July 5, 2004

Bottoms Up

A couple of years ago now I was working in an advertising agency in Chelsea, well, it was really in Battersea, but we claimed it was waterfront Chelsea property because that was more likely to impress clients. We had a diverse portfolio of clients and I would occasionally have to put down pen and pencil on a lingerie campaign to pick up marker pen and whiteboard for a children’s nicotine patches brainstorm session.
You may have heard of or even participated in a focus group. We’d take a product that we were being asked to advertise, present it to a cross-section of the public to gauge what the target audience was likely to be and then pour all our efforts into selling that product to that part of the population. That’s why Ribena doesn’t advertise to teenagers and Tampax doesn’t advertise to men. Simple common sense really.
It was towards the end of my time at the agency that I was tasked with selling an independent TV show. A production company in the UK had acquired default rights to a show that had worked extremely well in the US during the 80’s and wanted our help working out demographic research and coming up with some posters and teaser campaigns. We readily accepted, and took delivery of the pilot showreel the next day for an internal focus group.
The screen showed static, then black. Then a test card, followed by sepia images of ornate Camden drinking establishments. A cheery tune melodiously stroked the images, firing up deep nostalgic feelings about enjoying a pint with your friends. The unknown actor’s names faded in and out and the credits finished on a shot of a bespectacled gentleman with a goattee holding up a sign that said “Newcastle United Wins!” at which point I worried that we were about to watch a science fiction show, despite the disclaimer that it was based on a genuine venue.
Over the next half hour we were introduced to a variety of far-fetched and ludicrously fictitious characters in an update of what I came to realise was something of a classic formula. There was the rollicking Scots barman and his ditzy blonde colleague, trading banter with a plethora of stereotypical characters who never seemed to leave the bar including a leery lad-ette who would quaff pints and talk football with her weedy writer brother.
And yet, I stood there in my executive power suit, with my ponytail and perfectly manicured nails, toying with the sleek sliver of mobile phone and company car keys in my pocket and felt like such a fraud. These people had real chemistry, they weren’t impressed by the size of each other’s expense accounts or which supermodel they’d be taking home that night.
They’d found a place where they could take a break from all their worries and their troubles were all the same. I vowed there and then that I’d renounce my flash lifestyle and do my best to track down that little establishment in Camden. More than anything I wanted to cease my superficial and shallow existence. I wanted to become scruffy, I wanted to be able to wear jeans and sleep in my clothes in a doorway, stinking of cigarettes and alcohol. More than anything I wanted to find a place where everyone could know my name.
And I owe it all to Cheers: The Next Generation.


4 thoughts on “Bottoms Up

  1. I’m leaving a comment here not because I have anything to say about this particular post, but because – having read the comments relating to the following entry – I feel sorry for D. He never gets any comments on his posts, which just isn’t fair.
    Come on, everyone. Leave a comment for D. You’ll feel better for it, I promise. I do.

  2. Okay, I’ll shift down from sulk-factor six to sulk-factor two now.

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