The Gate Keeper: Chapter 20 (In which careers are addressed)
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 intern’s place in the Mangaung corporate tent is debated, while the chairman of the board launches a hand grenade in no particular direction…
In which careers are addressed
It was very unclear within the upper echelons of TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande whether Vatiswa Magubane should be invited into the corporate tent at Mangaung or not. Yes, she had unquestionably delivered unto the agency their meal ticket for the next few years. Budget to the tune of several tens of millions had already been approved for the coming fiscal year. All that was needed now was the final seal of government approval on this dynamic and socially revolutionary campaign, inclusive, of course, of the traditional tender nods and winks. These would all – if things went to plan – be delivered in the corporate tent, by the person or persons, as yet unnamed, responsible for such things.
Still, while Vati was unquestionably the brightest star in the TBWSJWBN universe, there were several deeper factors to consider. Young girls, unless present in an event managment capacity, bolted in marriage to an appropriate arm or born to a father of the highest position, didn’t get near the corporate tent at elective conferences. Not the inner part of the tent. Not the late night tent. Not the sanctum. For Vati to be ushered all the way to the centre would be unprecedented indeed.
Then there was her unnerving and rapdily evolving fashion sense. Vati had increasingly taken to wearing her mother’s traditional clothing. Which would have been good and well were she not combining it, Jozi city style, with converse trainers and a tye-dye train wreck of accessories. The combination had the more traditional among TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande talking in low tones. And when they weren’t talking about the danger of cultural disrespect, they were most certainly talking about the worrying tedency in recent times of young black girls working in advertising to share sexual favours with pimply white boy graphic designers named Phil.
The bottom line was that none of the executives were sure. While they had needed Vati, their doubts were strategically buried, but now that the ship had left the dock yard, her suitability for delicate political manouvering in the further corners of political tents was very much in question.
“The bottom line is that this whole thing was her idea,” Tim Broadbent said pasisonately to EXCO, who all looked blankly back at him, surpised to see and hear such commitment on this particular issue from the old buzzard. “She should be recognised more. Acknowledged in some way. If you’re not going to let her go to Mangaung then at least give her a Loerie or something. She’s young, but she saved all your fat backsides, that’s for sure.”
Isaac Ndimande choked back his laughter and waited for someone else to rise to the bait. The matter bounced uncomfortably around for a few more minutes, and was eventually decided. Vatiswa would go to Mangaung, but would not be present in the corporate tent as such. She would be given a double page profile spread in Advantage on the rise of young black female strategists in the South African ad industry. Loerees would be addressed.
“I think that’s it, ne folks?” Isaac Ndimande gathered his papers and made to stand.
“Um, sorry, if I could just detain us all for a moment longer,” Tim Broadbent beamed in an unsettling fashion at his colleauges. “I just have a little announcement to make.”
Isaac settled back down under a cloud of fluttering eyebrows.
“I’ve reached that age where I need to think about retirement,” Tim spoken in a confident, rehearsed fashion, “so I hereby announce my retirement from my position at the company, and from the TBWSJWBN board, before anyone actually shoves me off the cliff.”
The table rippled, but gently. Tim’s shuffling on was not completely unexpected.
“Before I go, though, I would just like to say, on the record, how unpleasant I have found the last few years to be, and, more generally, how repulsed I am when I look back on the things we have done that we call work. As I move to the last phase of my life, I feel it’s important to not only reach these understandings clearly within myself, but to communicate them to my colleagues. To you. I am compelled to tell you that when I look back on the last forty years of my life I realise now that I have wasted them all. I also know, like I know few things in the world, that our industry is nothing more or less than conceptual pollution. We sh!t on our fellow man on a daily basis, and somehow that makes us proud. Well, it shouldn’t.”
The TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande exective boardroom exploded into silence.
Tim Broadbent stood, nodded at his bewildered colleaugues, and left the room.