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

16.11.17

Communication breakdown: things the client won't let you say.

It is late morning in the boardroom of advertising agency Blake Browning Burns. During the meeting, the account executive, Angelo, has briefed the creative team, Guy (writer) and Rob (art director), on a boring job - to write and design a brochure for an automobile client. Language warning.

ANGELO: So that's the brief, guys. Write a brochure promoting the Sniper Roadside Assistance Program.

GUY AND ROB TOGETHER: Great. (YOU CAN HEAR THE ENTHUSIASM IN THEIR VOICES. OR YOU COULD IF IT WAS THERE)

ANGELO: Happiness?

GUY: As happy as we could be on a dreary Tuesday morning having just been briefed on possibly the single most boring job in the history of advertising.

ANGELO: Stop complaining. You get paid.

ROB: We don't get paid enough for the pain we go through. Unlike you. You just drive up and down from St Kilda Road to your revhead client in Mulgrave and deliver bullshit at both ends.

ANGELO: You try it some time. The client hates me and you hate me. But that's all right. My wife loves me and so does my secretary. I've got all the love I need at the moment.

GUY: That'll end in tears. It always does. Then you won't feel any love from anyone. You'll just be a lonely cheating heel in an empty bar with a drink in front of you and no future except a bunch of regrets.

(PAUSES TO LET THAT SINK IN. ANGELO JUST STARES, OPEN-MOUTHED. SO DOES ROB)

Just one question, Angelo. It says here we can't mention the Sniper breaking down in relation to the Roadside Assist Program.

ANGELO: No, of course you can't. They don't want people to think Snipers break down.

ROB: But ... but ... it's a Roadside Assist Program. That's what they're for. When cars break down.

ANGELO: Yeah, but they don't want you to mention a Sniper breaking down. It's corporate policy to encourage the car buyer to register the keyword of 'reliability' with 'Sniper'.

GUY: Then why have a fucking Roadside Assist Program at all, Angelo?

ANGELO: Because all the other manufacturers have them, and you have to have one to be competitive.

ROB (LOOKS AT GUY): It's going to be one of those conversations, Guy.

GUY: It is already, Rob. Angelo, why don't you guys grow some balls and tell your client that artificially engineering the language to fulfill some marketing guy's idea of what should and shouldn't be said actually makes you look far worse than simply stating the truth in an understated but completely honest way?

ANGELO (BLINKING): What?

GUY: Come on Angelo, you're not that stupid, so don't pretend to be. Say you're a consumer and you read the Roadside Assist brochure. If it doesn't actually mention breaking down, it just looks blindingly obvious that they are bullshitting you and avoiding the issue. Because the first thing that comes to mind when you read this kind of stuff is breakdown, however minute the chance, no matter how reliable the vehicle. Even Rolls-Royces 'fail to proceed' sometimes, Angelo.

ANGELO: Yes, I know. My cousin in Kilsyth hired a white Roller for his wedding last month, and it broke down in Sassafras on the way to the reception. But we're not writing brochures for Rolls hire cars, we're writing one for Snipers. Anyway, in relation to the Roadside Assist Program, I don't think about breaking down so much as running out of petrol or locking my keys in the car.

ROB: Christ, Angelo, you're a contrary bastard sometimes. Plus, I actually saw a broken down Sniper the other day.

ANGELO: How do you know it hadn't run out of petrol?

ROB: The bonnet was up.

ANGELO: Doesn't prove anything. People put their bonnet up to warn other motorists that they are immobile.

ROB: Usually from breaking down. A friend of mine bought a brand new Audi a few months ago and it stopped on top of the West Gate Bridge - the engine management system had packed up within three weeks.

ANGELO: That's why Audis lose their value overnight, Rob.

GUY: Then why do you drive an Audi? Why don't you get yourself a Sniper that never breaks down?

ANGELO: Because Snipers do break down. We're just not allowed to admit it. And the Audi was cheaper.

GUY: I give up, Rob. Let's go to lunch.

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