It was a sober atmosphere in the boardroom at Gnuchi and Gnichi. All around the large, oval, glass, table sat the directors and senior managers, each looking as glum as the next. "OK. We all know why we're here" the chairman opened the crisis meeting "accounts 20% down, no new campaigns in the offering, the whole food sector gone soft and the first 6 months loss since this company started.
Come on, I'm paying you lot a fortune, what are we going to do about it?" His key staff all looked down at the blank pieces of paper in front of them. There was a rumble of nervous swallowing and clearing of throats... though no one has anything to say.
Sir Peter Pepper was not noted for his patience, certainly not with ineffective managers. They all knew that this could be their last day unless someone came up with something... quick. But most had too much to lose and, even though in the advertising industry, had too little courage to speak with any originality. Most, but not all.
Timothy Robbins, known to the others as ‘young Tim', had nothing to lose. He hadn't worked at Gnuchi and Gnichi long enough to have built up a pension, but his TV stardom, that had also given him his job at this, seemingly, prestigious firm meant that he could walk into a job anywhere.
"Ahem. Sir Peter, if I may?"
"You might as well Tim, since nobody else seems to have the balls to say anything. The floor's yours."
Tim looked around the packed boardroom nervously. He saw a few encouraging faces, mainly from the leisure industries sector, where he'd built up a bit of a fan base for his light wit and sparks of genius. "I just wonder if it's time we faced the truth here."
Many of the board groaned audibly but Sir Peter nodded "and what might that be?"
"Well, it's all ‘been there done that, isn't it? This advertising business I mean. There are no new colours we can use on our posters. There are no new jokes we can bring into our TV campaigns. There are no really new materials we can use to add sparkle." He looked around to gauge reaction.
He was hit with a range of facial expression from puzzlement to outright antagonism… with a fair amount of denial in-between. But from the face that mattered, the chairman's, he saw interest... even perhaps a smile. Before it could fade, he went on. "But most of all, there are no new products. None. It's all been done before. No wonder we can't get any interest going, there's nothing worth getting enthusiastic about!"
Seeing his boss nod slightly, he continued. "Look, I know that most folk who take notice of our adverts are pretty much sheep, but even they are becoming jaded, worn out by all this, our, media hype. And, dare I say it, some are even becoming discerning!" There was a gasp from at least two old-school colleagues and a sense of shock from the more unaware of the board.
Sir Peter Pepper beamed "You're right. Totally right. Why hasn't anyone else told me this?" As he looked at each of them in turn, his executives all buried their faces again. "Your prognosis is spot on Tim, but does that wise, young, head have any suggestions for keeping this company in profit, or do these truths mean it's time to shut up shop?"
Now the prevailing emotion around the table was one of fear: no job, no money, no status... but not from Sir Pepper nor young Tim. Though coming from very different places and with a lifetime of experience between them, both knew this was an opportunity, a chance to break the mould and make a difference... not just to their own lives, but perhaps to society as a whole.
"It is perhaps a matter of choice" Tim responded. "Punters are wise enough now to see that there is no real difference between brand X and brand Y, they know that this new recipe or that new feature make sod all difference to them, the user. It's time to stop treating the purchasing public as stupid and treat them as thinking, feeling, individuals." More stifled gasps spluttered from the assembled section heads and once high-flying account managers.
"So what are you suggesting?"
"Instead of advertising things that don't matter, promote things that do. Why don't we put our weight and creative skills behind..."
Douglas Daggers could keep quiet no longer. "You mean ‘Green' products and ‘New Age' stuff?" he spat our cynically. ‘Been there, done that'" he quoted sarcastically. His chairman looked at him, weighing up his previously dependable deputy.
He let the words echo around the room. "Times are changing, We have to change with them. Douglas, leave now. Thank you." Douglas looked around at the stunned faces, wanting to argue his case but knowing there was no arguing against Sir P once he'd made up his mind. Mouth open in shock he rose from his chair and made his way to the door, clutching at each chair for support as he passed.
Sir Peter had been through many rollercoaster highs and lows in his varied and hugely successful career. Indeed, his knighthood reflected his highly respected entrepreneurial status... and nose for whole new business ventures. He knew when to changes horses. He nodded at young Tim to continue.
"The trouble with our ‘Green' and ‘New Age' campaigns is that we've tried to use old style advertising on them. But as I've just said, old hype and superficial floss just doesn't work any more... certainly not with the folks who are interested in genuinely useful products, in authentic goods, or in services that encourage and enable us to think for ourselves, to express our creativity and share or co-operate. Humanity is waking up. We're no longer cannon fodder. To survive we have to be part of the emerging awareness of our inner spiritual nature and the one, interconnected, global reality... and to accept responsibility..."
"… for humanity's future" The chairman completed the sentence for him. "Heart and Soul, ladies and gentlemen, that is the New, New. And it has to come from our heart and soul. If a product isn't authentic, we don't promote it. If a service doesn't help the greater good, we don't advertise it. No more campaigns of empty words, no more relying on so-called big names or big budgets. Each job has to feel right.
"Tim, I want you to start a new department working for and with currently unheard of businesses that fit into all this." Spotting his Finance Director about to jump in he held up his hand for silence. "It may be true that, at present, such companies can't afford our fees. So, we'll subsidise the initial campaigns for each of them. Choose the best and throw our resources behind them.
"And where's the money coming from?" His boss of finances could keep quiet no longer.
"You've heard of "Frenzy' drinks?"
"Isn't that your alco-pop company?"
"Was. Just had an offer I couldn't refuse... from Poca Pola. They might be happy to fuel binge drinking, but not me. I'm committing all the proceeds from this sale to the new project we've just agreed. "
"You," he addressed his three section heads, "how many spare staff do you have?" Peter, choose the ones most in keeping with our Authenticity Project. They now work for you."
Needless to say there were probably millions of questions buzzing around inside the heads of his key staff, but none, they knew, were worth asking. Their jobs, their world, had changed.