"...And Make It Real Creative!": Welcome To My Nightmare!

by Andy Capp

I'm not sure what brought me to my senses, the deafening orchestra of gunfire from the hall, or the putrid bucket of water they threw in my face.

The bald Orca with "Manson Was Right!" tattooed across his forehead leaned his nearly toothless mouth to my ear and rasped, "That's your cue, Darling!" He grabbed my hair and dragged me toward the door. I tried to sucker punch the reeking behemoth, but still groggy from the clocking that got me there in the first place, all I got for my trouble was a size thirteen steel-toed pain that would linger.

An inhuman roar grew louder as I was pushed/pulled down the slime-encrusted corridor. The squat toad shoving me along from behind with the business end of a sawed off double barrel hacked up a chuckle and said, "Good crowd tonight!" Elephant Man seemed to get a big kick out of that. He grabbed me by the shoulders, brought us nose to snotty nose, and, treating me to another gust of his manure pile breath, yelled, "Hear that, Elvis? Your fans are waiting for ya to rock and roll!" Elvis? Rock and roll?! I might have started putting it all together, but Old Baldy gave me a head butt that made it hard enough just to concentrate on the steps I was now crawling up.

It was damn bright at the top. Finally focusing through the lights, my nausea, and the blood in my eyes, the first thing I saw was the bullet riddled body they were dragging past me down the stairs. Funny, I could've sworn I'd seen the deceased before. Some movie...Lethal Weapon, maybe?

They chained me to a stool in the middle of the "stage." The hysterical, leather-clad "audience" surrounded me with curses and weapons. When they set the microphone stand in front of me, the mob howled. Was I to plead my case? Beg for mercy?

It was then I noticed the monitor flickering to life over my head. The crowd went silent for a moment, then the chant began. "Kareokee! Kareokee! Kareokee!" A dim light of realization and hope shone at the end of the tunnel my mind was racing through. I might have a chance! If there was some small pure sound left in my broken body, perhaps I could sing my way out of this!

Alas, as the first words of the song danced across the screen, I realized that I had been baited into false hope. Every gun in the house was cocked and aimed as the first notes of Feelings blurted from the megaphones. I laughed in spite of myself at the Catch 22 irony of it all. No matter how wonderful my voice was, no matter how beautifully I interpreted the lyric, the audience would hate the song, and these worst of all critics would soon send me to Rock and Roll Hell.

I've had this nightmare several times since I've been in radio. It always comes the night after a client has refused what I thought was a perfect commercial for his business, simply because he refuses to buy our station.

There's always a reason, of course: their budget might already be eaten up by Cable, years ago a rep from our station may have messed up and the client is still holding a grudge, or perhaps they golf with the GM from Brand X every Wednesday.

Yes, there is always a reason. My problem is, being your average neurotic creative type, I take any refusal of my work personally. It doesn't matter that the spot isn't the problem, that the only reason my work is going to the trash is that the client wouldn't buy our station if it were the last outpost of advertising in the universe. The matter irking me and causing bad Mad Max rip-offs in my dreams is that my work is now as useful as yesterday's banana peel, and is now headed to the same dumpster.

I decided to do something about it. So, like Windows 95, I opted for a recycling bin rather than a trash can.

It's quite simple, really. Whenever a client gives an idea the thumbs down, I take the ad to other reps to see if they have a similar client we can "recycle" the spot to. Example, a rep thought she'd get a heating and cooling company on the air promoting fall furnace checkups. I came up with a fifties sitcom send-up called "That Helpless Dad" that illustrated the consequences of letting the Tim Allen of the house mess with the heating system: "...better call in the pros from...Yadda, Yadda, Yadda." Mr. Furnace listens to the ad, yawns, then dismisses the rep with the fact that all his money is going to print for the next six months.

Hearing what happened, I jumped into action (okay, I growled a minute or two, then jumped into action). I went to all the other salesfolk who had heating and cooling dealers on their account lists and looked for a client we could recycle the idea to. A rep jumped on it. So did their client, and we not only got a fat up-sell out of the deal, but also an Addy! This, by the way, got back to Mr. Furnace, who called screaming about giving "his idea" to the competition. Even the rep enjoyed this little slice of revenge!

Recycling has been a way to get a handle on a problem that was beyond my control before. It has worked many times, and I have yet to go more than a second client deep with a good idea.

I used to do a lot of ranting and raving about my work getting lost in the political shuffle between clients and the station. With the recycling program, my work finds a home, proves its worth, gets the station a buy, and makes me look like a hero instead of a whiner...at least about that problem.

Now if I could figure out a program that gets rid of that dream where the song is winding down and I can't find any other CDs or the microphone....

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