Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Voting commercial


By Bob Boldt

The Dream. Our marketing firm had been hired to produce a commercial to encourage folks to take voting more seriously. We decided to audition some sample presentations to see if someone had a sufficiently innovative way to present the material in a new and catchy way. The first to audition was a troop of clowns who brought into the studio a huge cardboard cutout of a TV screen behind which they did a series of juggling and acrobatic acts.
    I was bored and, while they were completing their number, I began to fantasize how Shakespeare would have written for early television dramas like The Twilight Zone. The speech from the intro to Henry V came to mind and began playing in my ear. [O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The brightest heaven of invention, / A kingdom for a stage, princes to act / And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!]
    Next up was a tape of a show I had seen earlier on Philip Procter’s FaceBook page. It involved a blond singer who looked a lot like Virginia Mayo. In the quartet of equally provocative backup singers were a couple of other equally provocatively dressed ladies. The male dancer in the number was a very ordinary, moderately swarthy-looking little Italian-looking guy, who in 2016 would have been played, no doubt, by a sexy black man resembling Barack Obama. The tape was in the same kind of overwrought color the mid-Fifties produced.

    The third group hadn’t bothered to audition, but simply sent in a story printed on 8x10 paper. Rather than send in a sample reel they had typed up a detailed workup of the very concept we ourselves had been developing. I began reading it aloud to the discovery committee.

    It was the story of two partners who had parted ways and were now in competition for a key government contract.
    The one partner, Mister White, played by all the rules, prepared all the forms, and wrote his petition and the estimate for the costs involved. He got everything in order and waited for the contract to be approved.
    Meanwhile Mr. Black was seen at a fancy Jamestown restaurant wining and dining the chairman of the committee awarding the contracts. His receptionist had just taken delivery of a truckload of fresh-cut flowers. A shot of her surrounded by all those flowers made her look like a valentine to the wife of a man caught cheating. The screen dimmed and a title came up. “Well, boys and girls, guess who got the contract?”
    I looked around the room. Several people from adjoining offices had joined the discovery committee and were avidly listening to the reading of the script. The audience by now numbered ten or fifteen. They were all sitting at those old-time school room desks. They were as stunned and perhaps as stoned as I was by the amazing revelation in the film. I looked over to one of the others and asked him if he was as blown away by the presentation as I was. “I never thought anyone would propose that honest a TV commercial. I had no idea that was how our government worked. Is there no message of hope we can give them, then?”
    I replied to the whole group awaiting an answer. “Yes, but you see, startling as these revelations are, the system still stands.” I held up my right hand vertically in the air to symbolize the system. “That is what the people have to believe in, not the forces” – I pushed my left hand into my right, collapsing it – “that corrupt and override it. The commercial still has a positive message: ‘Believe in the system, even if it doesn’t work for you’ will be the tag line of the commercial. I’m sure they’ll buy it!”

Copyright © 2016 by Bob Boldt

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