Alcohol played an integral, but not excessive, part of agency life back in the ’80s and early ’90s. At least, it didn’t seem excessive to us. I imagine things have calmed down a lot since then, what with all the law suits and the whole societal disdain towards getting tipsy in the afternoon.
But I still fondly remember the sound of glass tinkling in the hallway outside my office at JWT as the president pushed a cart loaded with various bottles of hooch and mix, stopping at each door, and fixing whatever drink was requested. It wasn’t a frequent event, but it was a welcome one. And of course there were the liquid lunches at JWT South, a particular bar on Yonge Street that I won’t name because it wouldn’t be prudent — but it’s true that one of our female employees (I think she was in traffic) quit the company when she discovered that she could make more money as a dancer there.
And then there were the in-house parties. Halloween, of course. And Christmas. Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day. Flag Day. Tuesday.
And of course there were celebrations for landing an account.
Or losing one.
The point is, we drank, and we worked, and the one never interfered with the other.
I was always very good at holding my liquor. I could drink a fair amount, but always knew when to stop before I embarrassed myself.
But sometimes mistakes happened.
The worst, for me, occurred at a party held by a friend of mine who ran a public relations firm in the city. I no longer recall the reason for the party — if, indeed, there was one (perhaps it was Tuesday) — but the entire affair was attended by marketing and advertising people from numerous agencies.
There was also plenty of alcohol, including something I’d never run across before: Polar Ice.
Now Polar Ice is a particularly pure brand of vodka, and the custom at the time was to throw it in the freezer until it was literally ice-cold — but not frozen, of course, because of the alcohol content, which I believe was in the neighbourhood of 200%.
The nice thing about frozen vodka is that it doesn’t have the bite of regular vodka. It also takes a while to metabolise, which means you can drink several glasses before realising the effect it’s having.
In short, I got drunk.
Not bad on its own — there were a lot of intoxicated people there, and even drunk I can normally handle myself with at least a modicum of dignity. Which I did.
Oh sure, I performed a couple of magic tricks, but only by request, and those watching were suitably impressed. The fact that I didn’t screw up surely meant I was in control, if somewhat wobbly.
Now it’s important to understand that up to this point I had been behaving in an entirely acceptable fashion. I’d been having a discussion with a woman beside me on the couch about Thompson’s 25-year mark with the Pepsi account, and I could tell that I was being coherent because my wife was still smiling at me.
And then he walked in.
“He” was the man who had re-imaged the entire concept of the detergent commercial, for both laundry and dish. His spots featured people talking happily while doing the washing-up, and while the product was never spoken of, it was prominently displayed as part of the cheerful scene. One spot featured a little girl helping her mother bring in the laundry and getting excited as her teddy bear was taken down from the line.
I wanted to tell this man how much I respected the direction he’d taken with the new spots. I wanted to explain to him that, while ads which didn’t mention the product were normally ineffective, his use of visuals had overcome this objection beautifully. I wanted to tell him that he was an advertising genius.
Unfortunately, somewhere between standing up, and reaching for his hand, a whole bunch of Polar Ice which, until that moment, had been hiding somewhere in my metabolism biding its time, decided to strike. I discovered that my feet were suddenly completely To stay on my suddenly untrustworthy, and the only recourse I had for staying on my feet was to grab his jacket lapel while shaking his hand.
Remembering that there was something I’d wanted to say, I blurted out, “I looove the teddy bear!”
That was the extent of my verbal acuity. I stood for a moment longer, attempting to work out how much of what I’d meant to say had actually been said, while also trying to figure out why I seemed incapable of standing without support. Since the standing part was temporarily being taken care of by hanging onto this fortunately-placed jacket lapel, I opted to continue my discourse on advertising.
“I looove the teddy bear,” I said, vaguely aware that I’d already said something similar. Unable to think of how to progress from there when I had a sudden flash of insight, and said, “I looove the teddy bear.”
It was sad. And I never touched Polar Ice again, nor got that intoxicated.
Even worse — I never could remember his name.
But if by any chance he stumbles upon this blog and is reading this, I just want to tell him: “I loooove the teddy bear.”
In Britain, Talk Talk is engaging in a reverse pickpocketing scheme. In a move intended to show that companies can put money back into the pockets of consumers, as well as taking it out, the mobile phone and broadband provider has sent out 20 “putpockets” into the streets of London where they will slip five pound or 20 pound notes into the pockets and purses of unsuspecting people. “With so many scams out there, Britons have become very sceptical of companies giving money away,” said TalkTalk’s Mark Schmid. “We have turned to put-pocketing to give something back. Whilst unconventional, we don’t think anyone is going to mind finding a crisp £20 in their pocket.” Read more…
Imagine the scene. The Allied forces are storming the beaches of Normandy. People are getting shot all over the place. There are explosions and screams and the firing of automatic weapons. Finally, after hours of fighting, the German forces retreat and the beachhead has been won.
You know what didn’t happen next? What didn’t happen next was the Allied forces gathering up all their stuff and then buggering off home. And you know why that didn’t happen next?
Because that would have been a guerrilla warfare tactic. And they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics. And do you know why they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics?
Because they weren’t bloody idiots! Read more…
A few days ago we looked at the Prius commercial, “Futurewow,” in which a Prius drives the streets of the city while onlookers whistle a tune whose message suggests that we’ve got plenty enough nature and don’t need any more. (Prius ad says, “Enough with nature, already!)
Now I’m happy to report a spot that gets it right.
The new commercial, created for the NorCal Dealers Association by the Hoffman/Lewis agency, follows their previous “Yes” campaign, which focuses on the high percentage of Prius owners who say they would buy it again. In the new spot, which strikes me as more powerful, people speak about its special features. Rather than promoting the vehicle solely through a message about the advantages to the environment, such as Saatchi’s “Harmony” ads in which the landscape turns green as the car passes by, the Hoffman/Lewis spot promotes it by means of a message about the advantages to the owner. Read more…
On August 9, I wrote about Ikea’s interesting but flawed and illegal attempts to jump on the guerrilla advertising bandwagon (Ikea’s advertising guerrilla ordered to clean up after itself). In it I told how Zig, Ikea’s advertising agency in Canada, cleverly promoted Ikea’s new catalogue and contest through television commercials and urban vandalism. The campaign offered a difficult-to-remember URL, without ever mentioning the company, the catalogue, nor the contest. The only time Ikea’s name came up was through the news media as they reported on the complaints being lodged against Ikea by city officials and small business owners. Read more…
Considering that Prius has positioned itself as a “green” vehicle, friendly to nature and a favoured son (daughter?) of the goddess Gaia, it’s puzzling that their new ads should be so antagonistic towards nature.
The new campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, Toronto, features a Prius driving around while awe-struck bystanders whistle the venerable Burt Bacharach and Hal David song, “What the World Needs Now.” Read more…
I was in the doctor’s office today. Nothing serious — I just suffer from a fatal disease called Life.
But that’s not the point. The point is, while sitting in the waiting room I came across BP Magazine, a magazine for those suffering from bipolar disorder. It’s a glossy, professional, and remarkably interesting publication with such articles as Bipolar in the Media, which explores the growing recognition of bipolar disorder in movies and television shows.
But what caught my attention wasn’t the content of the magazine so much as its specialised nature: if you don’t have a bipolar disorder, or know someone who does, it’s not likely you’re going to have a copy of BP sitting on your living room coffee table. Read more…