The Gate Keeper: Chapter 19 (In which the road opens)
by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…
The great Mangaung survival strategty is presented, and Mama E notices the chair of the board’s smile…
In which the road opens
“Friends, collegues, fellow creative soliders…” Sizwe paused to beam at the hundred or so faces staring disdainfully at Him. “It gives me a great deal of pleasure to present to you the concept developed by this agency for EFT bank. It’s a concept which has required many months of effort, and which has, I am delighted to say, met with an extremely warm reception at EFT, as you know, one of our largest and most important clients.” He paused, cleared his throat, and took a quick look around. The crowd of TBWSJWBN staff was resolutely passive. It reminded Him of when He used to sing at the old age home on Sunday nights in the primary school choir.
He clicked play on the presentation.
At the back of the bar area Tim Broadbent stood next to Phil the graphic designer in comfortable silence. They were an odd pair, and no one except Vati would have noticed that their physical proximity was anything other than an accidental.
Truth be told, Tim Broadbent, Phil the graphic designer and Vati had enjoyed a perfectly pleasant lunch at the Hyde Park shopping centre a few days back. Each had – for their own reasons – wiped their lips at its conclusion with the napkin of satisfaction. Now, with the EFT song and dance in full swing, Tim and Phil could think of no better company in which to endure their mutual pain.
“Have you noticed,” Tim whispered into Phil’s ear as the presentation cut rapidly between the agency’s rapper for hire and stock shots of rural mama’s doing rural things, “the smell of vomit lately?” He sniffed the air suspiciously. “The last few months, every now and again, I get this whiff.”
Phil nodded while still looking ahead, the corners of his lips curling slightly. He had indeed noticed the smell. He was feeling cautious about appearing too close to Tim Broadbent, however. There was enough talk about him and Vati doing the rounds. The last thing he needed was to be seen all elbows and ears with TBWSJWBN’s original papa bear.
Vati appeared at Tim’s left, also smiling, for her own reasons, and the three of them stood in an unrecognised row, watching TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande’s full and final attempt at survival unfold before them.
The presentation faded out and everyone clapped. There were whistles and cheers. He dipped his head several times in appreciation, cleared His throat, and started talking again.
“I’ll try not to keep you all too long – there is, as we all know, much work to be done. I just wanted to offer a few notes on execution. Yes, this campaign is innovative in the sense that it is rurally based. But the innovation doesn’t stop there. We have also been working very hard at ensuring there is follow through in important channels. To that end, our strategy team have emerged with a fascinating series of youth events to be held at secret locations across the country’s major urban areas. More will be released about this later, but suffice to say we’re negotiating with several national TV channels to thread the entire camapaign into the plots of three major soap operas. We’ve also managed, quite successfully I believe, to convince the SABC decision makers to replace that doumentary on the four violin ladies that has been running for the last year with a series of mini documentaries addressing issues of rural finance…”
Mama E stood slightly behind Him, in full view of the entire agency. She felt, in a word, exposed. Eyes were roaming all over the place, and few of them were settling on Him or His presentation for very long. Many roamed over her, quietly quizzing her form, her fashion sense, her very presence. She made an effort to pin her shoulders back and stand straight.
She spotted Tim Broadbent, who was smiling strangely, his hands behind his back. Now that she saw his smile, she realised she had never seen it before. Tim Broadbent was not a smiler. She wondered what the sudden spark was. Not only was he smiling, but his posture was much improved. He looked like a confident, contented almost-retiree.
Mama E would have been shocked – as would the rest of the agency – to know that Tim Broadbent was smiling at the thought of getting the f*#ck out of dodge. Things in his world had suddenly changed. In fact, the smile in his mind was already well out the door. It was only genetic politeness that kept him standing there, acting like he gave even the slightest bit of a sh!t about EFT, rural finance or the long term future of TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande.