Half the world away


Just how do big companies decide on their Christmas adverts?

It was that time of year again. The memo had been sent round. Everyone grumbled about it, but were completely powerless to prevent the shambles.

It was Christmas advert time.

Every big company engaged in warfare at this time of year. Peace and goodwill, eh? Who could come up with the most sickly, sentimental dross for 2015? Whatever happened to simple Christmas adverts? You know, the ones where you show off your product in the hope that someone may buy it for Christmas.

Now it was just silly. Everyone knew it, but like complete twats, they fell for it every time. Every employee at the company knew this too.

The staff were ordered to assemble at 2pm in the Old White Man Decision Making Room. As each one filtered in and took a chair, they felt a slight unease. This situation, you see, was getting worse every year.

“Hurry up, hurry up, siddown, siddown,” barked the most senior Old White Man.

The executive decision makers were all men. White men. It had been that way forever. They had a reputation for intolerance, impatience and more recently, being out of touch.

Mr Senior Old White Man stood up and addressed the room. An immediate hush descended.

“So,” he began, “what do we have this year?”

There was an initial pause. Silence. Someone coughed. Then every pair of eyes turned towards one, obviously nervous individual. He gulped comically then slowly shuffled to his feet.

“It’s this, Sir,” he croaked, gently raising a smooth, shiny black box.


“It.. it.. it’s really rather g-g-good,” stuttered Reluctant Employee. “You see, this is the Insipidator Ultramax 9000,” he continued. “It turns any song into acoustic melancholic pish.”

“Well kiss my arse and call me Susan!” bellowed Mr Senior Old White Man. “You mean all you do is put a cassette tape into this thing and it automatically produces one of those awful Christmas advert songs? This is TERRIFIC news!”

Reluctant Employee relaxed somewhat. He had pleased the fearsome boss. Feeling confident, he continued his presentation.

“Yes, that’s exactly it – well, sort of,” he chirped. Mr Senior Old White Man’s frown took him down a peg. “You don’t put a tape in. Not even a CD. You can just pair it with your device.”

Mr Senior Old White Man made a face as if Reluctant Employee had just showed him the video of ‘2 girls 1 cup’. He knew he was getting old and technology terrified him.

“Just.. just get on with it,” he muttered, making a turning motion with his left hand.

Reluctant Employee nodded and set the wheels in motion. He sat the Insipidator Ultramax 9000 on a table and pressed a hidden button on the side. A blue light pulsed gently, indicating it was ready. He produced a phone from his pocket and frowned while he slid and swooshed his fingers over the screen for a bit. Eventually he nodded to himself.

“This will be a perfect example,” he announced.

The older folk in the room winced as Rage Against the Machine blared from the phone.


“NOW I’M GOING TO PUT IT INTO THE INSIPIDATOR,” yelled Reluctant Employee. Mr Senior Old White Man was glad.

The young man swished his fingers across the screen towards the new machine. The blue light flashed faster, whirred and make robotic clicking noises.

Then the whole room gasped.

The song was now unrecognisable. Instead of Tom Morello’s beastly, funk-rock guitar, it was replaced by gentle folk fingerpicking on an acoustic. Zack de la Rocha’s unique vocals were no longer there. In their place, what sounded like a quirky 23 year-old self-proclaimed ‘feisty’ girl with a stupid, made-up name with stripey tights, blue hair and a shit jumper was softly singing away. It sounded like every other singer trying to make it in the music business who think their style is idiosyncratic but is actually fucking shite.

Fukyew ah wunt do wut yoo yah tell me
Fukyew ah wunt do wut yoo yah tell me
Fukyew ah wunt do wut yoo yah tell me

The girl’s put-on wee London accent was almost unbearable. It was a winner.

“My God….”

Mr Senior Old White man was almost lost for words.

“This is …. MAGNIFICENT!” Everyone burst into spontaneous applause. Reluctant Employee sat down, cradling the Insipidator. He breathed a sigh of relief. His work was done and it was a success.

The man in charge rise to his feet again and gestured for silence, both hands in front of him like a puppet feeling in the dark.

“Well, that was a triumph. Now, what’s the idea for our advert this year? Who’s got the pitch?”

A girl gingerly raised her hand like she was at school and needed a pish. The older men nudged each other and guffawed.

“I bet it’s all periods and pyjamas!”

“Ha! Will it be kitchenware this year?”

“Imagine a woman doing this!”

While the men in charge joked with each other, Ginger Girl stood up, smoothed her skirt and cleared her throat.

“We have two possible scenarios. They’re both topical and we feel they tap into the pulse of the nation.”

“Okay then, sweetheart. Go ahead.”

Ginger Girl shuddered. Four years at Uni to be patronised like this simply because she had a fanny. When would it end?

She composed herself and began the presentation.

“Well, last year one of the big supermarkets used the absolute horror of the worst conflict in human history. Millions of people died in unimaginable ways but they still felt it was appropriate to use the war as a way to boost Christmas sales. So, we felt war was the answer. And where’s the most topical war? That’s right, Syria.”

There was murmuring in the room. Nodding. Agreement. Solidarity from the co-workers. Mr Senior Old White Man remained stoic. Ginger Girl continued.

“Picture the scene: it’s a snowy and icy day. A young boy runs out into his garden and frolics in the snow. He builds a snowman. He’s having fun. Then! Cut to Syria. A malnourished girl is also in the snow. She doesn’t have a snowsuit. She isn’t having fun. In fact, she’s mourning her parents who were evaporated in a chemical attack. Then! Splitscreen. Two children, both in the snow. Two different stories. One happy, one sad. Polar opposites, if you will. But now comes the killer part. Each child, on splitscreen, receives a gift, clearly branded from our store. They both open it, look up and smile to the camera. The whole thing is soundtracked by Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ put through the Insipidator. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Shall I say it again?”

Ginger Girl finished. She had practiced that last bit over and over for the past week. She hoped it had done the trick.

Somewhere at the side of a room, a new young lad whispered to his colleagues.

“Do we even HAVE a store in Damascus?”

The colleagues glared and indicated he should shush.

The Old White Men leaned into each other and murmured. There were gestures and raised voices. Eventually, without emotion, Mr Senior Old White Man asked to hear idea number two.

Ginger Girl felt deflated. She composed herself and slipped into professional mode. A deep breath and here we go.

“Okay. Idea number two. What’s the most topical issue in the country just now?”

Before anyone had the chance to answer, Ginger Girl continued.

“That’s right, mental health.” She paused for effect again. More murmuring.

“The screen goes from black into bright, misty white. A woman is perched on the edge of a high bridge. It is clear she wishes to end her life. We’ve put Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ through the Insipidator. The idiosyncratic girl has nailed it. It’s perfect. There are flashbacks to happy times. The woman almost smiles. But! She remembers why she wants to jump. The camera pans to her feet, shuffling closer to the edge. Is she going to do it? No! A sexy, rugged man walks past. Sees what’s happening. Uses his charm to talk her down. It works! The last shot is him draping one of our winter coats over her shoulders. We could put that up by 400%. Think of the sales!”

Ginger Girl was aware she was breathing heavily. It was done. Damn drawing that short straw, having to pitch these ideas. She fixed her gaze towards the management. What were they thinking?

The management exchanged sideways glances. They all nodded in agreement. Mr Senior White Man stood up.

“Yeeeessss….. these are, erm, wonderful ideas. But we’ve came up with a better plan. We want Don Draper.”

People in the room gasped. It was audacious. My God, of course! He would make EVERYTHING better!

“But Don Draper hasn’t been found for 45 years!”

“He was last seen at a hippy retreat in California!”

“Even if we find him, he’s nearly 90! What’s he got to offer?”

Mr Senior White Man dismissed everyone’s concerns with a wave of the hand.

“We’ll find him. And when we do, he’ll give us the best goddamn Christmas advert there’s ever been. Now, go! Go and find him. Dismissed.”

“But Don Draper isn’t even real,” said a voice from the back. “He’s just a character in a television show. This is crazy.”

Mr Senior Old White Man heard the comment but didn’t acknowledged her concerns.

“Bloody women,” he thought.