Cotton Candy @ The Amusement Park –
It was a very cold winter day, the kind that you tuck our chin into your chest as you walk down the narrow city streets on a bone chilling grey day. There were many a day like that, but this one was about to be tagged as one that would forever become folklore in our tight knit ad community.
Our agency had a brought in a new client and was arriving that morning. One of our young teams had been awarded the sexy new assignment. I was envious, that I was not on that team, because I saw it as a chance to do some really creative work in an interesting new category.
A meeting had been set with the CEO of the company, a young man whose father was a very successful businessman in the area. The product was a Waterbed retail store; at that time waterbeds were very vogue and were associated with the young professionals that also frequented Head & Smoke Shops. So this CEO’s dad thought it would be a good fit for his young son.
As we wandered into the agency that morning, warming up with the traditional cup of coffee and donuts the agency provided each and everyday. What a fine tradition it was. The young team was in the conference room preparing for a briefing going over a list of fact-finding questions they had for the young CEO who was about to arrive.
I sat in my office across the hall from the conference room working on my client’s business while Stan; the lead account supervisor prepaired the young team. Now Stan was a 4.0 journalism graduate from Carnegie Mellon who could hold his own in any room on any intellectual level was also a magnet that attracted the eclectic ad crowds because of his entertaining, loveable and just fun to be around personality. He was also known to enjoy the fine art of smoking natural herbs and shots of Wild Turkey.
Next to Stan sat the young Media Planner Patty. Now Patty was very, very easy on the eyes, one of those types that as smart as she was sexy. A few years later Patty would later go on to become the fourth person hired by Rupert Murdoch when he started the Fox Network.
Those were the two main characters in this story and with them were in the meeting were the young ad, writer and account executive all armed with a list of questions and eager to meet the CEO. Once the client arrived, the introductions were made. He’s was much younger than they first thought, surprisingly he was about the same age as most of them in that room, in his early twenties.
This gave the team a great sensation of bonding and they saw it as a chance to work with a client they could relate to.
As they assembled in one of the main conference room designed to give the appearance of a power meeting room, where the table was long and wide. Setting on the table were Styrofoam cups filled with coffee and ashtrays strategically placed, at that time in the ad biz smoking was as common as the three-martini lunch.
As the attractive young team got to work, Stan started with the traditional questions. During that time, I am told, the client was becoming visually restless till finally after about 15 minutes one question the group asked, set off the Charles Manson personality of the young client. They asked…”What would it take to stick a hole or puncture the lining of these beds?”…. The client sat there dazed for a moment, then quickly stood up while reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a knife, now as the story was told the size of the knife kept growing till it was described as the kind used by the military for serious hand-to-hand combat. The client instantly flicks it open with a twist of his wrist and then proceeds to talk wildly and loudly working himself into an insane screaming frenzied dialogue of chants….”this knife could gut a pig…I am a bird…A plane” and on and on while unconsciously waving the knife chopping the top of a Styrofoam coffee cup spattering coffee across the room as if it were blood spraying the agency team.
Immediately Stan stands up with his barrel chest out hands clinched, as ninja warrior would, ready to protect the damsels and fellow compadres. Stan by the way was a member of a group that would dress in early 6th century homemade armor and go into a full-fledged battle and bludgeon each other on the fields at his Alma madder CMU. He realized this could be the battle he had been training for, as he stood facing his Saxon enemy while presenting a pathway for the others escape as any good Knight would do.
As Stan played checkmate with the unstable client, the others reported the episode to our agency President Herb. Herb then call his good friend the young man’s dad then walked into the room and sat with him until the client’s father arrived and then escorted him out of the agency.
Minutes later Herb rounded up the team and began to explain the client’s history. The client’s father had given the waterbed business to his son to give his him something to focus on to build a sense of achievement. His son had recently been released from an institution for unbalanced personalities, which means he was considered insane. Sadly his father sold the company and presumably retuned his son to his Alma Matter.
Herb apologized to the team and gave them the rest of the day off. Which they then quickly ran across the street to the city’s favorite ad agency watering hole an Irish Pub.
There the story was relived again and again and again and as the day wore on more and more of the agency left work and headed to the infamous pub. Stan was an engaging storyteller and they couldn’t wait to catch his latest addition to the ad community collection of Agency Short Stories. Day turned into evening and then evening to morning as the audience was growing by each drink and each hour. The news had traveled across the city to other agencies as they filled the pub to standing room only, anxious to catch Stan’s latest rendition of the now infamous knife-swinging client. They drank, they cheered, they told old stories of their most memorable client meetings as the 2 am lights came on, as the chairs were being placed atop the tables, a signal that the show was over and the curtain had dropped as they prepared for tomorrows opening night audition of never ending ad agency shorts.
The opportunity to create a great campaign for this client was gone, but the folklore we added to our ad community was, to steal a line, priceless.
You just gotta love this business.