And the award goes to …

 

 

THE FIFTH COLUMN

The award has a weight to it, which tells you it’s an important award to win. Of all the awards it’s the most important one.

The award is more important than the product, which is merely the vehicle for the idea. The award cannot be won without the idea, or the product. The action required to produce the idea and, hopefully, the award, is called “the work”.

The work is done in cubicles that don’t have ceilings. He dislikes this feature of the cubicles. He shares his with his creative partner, the visuals man, a man of few words. He is the wordsmith, a man of some words.

Word from the boss is that this year “outdoor” is what will win awards, by which he means billboards. They’re now thinking up billboard ideas.

The wordsmith has one. “How about fitting a billboard with solar panels? It could promote renewable energy or an energy drink.”

The visuals man likes the idea but says: “Renewable energy is a commodity, not a brand. How are we going to get around that?”

They call in the boss, who says: “We’ll make it up. This is advertising, we can do what we want.”

Then the boss starts his sentences with, “We need …”, which is his way of saying “You must …”

“We need a website,” he says. “And a name.”

“How about SunPower?” the visuals man says.


The boss likes it. “We need a contact number and someone to man the phone.” He looks to the wordsmith. “Do you want to man the phone?”

“Yes,” the wordsmith says, even though manning the phone for a fictitious company is the last thing he wants to do.

The contact number for SunPower’s sales department is that of the telephone on the wordsmith’s desk. The phone rings. It’s a man calling from suburbia. He wants to buy a solar panel for his home. The wordsmith covers the receiver and asks the visuals man what the mark-up on a panel should be. The visuals man says to set it at the price of printing and buying the T-shirt.

At the printing shop, the clerk comments on the quality of the SunPower logo and its payoff line: “The best solar panels under the sun.” He tries on the SunPower T-shirt. It’s of a low quality — his upper body, especially his flanks, itches.

The drop-off is in a deserted parking lot, which gives it the feel of a narcotics deal. He hands it to the customer who hands him the cash. Inspecting the panel, the customer says: “I admire what you’re doing here saving the planet and all. I hope your business does well.”

At the awards ceremony the billboard idea wins a grand prix prize, which is the most important prize to win. The boss accepts the award saying it’s more than an award this year what with what’s going on in the Amazon and all.

The grand prix prize takes its place on the shelf in the lobby of the agency standing just that little bit taller than all the other awards. The smell of the air-conditioned air in the lobby drifts through the gap between the cubicle wall and the ceiling. He dislikes this feature of the agency.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Hans Mackenzie Main
Hans Mackenzie Main
Writer/Columnist at Mail & Guardian
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