Now you see him… now you don't



The escape artist: - the ad industry‘s tribute to Houdini, the great American magician, most famous for his escape acts. Over the years the industry has cultivated these supremely gifted individuals. People who manage to get out of impossible and potentially embarrassing situations with their rear ends unscathed and the slope of their career graphs unaltered. Using the mere mortals around them as cushions, barricades or plain fodder as the case might be.

"Now is the time for all those who are in positions of power to make their absence felt." The hushed Chinese accent, the telling words of wisdom, the quick delivery of the teacup and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) ducked into the folds of one of the leaflets that were lying on the table.

The warm brew refreshed Ram Shankar (the account executive) and breathed life into his sagging resolve. The client Mr Bose had been at it, criticizing him and his lack of planning on the account that had led to the delay of several jobs. Though there were no deadlines that had actually been missed, Mr Bose loved it when he could make a point at the expense of the agency.

"You see there is absolutely no quality control in the agency business. You fellows come and go as you please, and the client is left high and dry. We have no clue as to when you will be delivering the jobs, if at all you do intend delivering. And more importantly, are the jobs happening as per our briefs. Most of the times we get the stuff so late that it is no use trying to attempt changes even though the work is way off strategy."

Vikas (Ram‘s boss) was acting like a human ‘servicing sponge‘, soaking in all the allegations that were being thrown the agencies‘ way. When Mr Bose completed his diatribe, Vikas stood up to his full height. And just as Ram was about to feel pleased about his boss literally ‘standing‘ up for him... he excused himself and walked out of the room.

"Need to urgently call up the Asia Pacific office and give the chairman an update on your account," said Vikas in his most confidently cherubic tone. Mr Bose was sufficiently impressed and waved him away, feeling a deep inner sense of pride that multinational networks were tracking his account. Ram was simply amazed at how Vikas could still pull that one off, especially considering that their agency had no foreign tie-ups at all.

Half an hour later Vikas returned to the room. Ram Shankar was at his wits end in terms of seeing the brighter side of things. Put mildly, the morale of an account executive would have been higher getting into a finance meeting with no clue on status.

Mr Bose by then had expended most of his energies in Ram‘s direction. And Vikas as usual had picked the right time to enter the room again.

"Don‘t worry Mr Bose, whatever it is I will be on top of it. Though my role is larger and more strategic, you wont have any operational problems on the account hereafter. I will personally look into it," Vikas said with sufficient aplomb to leave Bose beaming from ear to ear ‘like a virgin who had been touched for the very first time‘ (for all my musically inclined friends who had commented on the lack of tuneful analogies).

Ram was silently fuming as they made their way back to the office in Vikas‘s car.

"You know chief, it‘s all about handling the issues as they come up. One has to equip and consciously train oneself so that stressful situations can be overcome. Because at the end of the day that‘s what servicing is all about." Vikas paused to briefly adjust his tie in the rear view mirror. Ram resisted the urge to offer tightening the noose around Vikas‘s neck.

Then the ridiculous chimes of Vikas‘s cell phone ringing interrupted his quiet rage. The favored tune for the month was the mating calls of humpback whales (Vikas actually used to buy such tunes… albeit to claim it as conveyance later).

"Yes Sir!" the awakened sharpness in Vikas‘s tone clearly told Ram that it was the President of the agency on the line.

"Yes sir, we are all ready to make the presentation, in fact my team should de-brief you anytime soon on exact status. We should also get a full presentation done by media; yes they are all in the know. I have sent them all long emails on the same. Have been out chasing other leads so haven‘t met them face to face but in these advanced times people should be reading their mails. After all aren‘t we a next generation agency?"

Ram marveled at the sheer craft of his boss. He had absolved himself of all responsibility while making it apparent that he had done enough work on the task. Only one thing was missing.

"No sir I wont be able to make it. I have this appointment with the M.D. of whoflungdung? Yeah it‘s the new Chinese fast food chain. Though if you need me there I can be in office, but you know how many agencies are in the fray for this account…"

The practiced pause.

"Ok then I will see you the day after…. yeah I need to do that meeting as well… such is work, you will understand if my cell is switched off most of the time, you know how touchy these people get when phones ring."

Vikas hung up the phone with a triumphant smile that bordered on pure evil. He calmly switched off the phone and then turned to Ram.

"You better get into the conference room quickly, boss wants to meet the entire team."

The smile nearly exploded off the sides of his mouth but with admirable restraint he managed to keep it within the confines of his face. After Ram got out, Vikas‘s car zipped into the horizon of happiness and contentment.

Ram trudged up the stairs and opened the conference room door to be greeted with an army of utterly bewildered faces, all engaged in animated conversation.

"What‘s this new account that we are supposed to be working on?"

"Don‘t really know but I believe there was a long email sent…"

"Yeah saw that but never read it. It was much too long."

As the confused murmur continued, Ram took his place on one of the ‘electric‘ chairs and buried his head on the table.

"Old Chinese Saying - when inevitable doom approaches it is better to have warm brew in belly" the whispered words of wisdom, the tea cup materializing in front of Ram and Chai-La, the mystical Chinese canteen boy vanished into the horizon of happiness and contentment with Vikas‘s car.

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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