It wasn't me!


Passing the buck - the one skill that is genetically transmitted through the organizational DNA over decades. Some agency systems have actually developed ‘propriety models‘ to perfect this activity. Perhaps the old adage that ‘models give events structure but not direction‘ is likely to be proven wrong during the course of events.

"Why do you guys always screw up so badly? Especially after everything was so crystal clear after the last meeting?" enquired a fuming Mr. Bose (the client) of the agency team.
His outburst was after an eventful meeting with the client top brass. To say that the meeting was bad would be tantamount to describing a Tsunami as a mildly agitated ripple in the water.

"Open your eyes with belief, and thou shall come to no grief" the hushed Chinese accent, the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen tea boy) vanished in the smoldering embers of Mr. Bose‘s previous statement, but not before leaving Ram with a riddle to ponder over.

As Ram scratched his head trying to make sense of Chai-La‘s latest conundrum, he could not help but notice all the other agency people - PP (the handle bar mustached creative director), Vikas (Ram‘s boss and the account head), Planimus (the media planning head) and Dharti (the account planner), look strangely a little past Mr. Bose, almost like they were looking beyond him at another person.

Then Vikas spoke, with his tone matching the aggressive intent of Mr. Bose‘s.

"Mr. Bose, firstly there was no clarity on when this meeting was to take place, secondly there was no agreed upon agenda, and thirdly there was no direction in terms of what was to be done for creative. The creative was left without a clue as to what was needed for today."

Ram, baulked for Vikas, thinking PP would typically fly off the handle on that accusation of ‘a lack of direction‘. But PP was mysteriously calm, almost frighteningly composed (for a creative sort that is). He gently tugged at his moustache, stroking it with almost philosophical poise, as he also strangely looked beyond Mr. Bose, as if for guidance.

"To be frank, we were quite stumped with what sizes to take and what duration commercials we should create, because to the creative this was more a question of what could be achieved through the effective and innovative use of media, but since that picture was never truly clear we were left groping in the dark. A bit like watching Ganguly play short stuff," ended PP, with a resounding guffaw, not really supported by the lone client representative.

Ram‘s jaw dropped to the level of an audible thud. He was perplexed by PP‘s statement, because that squarely placed the ball in the court of Planimus-A man who undertook his business with gladiatorial passion. A man who readily fought with creative for shorter durations and smaller sizes with the frenzy of a wounded humpback whale trying to stave off a pack of Orcas.

Planimus however barely raised his eyebrow from his laptop. In that faintest movement of his retina, Ram deduced that he also had looked beyond Mr. Bose for higher enlightenment and direction.

"Even I need to depend on what understanding of the consumer is provided to me from account planning. The nuances of the consumer, who he is, what he does, and in what manner the brand finds a role in his existence. All these inputs are very important to me before I begin my work, and if there was no clear brief from that end I could only do that much." concluded Planimus, squarely placing the onerous task of taking on the lions in Dharti‘s court, as he returned his uninhibited focus to his laptop.

"Any pass is better than carrying the ball." These immortal words from a documentary on ‘How to play the beautiful game‘ had remained etched in Ram‘s memory from an early age. But the realisation that this was applicable in modern day business was just about dawning on him.

Dharti‘s pretty eyelashes had briefly fluffed when Planimus passed the baton to her. But something behind Mr. Bose seemed to reassure her.

Mr. Bose turned his head in her direction; his neck was getting its best workout since Wimbledon. His smile and patience was getting a little wearier. However, given that it was Dharti he was looking at, he reached from deep within to showcase his best.

"There were so many things said at the last meeting, and many possible new directions emerged, that one had lost track of what was finally decided, e.g. I recollect that briefly there was talk of repositioning our itching cream for the groin as a face cream, given the thinking that if it can handle ‘low down‘ bacteria than that at the top should be infinitely simpler. So I had to begin from the minutes mailed to me by the account team."

All eyes in the room turned to Ram as he found himself looking straight into the cold eyes of Mr. Bose, whose triumphant grin resembled that of a Tyrannosaur, who has just magically discovered a chained goat left behind by nature for supper

Ram‘s panic stricken mind was groping for an answer. He looked around and saw encouraging looks from each and every person in the room, sans Mr. Bose. As if they all had expected that the spotlight would rest finally on him and that he would be able to handle it. Astonishingly even Vikas was looking supportively towards him, it was almost unreal.

As he closed his eyes to muster his wits, he felt the express delivery of the tea cup in his hand and prophetic words spoken in a hushed oriental tone in his ears.

"To protect thyself from the oncoming rage, look around and thou might find the answer on a page"

He looked up in time to see Chai-La disappear into an inter office memo with an unerringly loud cackle of demonic laughter.

Ram felt his hand go forward and touch the page. It felt a little strange, almost like he had made a cosmic connection. As he looked around at his team mates he caught relieved smiles on all their faces.

Then as he turned to Mr. Bose he saw her.

She had a divine, 1000 watt radiance about her. Her hair was glowing, long lustrous strands that shampoo brand managers would have betrayed their mothers for, her skin was flawless and blemish cum acne free, her smile was angelically sly enough to cause the will of reticent accountants to waver, for a minute he thought he was witnessing a supernatural being. But he saw a sash on her that said ‘Ms. PTB Propriety 2006‘ and that convinced him otherwise. Mysteriously Mr. Bose seemed completely unaware of her existence.

Ram continued to watch her in awe as she did a small pompom routine and topped it off by moving both her hands together in a circular arc across the room tracing every occupant in it until they stopped at Mr. Bose. Then she dazzled a smile at Ram and vanished. For once Ram knew what he had to say

"Mr. Bose, I did write and circulate the minutes of the last meeting, but I had also emailed you the same and put a very important highlighted footnote there that Vikas had insisted on. The footnote said that you had to get the minutes seen and ratified by the chairman before the next meeting. You never got back to us on that." He said feeling a strange calm and peace in him as he went about every sentence.

Mr. Bose‘s smile disappeared of his face with the speed of platonic thoughts leaving your mind once the channel switches to Baywatch. Sweat began to form on his massive brow.

"Yes! Why didn‘t you?" asked Vikas, thumping the table with great gusto.

Mr. Bose began mopping his forehead with a handkerchief that he seemed to have produced from the medieval era, "I have to get back to the office to meet the chairman, but you can take your time for the next presentation, let me know when…"

He vanished from the room even before bothering to punctuate the previous statement.

There were collective yells of joy and high fives that were exchanged within the agency folk as they all trickled out of the room, visibly elated at having successfully defended their spotless home game record in this respect.

As Vikas was leaving the room, he looked back to see Ram immersed in deep thought.

"What‘s up chief?" he asked Ram.

"Who was she?"

Vikas smiled his all knowing smile," She was the propriety model that we have developed for passing the buck PTB-2006, I can‘t really tell you any more, its top secret."

"But why could I see her only after I touched the memo?"

"Because it‘s difficult for underlings to see her, unless they fully understand the organizational DNA, and sometimes getting in touch with papers that symbolize how we excel at passing the buck (PTB) like inter office memos does help," concluded Vikas as he left the room to resume his hostility with PP and every other creative in the world.

"Then I saw her face, now I am a believer," a markedly Mandarin version of this classic song began playing on Ram‘s Taiwanese walkman, as Ram found his fingers fondling a tea cup even as Chai-La disintegrated into one of the Chinese letters on the walkman logo.

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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