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GRAEME FELTHAM
advertising can suck my dick

In '94 I decided to make a sortie into the world of advertising. Got the job on the recommendation of a head-honcho image consultant who owed me because I let him play the drums in the Mud Ensemble and who now works for Leo Burnett in Nairobi. He had worked for Herbuoys, O&M, Saatchi, Saatchi and De Klerk as a creative director. We became friends after he'd stolen my Russian lover. Nick could play any beat, including an off-beat with only a hi-hat, bassdrum and snare so he could hear. Anyway, he was respected in the ad industry so apart from my superciliousness in the interview it was probably on his suggestion I got the job as copywriter at Ornico also known as Launch Factory, an ad agency where the MD, the accountant, the cook (who was the MD's father) and all the other jobs except for the Creatives were held by Greeks. Orieste was the MD and the chairman of the Greek Chamber of Commerce and Ornico only banked with the Bank of Greece. In the interview Orieste walked up and down, his hands behind his back, making Napoleon look like he must have suffered from Yuppie flu.

Anyway, I got the job and it was a roller coaster affair. My first assignment as Copywriter was to come up with an invite and attendant gift for the opening of the Heart-of-Africa Bulldog Pub in Fordsburg. This was my first official day. The production team had brought me a choice of three gifts to work with - a wooden spoon with a giraffe at the end or a kitschy African mask that doubled as a key ring or a miniature version of one of those wire saxophones. Looking at these three gifts bought at the Bruma Lake flea market that were supposed to be gifts accompanied with copy-written invites I was compelled to say "What is this shit? I can't work with this". The job had also been procured from my experience in industrial theatre. Needless to say the consensus from the ad execs - some who had been mired there for decades - was "Who the fuck does this prick think he is?" One even had the gall to call me Mr Bombastic which was the name of a song on the radio at the time. I was told that I had 24 hours to come up with a better gift and commensurate copy. Knew I could, so that night spent all night smoking crack with friends and topped the evening off with a morning chase of smack so my eyes would stop bulging. When it was time to ride my little rusty Beetle on the M1 to Sandton when the sun still sukkelled to come out I still hadn't thought about it. Everyone around me looked so unhappy in their bubbles. But now decided to apply my mind. And nothing came up. I knew the meeting was at midday so I had to wikkel.

Arriving at work the pluck was to open the garage doors with the push-button thing and zoom in, do a handbrake turn and park just between the MD's Porsche and some other larney car. It was a close call and it was fun and executed spot on.

Now it was 10 and still nothing had occurred. I decided to go for a walk to clear my head from that cloying corporate atmosphere that hoodwinks you into thinking there have never been open plains. Walking along I saw a street vendor selling food. Hey? And hey, I thought how's about a gift that's edible? Something you could eat while ingesting the copy. Brinjals, cabbages, carrots and other vegetables didn't work. Then I sat down on the pavement in Sandton and it came to me that my cousin who played in a band called Live Jimi Presley made pineapple beer.

Went back to the office, by now it was 10.45. Phoned my cousin but he was asleep and could not be woken which was always the thing with him because the previous night we had been awake all night indulging in crack. Then I phoned an ex-lover's mother knowing intuitively she would know the recipe for pineapple beer and she did and she gave it to me. By now it was 11.15.

So the idea for the gift was a pineapple with a brown folded paper attached at that part where the yellow diamond-nippled skin meets the sprouting green, hard serrated leaves. And the first page of the copy was in that kind of font of your granny's old recipes, certain words scratched out and the whole thing faded treasure-map yellow. The recipe ended with: "Now let it brew for 4 to 6 weeks/ Your one pineapple will provide you with a half a glass of pineapple beer."

Then on the next page: "OR Accept this invitation to the opening of . . . waka waka waka . . . upmarket downtown . . . waka waka waka . . . " [ending with] "Oh yes, one other thing, the beer will be in barrels and available on demand".

Needless to say the pineapple with the copy went down well. It even appeared on that sophisto TV programme Top Billing with the invite getting a special mention. That first week - certainly according to Orieste, the ritalin-childhooded MD - I was a Hero. Another point of course was that 1000 pineapples cost less than one thousand rand. One thousand of any of the other dumbfuck 3 gifts would have amounted to at least fifteen thousand rand. This also meant a lot to Orieste.

Anyway for the next six months I alienated most and at times made those fuckers so much money that they could look past anything. I didn't sleep for those 6 months - smoked crack all night and took smack to bring me down and help me tolerate that world.

It all came to an end thankfully (because sometimes I get stuck in a rut) when my assignment was to do the copy for VoiceLink for Telkom, to be presented at the Telkom head office in Pretoria. I hadn't slept for 6 months and the underhum of certain cars has always made me lethargic. On the way to the meeting with Orieste and the Client Liason Person, I fell asleep on the backseat of the car, which concerted Orieste a little seeing it was 9 in the morning. Anyway, arriving in Pretoria at Telkom head office I went into the toilets and splashed and splashed my face with cold, cold water. Then I did my presentation around one of those silly corporate tables that has a circular hole in the middle that is a kind of no-man's land seeing you can't get there. Anyway, they liked the idea and bought it in their heads. My job done, I went to the toilets again and splashed and splashed and splashed and splashed my face with cold, cold water again as much as I could. When I got back the Client Liason Person and Orieste were spinning their spin. I found that whatever I did and however - biting my lips hard, pinching my thighs hard - I couldn't keep my eyes open which was okay because my part was done, so I put my forehead on my one splayed-sideways hand and pretended to page through my notes with the other. Then I fell asleep and started snoring. Head in hand. This was a five million rand account so falling asleep was not on. And that was the fortuitous sleep that pushed the button that fired my ejection seat right outta that sif world.