Saturday, February 20, 2010

Enormous audience of one.

I joined Clarion in 1965 soon after its collaboration with McCann Erickson. One of the so-called benefits conferred on the Indian ad agency was the training of the creative, media and research staff by a “visiting faculty” from McCann. These Firangs would come and regale us as well as our clients with paens to their own intrepid exploits. Actually, this was a way to offer free junkets to the reigning favourites of the McCann international management at the expense of the Indian “partner” – a new twist to the time-tested imperialist ploy. What Clarion got out of it was the PR mileage. One of the worthies from out west was a Creative Director – I cannot recall his name – whose self-proclaimed secret of success was to write and design print and cinema ads to talk to the “enormous audience of one”. To prove his thesis he even had a 30-minute slide-and-sound show (an ancestor of the PowerPoint presentation) with examples culled from (hold your breath!) Keats, Byron, Wordsworth and the Bard of Avon set to music. What the Great Man did not clarify was how one was supposed to achieve it in the enormous clutter of ads in print and at the movie hall. The implication probably was that clever media placement could clear that hurdle. Being an impressionable rookie then, I was quite taken up by his act which further fortified my belief that I was engaged in a “creative” pursuit. It was much much later that I realised the common thread running in all these “winning” formulae. Zero in on an attention-grabbing key word (“positioning”) or phrase (“enormous audience of one”) and offer it as the secret ingredient for advertising success, a panacea almost. Remember what Dr Samuel Johnson said ? “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.” Bingo!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The joke’s on me.

This story is from my 233 Khetwadi Main Road days. In 1952, after SSC, I joined the Sydenham College. My FY B Com class used to be then held on the third floor of the now demolished Sukhadwala Building almost diagonally across the Excelsior Cinema No more than a block away towards Victoria Terminus was the Capital Cinema. In the same building in the lane leading to the New Empire Cinema was a book stall selling magazines, comics books and paperbacks. I always used to go there to browse. One day, a joke book by Powers Moulton, Best Jokes for All Occasions, in the Perma Books edition caught my eye and my fancy. It was a canary yellow hard bound pocket book with the edges of the pages tinged blood red. I can “see” it even today. What I liked most about the joke book was the "just applied" smell of the glue used by the binder. I can almost “smell” it even now. To cut a long story short, albeit the fact that I was at that time almost totally devoid of a sense of humour, I became the proud owner of it after shelling out probably Re.1.75 for it. The price was 35 cents, I reckon. Though I cannot swear by it, a dollar used to cost 5 rupees those days. End of story. But since we are on jokes, here are some squeaky clean ones that I find really amusing.

A medium was busy summoning people back from the netherworld. A nine-year-old kept insisting he wanted to talk to Grandpa.

“Quiet!” she shushed him more than once, quite annoyed.

“Grandpa! I want to talk to Grandpa,” he persisted.

“Very well, little boy,” she conceded, making a few hocus-pocus passes. “Here he is.”

“Grandpa,” said the boy. “What are you doing out there? You ain’t dead.”

A meek little man timidly touched the arm of a man putting on an overcoat in a restaurant’s cloak room.

“Ex - cu - se me,” he stammered. “Do you happen to be Mr Smith of Newport?”

“Certainly not!” said the man impatiently.

“Oh - errrrr – well,” replied the other. “I am. And, that’s his overcoat you’re putting on.”

Proud mom: “My son’s only 3 but can already spell his name backwards.”

Skeptical neighbour: “So what’s his name?”

Proud mom: “Otto.”

An English teacher assigned her class the task of writing four lines of dramatic poetry.

When the students handed in their papers, she chose the verse of her star pupil and read it out aloud. It went:

“A boy was walking down the track.
A train was rushing at him fast.
The boy stepped off the track
To let the train whizz past.”

“Ten out of ten for rhyming, Raju,” said the teacher. “But zero out of ten for drama. Do try again.”

Raju’s next effort at dramatizing the event left her speechless, though:

“A boy was walking down the track.
A train was rushing at him fast.
The train jumped off the track
To let the boy walk past.”

Hiker: “Can I catch the 6:45 if I cut through your field?”

Farmer: “If my bull sees you, you might even catch the 6:15.”

A college dean received a diffident letter from the father of a prospective entrant enquiring about the chances of his son attending the institute.

“Frankly,” wrote the father, “Henry may not be leader material but he gets along well with everyone.”

“Please send him along,” read the dean’s reply, “we need him. We now have 985 leaders in our freshman class. One follower would be a breath of fresh air.“

Hired hand: “I’ve been with you for 25 years and never asked you for a raise before.”

Farmer: “That is why you have been here 25 years, my man.”

Psychiatrist: “Do you have trouble making up your mind?”

Patient: “Well – yes and no.”

A man was woken up by the phone at his bedside ringing stridently at 3:00 a.m. It was the neighbour shrieking in his ear: “Your dog is barking so loudly I can’t sleep.”

Before he could protest, the neighbour hung up on him.

The next morning, at 3:00 a.m., the man rang up his neighbour. “I don’t have a dog,” he said and promptly hung up.

“Dad,” asked the son looking up from the book he was reading, “what does ‘diplomatic phraseology’ mean?”

“It’s like this, son,” said his Dad, “if you say to a homely girl, ‘Your face would stop a clock’ that would be plain stupidity. But if you said instead, ‘When I look into your eyes, time stands still’, that would be ‘diplomatic phraseology’.”

A veteran bank robber much hassled by his wife's demand for cash tries to placate her: "Just wait till the bank closes, dear, you shall have all the cash you need."

Then, there is the much harassed lawyer who keeps calling home and finds the line busy. So, he summons his secretary, tells her to take down a telegram for his daughter, Sue. "Send it by express wire," he tells the secretary. "Get off the line this instant, Sue," his telegram reads.

Guess which two of these jokes are past their expiry date?