In a boardroom high in a tall building in a big city. Through the window of the tall building can be seen scores of other tall buildings full of thousands of people doing important work useful to society in myriad ways, just like the people in this building; in fact, just like in this very boardroom.
If you were to look out the window and downwards, you would see ants walking around. The ants are people. These people are not doing any important work useful to society yet - except for the lunch delivery people - but they are on their way to do so, such as working in government departments or robbing a bank.
Guy, a copywriter, and Rob, an art director, are not staring out the window. They are sitting at the boardroom table looking at Craven, an advertising account director. Craven has a piece of paper in his hand and his gaze is directed at it. The piece of paper is a television script. Language warning.
CRAVEN: Guys, this is not a TV commercial, it's a fucking Raymond Chandler novel.
GUY (BELLIGERENTLY): Who's asking you, Craven?
CRAVEN: Well, you gave me the script, didn't you?
GUY: It's not that I don't value your opinion, Craven, it's just that this is a creatively-driven agency and when creative asks the account guy What do you think?, it doesn't mean Feel free to offer gratuitous derogatory comments, it means We're just letting you read it as a privilege before go and sell it and don't give me that devil's advocate bullshit that every account service idiot in the world trots out with boring regularity just for the sake of being hypercritical.
CRAVEN IS ABOUT TO SAY SOMETHING, BUT SAYS SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD: Well, thanks for giving me the privilege of letting me read your novel outline.
ROB: Great. We resist the idea of putting two clients in one ad, but you insist it's the way of the future and a great opportunity for unexpected scripting, so we write the fucking thing against our better judgement, and now you object. And they call creative people fickle.
CRAVEN: I'm not objecting, it just reads like an episode of Murder Inc. There are more characters than a Charles Dickens novel. You've got a retired military type who suffers accidental death possibly aided by a servant being derelict in his duty, a mother-in-law locked away in a nursing home for dementia sufferers, a greedy but stupid son, and a daughter-in-law who is prepared to murder for an instant inheritance. And that's just on first reading. You've probably got a couple of crooked casino operators and a cop on the take in there as well.
GUY: Craven, if you're going to blend snail bait and superannuation, you need a story. That is, if you want an interesting ad that people will actually watch. Otherwise change the snail bait to garden fertiliser and we can just have a print ad with a still shot of Buffalo Finance and a packet of fertiliser and a line that says Two Ways to Grow.
CRAVEN (LAUGHS OUT LOUD): Hey! That's good! I like it!
GUY: No, it's not good, Craven, it was sarcasm. You hate my ads and love my sarcasm. One of us is in the wrong business.
CRAVEN: It was good sarcasm, though, Guy. And we ARE both in the right business. Bank tellers don't have this much fun. Maybe restaurant reviewers or dog walkers or film stars or hookers. But no-one out there.
HE WAVES OUT THE WINDOW TOWARDS THE TALL BUILDINGS. A HELICOPTER BUZZES OVERHEAD AND DISAPPEARS TO THE RIGHT OF THE WINDOW. HE CONTINUES ...
But I'm not objecting to the concept, guys, I was just thinking ...
ROB: What, Craven?
CRAVEN (GAZING OUT THE WINDOW AS IF IN A TRANCE): I was just thinking ...
GUY AND ROB STIR RESTIVELY IN THEIR SEATS.
CRAVEN SNAPS BACK TO THE PRESENT AND SPEAKS IN A BUSINESSLIKE MANNER: Now don't jump down my throat. You know how the brief was originally a thirty second commercial but now it's a sixty?
(TAKES A DEEP BREATH)
Well, the way you've written it has made me think we can make it work even harder. That very last scene. Guys, you might be aware we have a fairly new client, Brewer's Fine Stationery. Well, they carry a range of upmarket deskware, one item of which is an extremely elegant rapier-like envelope opener. It's designed like a Malay Kris, which is one of the sharpest and deadliest knives in the world.
VERY PREGNANT PAUSE, THEN CRAVEN CONTINUES, WITH A BIG, WIDE, ENCOURAGING SMILE
What say we put Brewer's in the ad as well, with a third end super that says Nothing Cuts Like a Brewer's?
HIS SUGGESTION HANGS IN THE AIR LIKE A ... LIKE A SOMETHING THAT HANGS IN THE AIR AND STINKS, MAYBE THE ROTTING CARCASS OF A SHEEP.
GUY (QUIETLY AND WITH GREAT CONTROL): Craven, you cannot advertise an envelope opener on television by suggesting that you stab someone to death with it.
CRAVEN (OFFENDED): Well, you just did in your script.
GUY: It was just a plot detail, not the featured product, Craven.
CRAVEN: Well, you killed off the old man with snail bait.
ROB: That was different, Craven. That was accidental death by misadventure. It wasn't murder.
CRAVEN (UNDETERRED): He still died from the product. He still died during the ad.
All right then, it was just a thought. I'm just trying to help. It could mean an extra fifty grand plus media commission worth up to $500,000 just for the price of adding a super ...
ANOTHER PAUSE, CAUSED BY THE SUDDEN ALLURE OF DOLLAR SIGNS. CRAVEN CONTINUES WITH ADDED URGENCY
Then there's our picture framing client, Art Corners. With all that swanky furniture in the penthouse it would tie in nicely with the theme. What about You Can Frame Anything with an Art Corners Frame. Or their gilt mirror range: Look into our Mirrors. If the son had had a mirror in the right spot he could have seen her reach for the knife.
ROB: And then what, Craven?
CRAVEN: He could have reached under the sofa for his Luger and shot her dead before she stabbed him.
GUY: No, Craven.
CRAVEN: Then what about our pool construction client, Blue Water Inc - Drown Yourself in Sheer Luxury?
ROB: No, Craven ...
CRAVEN: Fantastic Faux Furs for the stole she's wearing? There’s Nothing as Genuine as a Fantastic Faux Fur!
ROB: He's on a roll.
Suddenly the helicopter returns back into view hovering exactly at the height of their floor level. It does a sudden bank towards the building and ... no, that would be in extremely bad taste.
In fact, the story ends as they so often do. They go to lunch. On the way down, the elevator stops at about thirty floors and public servants and insurance call centre staff get in. Some are wearing sweat-stained shirts, cardigans and bush-walking shoes and have those security scapula-like things around their necks telling them what their names are so they don't forget. Others are wearing holed running singlets and thirty-year-old stinking worn-out running shoes. At last, the elevator grinds to a halt at street level.
Craven, Guy and Rob get out last, holding their breath until they can light up and get some fresh smoke into their lungs to replace the fetid elevator air.
CRAVEN (GASPING): I love advertising.
GUY (LIGHTING UP): So do I. (COUGHS) And everyone in it.
ROB: Me too. We might have our arguments, but at least we don't have to wear those leotard things or whatever they are called.