.

CLYDE P. ULSTER WAS A RETAIL ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE.

*

WAYNE (MD) TO A PACKED FRIDAY MORNING ALL-STAFF MEETING: I'm sure everyone has met Clyde. Clyde is this country's foremost expert in retail advertising. Clyde knows more about retail than any individual in the advertising industry. Clyde knows how retail ticks in this country. He knows the psychology behind retail. He knows what the housewife buys, why she buys it, when she buys it and who told her to.

DEAD SILENCE.

Clyde knows the housewife like not even her husband knows her.

A FEW TITTERS.

Clyde, say a few words.

CLYDE P. ULSTER (STANDS UP): Aaah, thanks Wayne. My reputation precedeth me, obviously. (LAUGHS UPROARIOUSLY, BUT NO-ONE ELSE DOES, SO HE STOPS.) No doubt many of you have seen me around the place, often in the photocopying room; and wondered exactly what I have been doing. I'll tell you.

But before I tell you, let me fill you in on just a little of the history of retail advertising in this country.

HE SHIFTS HIS STANCE AND GAZES INTO THE MIDDLE DISTANCE.

ALMOST AN HOUR LATER, THE FEW PEOPLE REMAINING IN THE BOARDROOM GIVE HIM WARM APPLAUSE. BECAUSE HE HAS FINISHED.

CLYDE (BEAMING): Any questions?

FROM THE BACK OF THE ROOM: Yeah. Can we go to lunch now?

CLYDE (MISSES THE SARCASM): Sure. I know just the place.

*

BACK IN THE CREATIVE DEPARTMENT. DECLAN, COPYWRITER, AND JESS, ART DIRECTOR, ARE DECIDING WHETHER TO WORK ON AN URGENT PRESS AD OR GO TO LUNCH. THEY DECIDE THE PRESS AD ISN'T ALL THAT URGENT. THEY EXIT AND CROSS THE ROAD TO SARATOGA'S CAFE, AN ORDINARY LUNCH SPOT WITH PRETENSIONS TO GREATNESS.

JESS (STARING AT THE SPECIALS BOARD): I'll have the angel hair pasta with crab meat, chili and ginger.

DECLAN: Sounds disgusting, Jess. I can't decide between the Caesar salad or the vegetarian foccaccia.

JESS: You've got no imagination, Deccy. I mean, come on, Caesar salad? Some tired cos, a few burnt bits of bacon and a slop of mayonnaise?

DECLAN: No, the Caesar is actually good here. They assemble it on the spot rather than dredging it from a cold bain marie like most places up and down St Kilda Road. What did you think of Clyde?

JESS: Fattest bore in advertising. That's two great achievements straight away. He's supposed to be landing a big retail client.

DECLAN: It better be good. I'm sick of working on industrial boltcutters, cat enemas, pest extermination chemicals and carpet glue.

JESS: You're never satisfied, Declan. That carpet glue campaign was actually quite creative.

DECLAN: Yes, but because it was x rated, it never actually ran.

JESS: Yeah. Well, carpet glue. It kind of suggests the obvious. Anyway, who cares it never ran? It still cleaned up at awards night.

DECLAN: I know. That's crazy. You don't need to actually run an ad to enter it in awards.

JESS: Of course not. But then, award judges don't go around checking minor details like whether an ad has run or not.

DECLAN: No. In fact, they don't go around checking any details at all. They spend three weeks in Cannes snorting white dust and then pointing a shaking finger at a board like pin the tail on the donkey. It's their reward for being gurus of the industry. And old and fat and almost dead.

JESS: You'll be like that one day, Dec; and then you'll be glad of a little chemically-induced stress relief.

DECLAN: No, I won't, Jess. Because I won't be in the industry any more. I'll be retired. It completely escapes me why people want to continue working twelve hour days into their late fifties. I've known creative directors who don't know their own children's names because they never see them except on weekends.

JESS: Speaking of creative directors, here comes Leopard.

(JESS CALLS OUT TO LEOPARD)

Hey, Leonard - I mean Leopard - any idea of what big-name retail account Clyde is bringing in? We want to know whether we should practice drawing fridges, ladies' fashions, cans of baked beans or circular saws.

LEOPARD: Jess, you couldn't draw any of those if your life depended on it. So why bother worrying?

JESS: Thanks for the vote of confidence in your top team, Leopard. And I'm not worried, I'm just mildly interested.

LEOPARD: Well, I don't know. I haven't spoken at length to the fat windbag. Although I did see some case studies from some of the traditional fashion houses of Europe and the US when he dropped his folder in the boardroom and everything fell out.

JESS: David Jones? Myer? Henry Buck's?

LEOPARD: We'll see.

HE GAZES AWAY. HE KNOWS.

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