If you could just close the door behind you, Janet? Thanks.
OK, OK! [claps hands] Settle down. Welcome, gang! So happy you came to this little sesh of ours—this little storm of the brain. I know it’s your lunch break, so I mean it, thanks for coming in. Team players, amirite?! It really is what makes us a family here at Kicking and Scheming, so please, take a seat wherever. Make yourself comfortable. Yes! The comically oversized hamburger bean bag is always a fun choice, Anton, nice one!
Don’t we have a riot here?! Just make sure you’re facing the whiteboard—I’d hate for you to miss any of the great ideas!
Don’t be shy. Go on, grab a boxed lunch. Oh, and if you’re NOT vegan, please don’t take a vegan one. Guys, come on—they’re for the vegans only! You’d be surprised how expensive hummus is—I certainly had no idea. Janet, did you know? Of course, you did. You phoned in the order. There’s coffee, and some Lah Croy—just as good as the real stuff, I reckon. A bit of a briney aftertaste, but that client keeps our lights on, so feel free to take a few slabs home. Seriously, Janet. I can’t get into the crying room—there’s a goddamn phalanx of that shit in there. Make a note to do something about that.
This is gonna be great! Look in front of you. I’ve given you all a colored marker and some sticky notes. Aren’t they so fun!? I’m so excited you’re here. All you young people. I say it all the time—you’re the future of this agency. The world! Gosh, who am I kidding, the goddamned universe! So young! So young and…relevant. That’s what I said to the other guys earlier just before I kicked them all out—interns have the best ideas. Just generate the best ideas…. “You guys are rubbish! Totally irrelevant,” I said to them, “I’m bringing the interns in!” And then I fired them all! Haha! Man, they laughed so hard at that. I kid, I kid of course. They’re just on a PIP. Anyway, I digress.
This is just a little informal brainstorm, guys. There are no bad ideas here, I mean it! None! Except if they are bad, of course, hahaha! I kid, I kid. No bad ideas, just the best ideas. I have the whiteboard marker and will be writing all your idea nuggets up here and then at the end, we’ll all take little some little colored dots and put them next to the ideas we like. The ones with the most dots win! It’s a democracy of ideas! I mean you don’t have dots—we only had one roll and I have that—but… Janet, perhaps later you could go out and get some? If we have time? Only if we have time. Haha! We’ll see if we can dig some others up. But shit, here am I rambling on, and let’s just get started. I can’t wait. This is gonna be great. Let’s get our brains firing—Hustle the Idea Muscle, so to speak! Oh, that’s good. Janet, write that down in my Random Slogans for Etsy Tees notebook, will you?
First, a little background. Just to whet yer whistles. That means your lips. That’s what we used to say back in my day. You whistle with your lips. Do you guys ever whistle? Is there an app for that? Doesn’t matter. Moving on.
Janet, can you close the blinds and dim the lights? Thank you. OK. Shhhh… Everyone. Close your eyes. Listen to the sound of my voice in this dark and fertile idea cove. This is a safe space. Breathe and listen carefully as I describe the product, the very essence of its being, the “give the people what they want” of it. Close your eyes and, as I speak, imagine the personality of this brand, the who, the what, the why of it. Then let the director of the theatre of your mind put the players upon your stage. Let them act out the dream of this product. Let them speak through you to the audience of us, in this darkened auditorium, this executive conference room on the 7th floor. Let the players perform until they project their voices to the very core of this dry erase pen and reveal to us…
Michelle! Are you checking your Instagram right now? I can see the light! Guys, airplane mode, please. I was really on a roll there…where was I?
OK. Eyes closed again. Everyone, shhh….
Picture this. You’re seated at a table, set for breakfast. The linen tablecloth is rough beneath your fingertips and exudes the faint odor of fabric softener. This is not important. I don’t know why I brought that up. Ignore the tablecloth. There is a spoon next to your right hand. One spoon. Think of this spoon as a cultural ladle. It is the Art Eating Spoon. With it, you will shovel heaping spoonfuls of creative ephemera into that gaping, culture-seeking maw of yours. You are always so hungry for it. So hungry.
Pick up the spoon.
Anticipation. It crawls all over your skin like toddlers on a jungle gym and you can hardly take it, for you know what’s coming. You know that you are about to consume and devour and absorb the meaning, the beauty, and the soul of something truly great. Are you ready? For the art is the work and the work of all artists is the food for this table. Culture sustains us. Here comes the server.
Before you, the artist sets down a bowl filled to the brim with, erm, cereal. But not just any cereal—it’s art cereal. It looks like the picture on the box, following all the rules and conventions of content and presentation. The sweet fragrance of sugary milk mixed with the slight tang of fruit invades your nostrils. Pebbles float. A plump random raisin gloms onto a gravelly shard of granola. Whatever you dream this cereal to be, it is exactly that. You have seen this bowl presented to you on a thousand tables in your lifetime and it always tastes…fine. It is mass-produced and endlessly edible. It is a consumable of ordinary excellence. Everybody eats it.
But wait! This one seems different. You take a spoonful to your mouth, chew, and swallow.
Your brain explodes.
This one IS different. This is imbued with a special ingredient that makes this art cereal bowl different from all the other art cereal bowls. It speaks not just to your hunger for cultural enrichment, but to your heart’s desire for beauty, for intellect, for the challenge. It has an aura of something you can’t quite put your finger on. It drifts through your mind halls and out into the stratosphere of your desire. It is warm, it is nutritious, it is calorie-dense. It is quite unlike all the other cereals in all the other diners you’ve been to. The galleries, the shows, the readings. Each spoonful is like an awakening. A delicious fright of unexpected ecstasy. This is what art should be. This is what life needs. This…
Is the true taste of Ethereal Cereal.
Ok, brainiacs, eyes open. What’s the tagline? You, in the corner. Go!
What? Of course, you can ask a question. This is not a dictatorship, haha!
Well, I believe the client intends to capture the essence of what makes an artist or famous writer, or film phenom you know, them. Work out the tick of their special clock, etc., and once they’ve captured that and synthesized it in a lab, they’re gonna use marketing boffins like us to hock it to the masses. Package it up with a fun cartoon mascot and a 360 campaign that’ll get noticed. A “You too can be Banksy” kinda deal. Cereal is sort of a metaphor I guess. We’re kind of winging it here until they figure out what it is exactly. Come on, focus! Reality is for real world-ers—this is Madison Avenue! Well, Madison Avenue adjacent, anyway. Close enough!
Look, it took me a while to get it, too, but this is the kernel of it. “The thing”. What’s “the thing?”
Like…. OK, an example? Paul McCartney. He’s written a lot of songs and seems to have done all right by it. But where did those songs come from? How did he pluck them out of the air, use the same words and notes that everyone has access to, and make them more successful than other folk’s little ditties? What’s his dealio? What makes his woos and yeahs so special? A lot of people write a lot of songs but there’s only one Paul McCartney with the hits and such. There must be a secret ingredient pantry that only he has access to, right? Something that allows him to make those extra special and tasty bowls of cereal that everyone wants to eat? So that’s the product here. The yet-unnamed—and un-taglined unless we get our shit together—contents of his Ethereal Cereal box.
No, he was in The Beatles. Like *NSYNC, but scruffier. Oh. Um. *NSYNC is like…. Shit. I don’t know. Janet, help me. Forget it. Bad example. We’re getting off track here. Let’s just start throwing ideas at the wall and see what sticks. Taglines. Go! I’ll get the ball rolling—I used to be really hot shit at this back in the day, you know. Erm…
Ethereal Cereal. It’s extra celestial.™
See what I did there? We could do a whole campaign with a boy flying through the air on his bicycle in front of a moon with a big E.C. the Extra Celestial and maybe a spoof on E.C. phone home and get Spielberg to do it and everything.
What? He doesn’t do commercials? Are you sure, Janet? I mean, fine, his loss. We probably couldn’t get that through legal anyways, but guys, I’m just spitballing. Just demonstrating that there are no bad ideas. Look! I’m writing it down! The whiteboard is no longer empty!
Yes, finally. Mark. You don’t have to put your hand up—just say it.
Again, as I said before, it’s not an actual physical product. Not tangible. Not YET! It’s still in the early stages of development. But they’ve captured some really big name celebrities—just real top-drawer wunderkind types—who are participating in the initial extraction process and experiments. I’m sure it’s all above board and follows FDA or FCC or KFC secret spice guidelines, or whatever this would fall under. This ain’t no shonk show, guys, this is rarified air here! All above board! Preemptively working on a product that no one’s been able to capture the essence of and push it out on a grand scale—this is big, world-changing stuff! And here we are, on the ground floor!
Oh, for fu… what’s the problem here? I can’t explain this any more simply. The “cereal” is the art which is the product. The product of the artiste. We—Janet, me, all you knuckleheads, the public—we eat the cereal. The ETHEREAL part of the CEREAL is what we’re advertising here. It’s the secret ingredient—the talent, the spark, the ghost in the madness—that makes it different from all the other bowls out there and we’re gonna nail this or you’re all fired! J/K, but not really!
Ethereal Cereal. What’s in your goblet?™
A little reductive, but OK, I’ll write it down. Most people don’t eat cereal out of goblets, but I did say no bad ideas. Ugh. Janet, make a note—this idea is bad.
Ethereal Cereal: Whatever it is, it’s in here, trust us™
Thanks, Kevin. Good effort, I guess. Thanks for playing. No, I’m not writing it on the board. Guys! For the love of Brian Dennehy, let’s focus. Let’s channel our special ingredients together… no, that’s not “code” for anything. What? Why would we need to get HR involved? Look, what I’m saying is that, I’m sure between all the smart young TikTaks in this room and my Gold Lion-almost nominated brain, here we can come up with something that’ll really impress and impregnate the cultural pantheon with spectral… impregnation! Inflame the imaginations of the sheeple who bleat incessantly about their potential to be influencers on a grand scale!
What’s the special thing in the thing that makes it an extra special thing that people go nuts over? What’s the thing that makes it go VIRAL!? Our story needs CONFLICT or else it’s dead in the bowl of milk, guys. Sour. Soggy. Limp and dull, loved only by ants and weevils!
Well. Judging by the distinct lack of ideas in this thought vacuum, we seem to be at an impasse here. This is very disappointing. Perhaps I underestimated your future-saving ways? Sorry, what was that? You, there, up the back. You said something. Speak up. This is it, Janet. I can feel it. No bad ideas. Except yours, Kevin. Yours was pretty bad.
Yes? The thing. You got it.
You think the thing is different for everyone?
You think this thing cannot be named?
You think that by its very ethereal nature, it is undefinable and uncategorizable?
Its ingredients can never be quantified or identified, solidified, or commercialized, or even the shape of it drawn in a dream, let alone on a whiteboard?
Its essence cannot be captured or extracted or touched or held in a bowl, and that milk—cow, oat, nut, or otherwise—ain’t gonna bring it out?
You think that the thing that brings the dish its unique flavor is highly perishable, susceptible to criticism and that it can easily go rancid when exposed to the harsh taxonomy of identification?
That it can’t be boxed, commodified, or sold to anyone who seeks the slippery oil of talent, or the soothing lotion of genius.
It has no name, cannot be trademarked, patented, or given a logo that scores highly in recognition polls. It exists within your spectral being, or it simply does not exist. The end. There’s no amount of sugar you can eat or cultural calories you can consume to trigger the thing that makes your one thing special or different.
I’m sorry. Hold up. Janet, are you getting all this? Can you read that last bit back to me?
All boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch look the same. We are not God: We can’t predict which one
contains the special shrimp tails
, we can only keep filling our bowls.
Well… thanks, Good Will Hunting. You’ve solved it with your mop and coveralls and don’t we all look like fools? But I can’t help notice that nowhere in that grandiose pointless Ted Talk of a speech did you suggest a tagline that will win us this business. But let me just see if I’ve got this straight. Let me just interpret your waffle, distill your manifesto, read between the lines and write it… here on the whiteboard…
Ethereal Cereal: Who the fuck knows?™
Get out. You’re all dismissed.
Janet. Clear my schedule and bring me my woobie. If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be wrapped up in the comically large hamburger bean bag, groaning between the lettuce and tomato layers.
Yours in tiny thought,
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This week’s amends…
Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.
- Roger Ebert on Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life”
On Rotation this week.
Ad-ver-ticing. There must be a behind-the-scenes video for this somewhere, but this is all I’ve found so far.
Via [some ad magazine that I didn’t save the link for.]
Happy (a day late) Halloween, y’all. There’s just so much more to this performance than I realized. The original KXVO Pumpkin Dance runs almost four-and-a-half minutes!
Via Boing Boing
Did any of this spark a tiny thought of your own?
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