Dead men walking!


The prologue to an agency review - an agency review is ideally an open minded exercise that is meant to evaluate the performance of the advertising agency over the past year, in as fair and unbiased manner, as is humanly possible. However, since this is about as achievable as having an advertising awards show without at least one self respecting agency deciding to boycott on ‘philosophical‘ grounds, what it‘s very announcement leads to is unmitigated stress, panic and confusion all round.

"News of an impending review always fuels the need for warm brew." The hushed oriental accent, the slight flutter of mach speed induced turbulence and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen tea boy) had delivered the customary tea cup and opening barb to Ram Shankar. It was Monday morning and Ram had not yet got his bits and bytes together when Vikas (his boss) beckoned him, in a manner that meant business.

"Mr Bose has told me this morning that we are going to have an agency review," started Vikas, adjusting his tie in his reflection in Ram‘s glasses.

"Do you think the account is in danger?" asked Vikas in a hushed tone.

"I wouldn‘t know," began Ram and was cut in mid sentence by PP (the creative director of the exaggerated mustache fame) bursting into Vikas‘s chambers like Ronaldo in the penalty box.

"Why are we having an agency review man? Are we going to lose the account?" boomed PP in his customary high decibel style, causing weak hearted account executives to instantly sign up for medical insurance policies.

"Relax PP, its nothing new," replied Vikas, in his most soothing tone, trying to function for once like the head on the business, but after he remembered that it was the first time that this was happening in five years, his morale fell faster than the credibility of ‘breaking news‘ after the last pest control visit of the BMC had been aired live.

"This hasn‘t happened with us in a very long time," echoed Planimus, the media head, in his routinely philosophically platonic tone, "I smell trouble brewing."

Almost on cue Dharti, the ravishingly radiant account planner walked in, "Hey the security guard told me that the account was up for review, what‘s happening guys?"

"Lets just meet in the conference room, we need to figure out a strategy," suggested Vikas, and for once all the necessary evils were in agreement.

The scene shifted to the conference room. Vikas, following his perfunctorily servicing impulse of staying on top of things, walked purposefully to the board, marker pen in hand straight from the ‘have whiteboard will scribble‘ school of thought.

"Let‘s see what we have here," furiously constructing geometric shapes, like he had a personal vendetta against parabolas (he didn‘t draw any, just in case you assumed).
He finished with three circles - client, agency and external forces and had somehow managed to link all three with arrows that looked like having directional issues.

"What does all this mean?" asked an irritated PP. "Why must you complicate simple things? I bet that‘s why the review is happening."

"If you had shown more interest in the account after finishing with the film, maybe we wouldn‘t be here, client‘s dislike creative who just do the glamorous jobs."

"It‘s not my job to write calendars, I am never good with dates," retorted PP.

"Given the numerous angry women waiting in the reception for you daily, for once I would agree," replied Vikas, relishing the opportunity to kick the old foe in the more delicate, unmentionable parts.

Before PP could venture into his nuclear explosion, Dharti patted a firm hand on his shoulder, fortified with a smile that spoke waist downwards.

"Must we be fighting like this? Let‘s try and figure this out," she purred, instantly sending goose pimples down Ram‘s spine.

However years of crunching and rounding figures had made Planimus oblivious to the wiles of women, and he still had some ax to grind.

"Madam, you knocked us all out the last time we discussed strategy, I think the client is still nursing the bump on his head from your last interaction. In my time strategy used to be simple, over and done with in ten minutes." He finished with a sardonic smile.

"This isn‘t your time Planimus," cooed back Dharti, in an interesting tone that bordered between spite and contempt.

"To lose the war, put four generals together in a room and ask them to arrive at a decision-Old Chinese army saying." Chai-La popped in and out of Ram‘s subconscious mind, leaving behind the sacred brew nestled in his fingers.

Ram waited for the mayhem to subside before deciding to make his point. A valuable tip he had picked from Planimus, about advertising when clutter was low for more impact.

"Could it just be that given the new personnel at the clients end, they want to look at everything in a fair and unbiased manner? You know like bringing a newer perspective to the table so that the communication that we create could actually get better and more focused? Are we making too much of our fear of losing the account?"

All the participants in the room starred at Ram in rapt silence, like people would have when Moses was reciting the commandments. Then the conference room erupted with laughter.

"Fair and unbiased," choked Vikas, as he hung onto PP‘s shoulder for support in a rare ‘Kodak moment of camaraderie‘.

"Should we be scared of losing the business?" stuttered Planimus as he kept banging the table in an almost tribal ritual.

Dharti sat composed, dignified and silent through it all.

Ram felt he had at least one supporter. All the others turned to look at her.

"Bringing a new perspective so that we can create better communication," she said and burst out into laughter, further fuelling the mirth factor in the room.

Ten minutes later all attention was back to the whiteboard, though not strictly at the seismographic visuals Vikas had crafted earlier.

"We need to figure this one out. You know how the boss panics when he hears these things, we will end up creating 42 campaigns for everything," mulled Vikas.

"Why 42?" Dharti queried innocently.

"That‘s because the boss is a Douglass Adam fan and you know the bit about 42 being the answer to life, the universe and everything. The chief applies it everywhere."

"Well I don‘t mind writing a 42 slide presentation," cooed Dharti.

"What about the creative trying to churn out 42 campaigns, are we going mad?"

"Well statistically 42 is an interesting number," started Planimus and was instantly rebooted by the chilling glares that were shot in his direction.

"Why don‘t we just call Bose, maybe he will help us," asked Dharti.

"After the way I keep taking his case in meetings," said PP, "I think he is having this because he wants to settle scores with me. I expect to be the target."

"Tchah!" interjected Vikas, "He hates it that I‘m not involved on a day to day basis," not wanting PP to steal the limelight even in such issues.

"Why don‘t we just call him?" implored Dharti

"Who should?"
Furtive glances were exchanged across the room.

"He hates me."

"He is intimidated by me."

"I can‘t stand the creep."

All eyes rested on Ram Shankar.

"Call him chief," chirped Vikas, relieved that the onus of this ‘stress call‘ was off him. "Make it seem natural, start like you were just inquiring when it is."

All the others offered encouraging glances by way of support.

Ram‘s hand was trembling as he began dialing the number, somewhere deep down he felt that he was a bit too junior to be making that call, but Vikas‘s quick fingers zipped across the number pad and the phone was buzzing at the other end before Ram could even think of formulating an escape plan.

"Mr Bose, I was just calling to inquire when the review meeting would be?" he began in his most earnest voice, all eyes in the room transfixed on him.

There was silence as Bose‘s voice cackled its usual cacophonic tone for a bit. Ram put down the phone, his hand still shaking. "He says it was just a misunderstanding. The Chairman had told his assistant, ‘Get the agency to Hotel Sea-View to meet me.‘ That fellow apparently has a hearing problem and so he spread the word about the agency review."

"I knew it!"

"How can they dislike our work?"

"Or our planning."

"Or strategy."

And before he knew it the other four had cleared the room and zipped off for a lavish lunch, the voucher of which Ram would have to clear later (with much explaining).

"Tale of the review woe is useful to keep agency on toe," the ancient Chinese rhyme (for better or verse), the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La had vanished into one of the circles on the whiteboard.


After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In addition to that he is also patron saint of Juhu Beach United - a movement that celebrates obesity and the unfit ‘out of breath‘ media professional of today. To join up contact

(The views expressed here are those of the author and need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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