"...And Make It Real Creative!": "The Nightmare Before Christmas Carol, And A Happy New Year's Resolution"

by Andy Capp

Let's keep this between you and me. Sometimes, at lunch, when I'm in my cubicle "catching up on my writing," I nod off. No big deal. Most of the staff won't set foot in my cube (better known as The Kellowland Triangle). Even if they did go snooping, "I was concentrating" seems like a good excuse. It's been a good time to catch a 20 minute catnap, until last week.

The alarm on my watch was chirping. Funny, I didn't remember setting it. Let's see, one o'clock. Still another hour before I hit the air...wait a minute! Okay, what joker turned off the lights in the office...and outside? It was like, night!

"Androcles!" Oh great! Only one person on the planet calls me that. So, I not only fall asleep at work, blow off my airshift (and the rest of the day and evening), but now the first person to find me is the General Manager! "Oh, hi Tom. I was, ahh, concentrating. So, what brings you here this time of night?" I took a good look at him for the first time. "And wearing a silk bathrobe...?" "I am the ghost of production past!" Good news -- if he's been hitting the gin, maybe he doesn't know about.... "I've come to show you your mistakes of your past!" Damn, I was busted! "Touch my robe." "Beg pardon?" "Touch my robe and we'll begin our Journey." "Look Tom, you're a great guy and all, but we're married men and...."

The next thing I know he grabs my wrist, and the air conditioner went on full blast. I must have still been half asleep because I'd swear we flew through the front office, ending up in front of the conference room! "Recognize anyone?" Tom asked, gesturing to the people around the table. "Well bless my 4-track," I exclaimed. "It's old Wezzifig! He was the first client I did spots for! He loved my work -- used to drop in just to laugh at the spots and tell me how great they were!" I stuck my head in the door, "Wez, how's it going?" "He can't hear you," Tom explained. "These are but shadows of client meetings past." At this point I was certain that years of sniffing head cleaner were finally taking their toll, but I decided to go along for the ride. "What happened to old Wezzifig?" "Don't you remember," Tom scowled. "He went bankrupt!" "Oh that's right -- I did some real funny going out of business spots for him. I'm trying to remember now...what was his business anyway?" Tom gave me that exasperated look he usually saves for when I bring up a digital workstation. "That was the problem, Androcles. People heard and laughed at the ads, but no one remembered who they were for or what he sold, so he didn't make enough money to keep his doors open." "Wait a minute! You're saying that my commercials made him go out of business?" "I'm saying that had the ads been targeted toward his goals, he might still be open today." "Great! So how am I supposed to know a client's goals?" Tom was backing away from me. "That is a question others must answer. My time here is short. Do not forget what we have discussed, Androcles."

"The alarm on my watch was chirping. I pried my eyes open...two o'clock! "Geez," I thought. "I'd better move or I really will miss my shift! That's when I noticed Tom standing in front of me. (Good to see him in a suit again!) "Oh, hi Tom! Gotta hit the air, but you have to hear about this dream I had." Then I noticed that the office was still dark, except for the glow from Tom's suit.

"I am the ghost of production present," he bellowed, "I am here to show you the mistakes you're making today!" "You know, you could have just written a memo," I said. "Look at your work and despair," he cried, pointing to my desk. So that's what this was about! "Look Tom, I know my desk is a pigsty. I promise I'll clean it up tomorrow!" "No, Androcles, I mean look at the production orders you've accepted from the sales staff!" I looked. The usual - a name and phone number scrawled on a piece of an Olive Garden menu, a business card with the sell line "lowest prices, highest quality" circled, a voided deposit slip with the words "Jim's place, great food, loves the Three Stooges, on air 8 a.m." written on it. Dozens of others, all a little more or less legible.

"What? You think I don't know these are lousy excuses for production orders? Am I supposed to blow off producing spots that are already logged because reps hate paperwork? Besides, I'm supposed to be the expert at creating something out of nothing." Tom shook his head and handed me a station coffee mug. "No thanks, Tom. I drink coffee now and I'll be up all night." "Drink this and see things as they should be!" At this point it seemed best to humor him. After all, he is the boss, he seemed insistent, and his suit was glowing.

I took a sip. Serious caffeine! My mind cleared, my vision sharpened, my sinuses dried up, and the fragments of orders on my desk suddenly looked different, even complete! Attached to each order was a list of questions about the clients business, his image, his goals. Even more amazing, some sales rep had filled in the answers!

"This is where it should all begin, Androcles," he explained. "Before the creative, before the sale, you must know what the client's needs and goals are. Only then will your creative be relevant. Only then will the sale reflect the purpose." "You mean the spot should come before the buy?" "I'm saying that you can sell a client a huge schedule and write a wonderfully creative ad, but if you and the rep don't know the goals of the client, the results won't be as good as they could be. It's like buying the best rod, reel, and lures, and fishing in a lake without knowing whether it's stocked with fish." "Okay, but why talk to me? Shouldn't the salespeople get the answers to those questions?" "And where should they get those questions, Androcles? Shouldn't they come from the person who needs the answers?" I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud. "The salespeople, listen to me? Tell me how to make that happen!" "My time here is done, Androcles, but your question will be answered soon enough."

I wasn't surprised when my watch was chirping again. You guessed it, still dark, now 3 a.m., my phantom GM standing there in a glowing Armani. "Don't tell me, the ghost of production yet to come, right?" He nodded. "And you're here to tell me how to make this great idea work?" Another nod. Funny, I've never known Tom to be at a loss for words.

Another blast of AC and we were standing in front of the Sales Manager's office. Peeking in, I saw the Sales Manager having a conversation with...me? I listened. I was using phrases like "process vs. marketing, developing business partnerships, long term customer satisfaction." The SM was even agreeing with me! Suddenly, my vision did one of those morphing EFX, and I was in the conference room, giving the same pep talk to the entire sales dept.! Another "industrial lights and magic" effect later, I'm in my office, talking over questions with our worst "drop the order on Andy's desk and run" sales rep!

I turned to my ghost boss. "Nice happy ending, Tom. Getting the Sales Managers support first is a good idea. One question, do you really think in the real world sales and creative can work together and make this work?" Tom's face darkened, the air conditioner really went nuts, and when the dust settled Tom pointed to my desk. My heart stopped. It, it was clean! A trade magazine opened to the want ads laid on the desk. There, circled in red, an ad with our logo on top. It read, "Wanted for immediate openings -- Creative Director and sales reps."

I thought I was screaming, but it was just my watch alarm again. "Oh come on," I moaned. "Even Scrooge only had to deal with three ghosts! I'll try! I'll try!" I opened my eyes. The lights were on, sun was even pouring through the windows! I looked at my watch -- 1:01 p.m.! Yes! The spirits did it all in one noon hour! I felt as light as a Christmas morning newscast, as giddy as a first day intern as I dashed to the Sales Managers office!

Epilogue: Andy was true to his resolution. He held meetings and put together questionnaires for the sales staff. As for Tom Simmons, the General Manager who was not dead but at a power lunch that noon hour, he was surprised and pleased that Andy actually absorbed the "goal-creative-budget-schedule" concept they had discussed over cocktails some months before. It was said of Andy by the sales staff that he might even be on to something, despite what one rep observed as Andy entered his first sales meeting, "God help us, everyone!"