Friday, October 27, 2023

Dropping the Ball.

More than twenty years ago I had shot and edited and finished a package of a dozen spots for one of America's biggest companies.

The company made computer hardware at the time. Hardware is passé now. It's like the proof in the pudding. As a "society," we hate both pudding and proof. We prefer potential over performance. And promises made over promises kept. But this was twenty years ago and this particular company at the time made four different kinds of laptop computers. They denoted them as the T-series, A-series, X-series and I-series. Mnemonically, I remembered that nomenclature with the word TAXI.

After the spots were on the air, a young and very talented account person was sent down to my office.

Though I had never barked at her, she was scared. I'm tall and gruff and I suppose naturally intimidating.

"George, the client changed the names of their laptops. The I-series is now the R-series."

"We did an I-series spot and the actor says 'I-series' on camera."

I put a 3/4-inch in my VCR and we watched the spot. I ran it back and we watched it again.

"He's dead-on camera," I said. "We can over-dub, but the lip-movements will be off." People in advertising used to care about lip-synch. Now we can just blame it on AI or something, or fix it magically. Commercials cost a lot to shoot and produce but 99.7% look like crap.

The account person wasn't about to let me off the hook. 

"George, isn't there anything you can do?"

"MJ, he's on camera. Why did they change the names of the machines after we shot the spots? They had to know this was happening."

"George," she repeated, "isn't there anything you can do?"

I took the tape out of my Sony. I stuck it back in its plastic home. 

"MJ," I said, "You're really in a pickle."

"A pickle?"

I had never used that phrase before or been so dismissive of a person in need.

We all laughed. MJ laughed nervously. 

In a pickle.

And as she turned hang-dog to leave my office, I said, "MJ, let me run down to the editor. I'll see what we can do."


If you live in the modern world, whether that's the micro-advertising modern world, or the macro-modern-world, you often find yourself in a pickle.

A big, juicy sour one. A pickle that could squirt and sting your eye.

Something goes wrong, whether it's your fault or someone elses' and not only is there no way to fix it, there's no one you can call. The problem splashes pickle juice like a bus through a puddle.

I know I have about twenty or sixty little things I'd like to address, but I can't spend hours or days getting to the bottom of them and I know no help-desk or bot ever in the history of humankind has ever solved anyone's problems. 

Properly, why don't we call them helpless desks.

And call bots buts. 

I have a password I can't find. 
A subscription I'd like to cancel.
I'm over-paying for cable service I don't use.
My ice-machine doesn't work right.
The pockets on my expensive raincoat need repair.

Problems like these are the stuff of life. 
In advertising, there are millions of them.

Conference calls always start six minutes late.
No one's read the brief.
The creative work was due Tuesday and won't be ready for a week.
You never get the same team twice.

These things, too, are the stuff of life.

Somehow, in today's modern world, people paying for products and/or services are a bit like Gulliver in Lilliput. Stung by 100,000 arrows from all directions. Like microscopic summer-time gnats, not enough to kill you. But they're PFA. (Plenty fucking annoying.)

We're all supposed to suck it up and take it. 
Like crammed seating on United.
Or almost daily internet outages from Speculum.
Or too much taxation without any representation from every elected person.

To dumb things down, you can divide the world in two.

99% is a YOYO world. 
That includes ad agencies.
You're on Your Own.
In the words of my father, you can "go piss up a rope."

1% is a WITT world.
We're In This Together.

I went down to the editor.
Somehow he found a take we hadn't used with the talent bending down to get the appropriate laptop. He said his line
off-camera then popped up to face the lens. And somehow we also found a stray "r" sound and successfully spliced it in.

MJ was no longer in a pickle.

I was a mediocre fielder when I played baseball.

I've gotten better at not dropping the ball.

That too is life.

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