Your Number is up!

The Media Review - Most men have a problem comprehending figures (except those of the female form). Figures intimidate men and take them back to memories of how euphoric they felt when they made it to college and it dawned on them that mathematics was optional. These men spend the best part of their lives ignoring any numbers thrown their way. On the other hand there are those (select few) whose very world is around numerals. For whom creating pie charts, bar graphs and any other vulgar representations of data, is like chicken soup for the soul. The media review is the forum where these two opposing philosophies meet.

'One-two-three-four, lord I can't take figures no more' the fake American drawl failed to mask the heavy Chinese accent, as Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) delivered his nursery rhyme sounding pearl of wisdom plus the customary tea cup to Ram Shankar, before vanishing into the footnote of a pie chart.

The agency and the client teams had gathered for the annual media review, taking place in the agency conference room. It was meant to be a very important assessment of where the client was spending his budgets and how efficiently the agency was buying for him.

The agency President had begun the meeting by saying, "Planimus, our media head, has put together a presentation that frankly made no sense to me. But hopefully will be seen in a better light by all of you. Can we have more lights please?" he finished with a thunderous laugh, meant to awaken the dead and generally frighten some of the numbers on the presentation that were eager to come out.

Planimus, who was a person who did his media plans with almost gladiatorial passion (hence the sobriquet, his real name was lost in the annals of time) was hardly cheered by that remark of the President. He quickly shot a glance at Vikas (the account head and Ram's boss) urging him to open with something more sensible.

"Thank you sir," started Vikas, patronizingly patting the President's hand to calm him down, "We are gathered here because Planimus has worked out a past assessment and more importantly a future implication of our media plans and budgets. So lets absorb what he has to say and then make our budgetary decisions in a more evolved and scientific manner. After all it's all about spending money more wisely."

Ram knew that while that was a good opening, Vikas's knowledge and interest in media ended there.

Mr Bose, the client marketing head, spoke up, "Why don't we call in PP (the creative director) he should also be a part of this."

An uncomfortably silent five minutes later PP entered like his name was just short listed for the train to Auschwitz

"Ok, let's begin with a GRP analysis, region wise, and see how these met with our set objectives," started Planimus with almost lusty enthusiasm and then without warning displayed a slide that had a table on it, on which the figures looked as if they would be much happier elsewhere.

There was a collective inward groan from most people in the room.

"Why are you showing so many figures? What's the story behind them?" asked a visibly dazed Vikas.

"The story, my young fellow," began Planimus in a tone that Vikas instantly hated, "is how we are doing across the country against what we had set to do."

"Then why don't you just say it in a line?" PP enquired

"It can be, but this is an analytical process and we would lead to that, also don't you think that the client deserves to be walked through every step, especially when monetary considerations are involved?"

"I don't think you should dwell on this too much," interrupted the President resurfacing briefly after he had instantly popped off to sleep just about the time Planimus had stood up to present.

"Ok," said Planimus with a huff and jumped 19 slides in the presentation, though clearly working under protest.

"Why are we falling short of our GRP's?" enquired Mr.Bose.

"Don't worry about these things," boomed the President, "These are just figures, I don't even think there is much scientific basis to them," Planimus clearly miffed by that point raised an outraged eyebrow, which the President glossed over with the casual flick of the wrist, "but maybe if the GRP's are down you need to spend more." He concluded with a wicked twinkle in his eyes.

"Why don't we try and isolate the pattern that is emerging?" asked Bose in a tone that he hoped would make his IQ level shoot twenty points.

"Well, we started with bar graphs, then we graduated to pie charts, soon Planimus will be plucking numbers from the very fabric of the cosmos," concluded the President again finishing with that thunderclap of a laugh that shook a few numbers out of their reverie.

"What's the point of these numbers? I never see our commercials on TV?" queried PP.

"You are in office till midnight everyday, you don't even watch TV, plus you aren't the target audience," retorted Planimus.

"PP has a point though," began Mr Bose, as the face of Planimus began changing colors with the speed of an agitated chameleon. "Why don't we see the commercials, even the chairman complains that his wife never sees them?"

Planimus was tempted to say something unconstitutional about the Chairman's wife, but years of wisdom prevailed.

"We judge media on the basis of how well our target is being exposed to the message. Our target as we all know is the lower middle class, what use is it, even if the chairman's wife sees our ad, for groin itching creams? We have only that much money to spend."

"Are you saying that you want more money?" asked Bose in a rather bellicose tone.

"Yes, of course we always need more money," chimed in the President and was instantly knocked out when Planimus exposed him to a slide with 144 matrix cells.

"What I am saying is that we have to balance the fine line between those who will give us sales versus those whom we just have to pamper and as you know the latter is a statistically insignificant number," said a defiant Planimus

"Why don't we just look at the larger picture and make our conclusions thereof?" interjected Vikas, doing his 'servicing bit' to preserve the tender equilibrium of the meeting. There was a marked rise in the temperature in the room, beyond the scope of work of the air conditioner.

"We can, but things will only make sense if you people change your attitude towards numbers and stop being so intimidated by them."

"Who is intimidated?" nothing intimidates me, said the President awakening fresher.

"We all understand numbers Planimus, numbers are the very basis of our functioning," added Mr Bose, though cold sweat beads began to form on his forehead as the '144 matrix cells' slide had not been changed over the last ten minutes.

"Please," gasped Vikas, "Change that slide, its beginning to suffocate me."

Planimus, with a sardonic smile, pushed the page down button to reveal a new adversary, four pie charts that had all the colors of the rainbow on them. PP dashed out of the room covering his mouth. Planimus felt that he had registered a moral victory of some sort.

"I think Planimus you just type out a mail summarizing the entire presentation, and don't use any numbers in it. Please also indicate that we will need more budgets."

"And analyze each and every number to its logical conclusion, Ram will help you do that, he is good at that and will bring in an account management perspective," uttered Vikas, adjusting his tie in his reflection on Mr. Bose's spectacles.

Ram groaned with disgust, fear and boredom all rolled into one. He dreaded talking to Planimus about numbers, that man was numerically insane.

"Where did more budgets come from? I never concluded that?"

"Don't worry Bose, that's the sum and substance of the presentation, now let's go and have a good lunch. Planimus you can come along as long as you don't start asking for break ups on the bill and drawing bar graphs on the napkins."

So the President, Mr Bose, Planimus and Vikas checked out of the room like they had to catch a flight, pie charts still lying appetizingly unattended to on the screen.

"Media review meetings are very short, because people who attend then have a long history with numbers," the hushed Chinese accent, the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La disintegrated into a Fibonacci sequence of numbers.

Ram wearily started to go through the first ten slides of the presentation, when almost at once he began to feel that his eyelids were being pulled down by forces beyond his control, he was overcome with the same feeling of nausea one gets when seeing the Indian batting line up perform abroad.

Then his world went 100 percent black.

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