MAM

I know what you did last summer…

Summer internship - To the untrained eye a noble venture undertaken by the agency to try and give back to the community.But in reality (or management speak) an extremely cost effective method of correcting the gender ratio in the organization, thus making it worthwhile for employees to turn up for work during the sweltering heat of summer…

However as summer ends these very pleasant distractions prove to be as welcome as a late bill at the client‘s accounts department after March 31st.

"I have wanted to brief someone on an urgent job but there seems to be just no one from the creative in office today," complained Ram, as he barged into Vikas‘s office, only to see his boss in a closed huddle with some fresh ‘new improved‘ faces that had immediate effect waist downwards


"Oh! They must be briefing the new trainees in the conference room" mumbled Vikas, pausing to touch his chin in a studied manner that seemed to make his IQ level jump 10 points without having to do any complex number related tests.


"And that‘s servicing for you" he said to his coterie "It is the single most important department of an agency, without it an agency is like Jennifer Lopez without her ass …"

"Does that mean client servicing is the butt of all jokes?" interjected an enthusiastic voice. Ram looked around and immediately classified the deviant (a male) as the ‘bunny‘ of the group. Vikas was clearly not amused; he was the one who was supposed to deliver all the punch lines. He gave the poor boy the kind of scalding look that made the ‘bunny‘ wish he could have pressed the rewind button on that previous comment. However, technology wasn‘t really on his side just then.


"I had meant assets. Musical assets. The first lesson you learn in servicing is never make assumptions. It‘s a very dangerous thing to do."

Prudently the ‘bunny‘ excused himself to go to the men‘s room. Everyone immediately assumed it was to get away from the spotlight.


Ram stepped out of Vikas‘s room and looked around. There was a high level of testosterone that was going around the agency. Ram had not seen this much energy at the agency since there was a rumor that the filling of time sheets would be linked to performance bonuses. Almost every cubicle had an additional new occupant. The cabins were seemingly packed with eager innocent faces that were hanging on to every word that was being spouted like it was the Lord himself telling them about the chosen path.


"Thou shall not falter on the road to be single minded…" PP (the creative director) seemed to be saying.

"Thou shall know the brand better than the client…." Vikas was telling his disciples.

"Thou shall never fill in a voucher without a bill…:" Parthasarthy, head of accounts.

"Thou shall not covet thy neighbor‘s wife…" that was Moses, someone watching a movie had left the AV room door open.

The agency had become a shrine for learning, never mind that deadlines were going for the kind of walk one takes when the mother-in-law is waiting at home.


"Old Chinese proverb - Trainees are the Lord‘s way of getting us through summer." Ram felt a teacup nestle in his fingers as Chai-La (the mystical Chinese tea boy) vanished into the rising mercury of a wall thermometer.


The next day Ram accosted Vikas in the corridor. "Hey Vikas, could I use that trainee who was in your room yesterday for some work?"

"Hmm. If you mean that guy I have sent him off to do some research"

"On what?"

"Nothing really. I just wanted him out of office. He was getting on my nerves"

"What about the others?

"They are doing something for me"

Ram resisted the temptation to query his boss further. He knew that the four remaining girls would be spending a lot of time in Vikas‘s office over the next few weeks and thus ensuring that his boss stayed out of his way. How he liked summer trainees!


Over the next few weeks the agency was really busier than a black marketer on the opening weekend of Main Hoon Na. Employees you never knew existed started appearing almost magically and giving "gyan" sessions to young minds… all in order to return the debt they owed the industry.


There were more people working late than ever before. Brainstorms were just as frequent (and unnecessary) as a Luis Figo dive in the penalty box. The conference room always seemed to be packed. There were parties and outings organized every other evening. The only chap who seemed to be missing all the fun was the ‘bunny‘ who was busy masquerading as a screen for power point presentations on days he wore a white shirt (to the lad‘s credit he only wore it once) and the agencies corporate communications expert on most other days, essentially in charge of faxing, Xeroxing and dispatching messages.


Time passed faster than Ram could imagine or clients would have wanted. Most people in the agency had by then forged umbilical relationships with their interns. For a while these interns forgot all about their projects, in fact most of them did not have any, and were content hanging around their surrogate parents nibbling away at the food that was passed down their way (the last part was a gross exaggeration but it makes for a vivid metaphor). And then as deadlines began to draw closer the bubble began to burst.


Suddenly panic started creeping in. The trainees began to realize that two months were going to be up very soon and they really had nothing to show in terms of an assignment back at the institutes. The young cubs began to scent blood very fast.

Ram was watching Vikas entering the office and make his way stealthily to his cabin when near the fax machine four young lionesses sprang out at him and began to circle around him in a move they had picked up from one of the National Geographic documentaries.


"Vikas we don‘t have a project."

"But you have learnt so much about advertising working with me"
"We need a project Vikas. What are we going to present in college?"

At this point the other three began snapping away at his ankles cutting down his speed considerably. He was tiring. His vision was blurring. They were moving menacingly towards him. Fangs bared. Claws ready to rip flesh. Tails dangling like Satan‘s jock strap. There was no help in sight. His very own had turned on him. An advertising agency was a very cruel place.


Just as the leader of the pack was going to jump Vikas blurted
"I will prepare a project for the four of you, don‘t worry. It will be just rocking…"

"How long?"

"One month…"

The lionesses drew closer.

"Ok I will put it together this week"

The lionesses backed off. Vikas sprinted for his cabin and closed the door behind him. The very door that had always been open over the last two months.

Ram was allowed to enter after mouthing the secret password (creative c@#$%a hain)

"No more next year man. They are wildcats. Ungrateful.
Dangerous. Highly overrated this summer trainee thing. They are only entertaining for a week, after that they are just pests. Can‘t even call them pests they are more like raptors."

Ram sat silently in front of Vikas.

"Just take out any old research report and put together a project and pack them off in the next two days."


"What about the ‘bunny‘?"

Vikas turned around and looked at his computer

"Hey there is a mail from him. I did not know he had gone. Good riddance."

Ram watched Vikas‘s face as he read the mail. His eyes seemed like they wanted to dissociate from his face. Vikas put on his spectacles to prevent them from running away.

"Can you believe it? He has landed a job!"

"On the Energizer account?"

As usual Ram‘s humor was wasted on Vikas.

"It seems that he learnt a lot about our accounts and our strategies during the time he was faxing, Xeroxing and dispatching stuff. He went and created his own project.

Presented to other agencies that were so impressed they hired him."

Vikas eyes then widened with anger as he read further.


"That insolent chap. He says all this was possible because I assumed he would not be reading those documents, he has signed off saying the most useful thing he learnt here was that ‘in servicing you never assume things‘"

Ram tried very hard to suppress a smile. Vikas was about to storm out of his room when he remembered what lay outside and wisely decided to stay put.


Ram left Vikas‘s room and surveyed the changes around him. The energy level in the agency was back at its good old low level. Attendance had dropped. Punctuality was back to its abysmal standards. Creative was back to chatting and Servicing had resumed the time honored tradition of ducking calls.


"Things were reverting back to normal thankfully.




Ram suddenly felt a craving for tea.

"Old Chinese proverb - sometimes old bad things are much better than new good ones." Ram found a teacup nestle in his hand and glanced around to see Chai-La metamorphose into the golden title embossing of a black hard bound summer trainee project.




After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In additiion 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 vinaykanchan@hotmail.com


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

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