Raising Eyebrows

Raising Eyebrows

How an Advertising Agency Won the Day

I was guided to my seat by his lackey. Initially the Product Manager looked normal, but after a few seconds, I had to confess there was a sprinkle of distrust.

I’ve seen these sorts of shifty eyes before. You know, the eyebrows that extend from one side of the forehead right across to the other side. No breaks in between. He’d need a whipper snipper to trim them, but right now they looked like they’d never seen tweezers in their life. His ears also had a bit of hair – you’d think a man in his position would, at the very least, attend to unwanted facial hair. But then again, maybe he wanted to look ugly. It amused me that a man would work on ladies’ skincare products and not attend to his own looks. It made no sense, anyway that was not for me to decide, I reminded myself.

As the Account Director on the brand, with him as our very senior client, we were in his office, his building. So he had some power at the meeting. He passed around his business card, showing off, like he owned the place.

I perused the card, probably taking longer than I should, and entered his details into my phone.

Frank Suxdorf – Product Director – Slide & Wipe

The new man continued to talk himself up. Most people in new positions do, and my Managing Director and Media Director pretended they were interested. They were crusty old admen – tough as nails and ruthless. They had to be tough. This account was on shaky ground. And if we were to lose this account, a lot of money would walk out the door. The boss said we had to do anything to keep it.

“Anything? Really?”

Sleeping with the Client

I am not about to have sex with a hairy client. My sleeping days with clients were long gone – ‘Discount Tow Trucks’ left my temple in ruins. Yes, I’ve learned the hard way. Some things aren’t worth the price. Now, with years of experience behind me and a bit of wisdom, I have my principles, and I intended to stick to them.”

Frank listened as I explained to the meeting how their advertising was progressing. Especially the ‘Slide and Wipe’ – the face cream for seniors that removed wrinkles in an instant. It was one of their best sellers, but sales had declined. Then I burst into tears. They watched and waited as the tears rolled down my face and splashed onto the highly polished wooden table. One by one.

Other than my snorts of distress, the silence was deafening.

They watched me remove a tissue from my bag and wipe away the spills of my distress. Initially, the table smudged but another tissue brought it back to its pristine state.

My Managing Director took over. I found that rude – he should have waited until I’d composed myself – that had been our agreed plan. Tears always distress a client and put them on edge – it gives an agency the upper hand. Like when I was young, my tears changed my Mother’s moods instantly, and she’d agreed to any of my requests. And at school it was the same – many of the girls in my class were so jealous of my persuasive techniques.

“I know this isn’t your fault,” Larry blurted. Possibly reacting to my tears. “Violence is not the way we do business.”

The Dismissal

My complaint from the previous week caused his predecessor’s dismissal. Men who work in ladies’ products are real pussies. When I’d poke a tow truck driver in the chest to insist on an agency initiative, they took it like a man. Whereas, after poking the former Product Director, he flattened me. Anyway, that’s all over now. He got a good payout, and I got a year’s supply of product. But the clients were forced to re-look at the terrible marketing mistakes the horrid man had made. The brand was failing. And it was their fault.

“From now on, we need to get the strategy right,” I think that’s what Larry said.

It was hard to work this Larry man out. His thin lips showed no emotion. No laughter. No teeth were ever seen. It was as if he never thought of getting his lips pumped up to look more pleasing. Anyway, that was his own business. Yes, completely up to him. I would not be the one to tell him to fix his appearance, like I did with his predecessor. But those eyebrows – I was unable to stop looking at them.

As the room settled into a more somber tone, my eyes wandered away and back again, and that’s when I noticed it: a dead giveaway. The wedding ring was missing, and I could see the white mark where it had once lived. He’s divorced or a wife basher, I thought.

My Managing Director praised me up. I wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed, as what he said was true. I had been with the agency for years – I’d seen clients come and go and was no stranger to the politics in an advertising agency. Most of all, I knew when to shut my mouth and listen – like right now. I observed their behaviours.

My eyes focused on his right nostril. The closer I looked, the more I came to realise there was a tiny scrap hanging on the end of one of his clusters of nose hairs. And when he’d exhale, the little scrap would shudder in the breeze. No matter how hard I tried not to look – I did. My eyes would keep returning to the little hanger-on.

Then, the room burst into laughter. I was so focused on his nostril that I didn’t hear what they said, but I ended up laughing, anyway. Apparently it was over a spelling mistake in the strategy document. Pathetic isn’t it.

But that laughter shifted the gloomy mood of the room into a more jovial atmosphere.

When my eyes returned, the scrap had disappeared – his laughing snorts had shifted the little fragment of dried mucus – and I spent the rest of the meeting trying to find where it landed. Maybe one of us inhaled it. Yuk! That shudder brought me back to the present.

But the happy atmosphere was short lived, as Larry’s axe-like sentence sent shivers through the agency.

A Budget of Sorts

“That’s the budget and I’m afraid it’s set in stone,” Larry apologised.

His look intensified when he said ‘set in stone’ and his change in mood caused his hairy eyebrows to group into the centre. Goodness me, it was like a mass of hair in the centre of his head. I nearly roared with laughter – the poor man looked pathetic. More than that, it was a terrifying look, and I had this vision of meeting a wolf man in a dark alleyway. What a nightmare that would be!

My Managing Director, who has no shame or compassion, let the man’s fearsome look subside and then took another angle.

He returned to the previous conversation about his predecessor’s mistakes with ‘Slide and Wipe’ and now, without an increase in their media spend, they would be the ones to slide and then wipe – right off the supermarket shelves. He explained that advertising had to rescue the brand – this was a life and death situation. And he reminded them of their mistakes at every breath.

The client froze. Someone had challenged him. He raised his eyes, which caused his forehead to wrinkle, which then caused his eyebrows to separate. Now it was obvious he had two eyebrows and not just one. A bit of a relief, really.

Mr Frank said he would speak to his MD. He appreciated our frankness. When he said the word ‘frankness’, I burst into laughter – nobody else saw the joke. I apologised and continued laughing into the cup of my hand.

Then, possibly because of my prior teary performance, he said he’d recommend an increase in the budget. We all gave a sigh of relief.

He had a nicely ironed shirt – a dead giveaway in a man – ‘a mummy’s boy’ came to mind. But then again, he may use a fussy laundry. But closer inspection showed a few stains on the cuff. It could be claret or, dare I say it, blood. Maybe he was a murderer? I chuckled at that radical thought.

They noticed me laughing to myself and probably thought I was happy with the meeting. But that was normal for me – I am always lighthearted.

After a time, I excused myself to use the restroom. On my return I walked the longer way to my seat, so as to pass behind Frank. Just as I thought – he was balding. And worse than that he was attempting to hide a bald patch with dye. Conceited, perhaps, but my eye for detail sometimes goes overboard. I even spotted dandruff on his shoulders. I chuckled to myself; surely a man in skincare should know better. But hey, who am I to judge? If he has psoriasis, he should at least have it treated. I really wanted to wipe his coat down, but that is so unprofessional. Plus, he may think I am being critical of his appearance.

As the meeting wore on I noticed a shift in their attitude towards me. They seemed more receptive to my ideas. Which seemed right at the time, but in hindsight they were possibly plunging a knife deep into my back.

After what felt like hours of observation, negotiation, and the delicate dance that was this meeting, it finally came to a close. We all stood, shaking hands with Frank and congratulating him on his appointment as Product Director.

Frank requested a breakfast meeting on the following day to explore the creative brief. This probably meant we’d get our revised budget. I knew we would – the tears always work.

A Vision of Victory

We drove back to the agency in a victorious mood. Breakfast would be at the Sheraton and the client was paying. Nothing could be better. I left at the usual time, exhausted after a long day.

Later that evening, the phone rang – I suspected it might be the client. I was used to their scheming and manipulative ways. But it was my Managing Director’s name that flashed on the phone.

What does that fool want? I wondered.

I answered in my clearest tone, pretending I didn’t know who was calling, “William speaking.”

“Hi Bill.”

That always pisses me off to no end. My name is William. I was born William. My friends call me William. It says William on my business card. But this fool, my MD calls me Bill.

“I’ve got some bad news,” he mentioned.

“We don’t need you at the breakfast meeting tomorrow.”

He didn’t see me roll my eyes.


“Well, this is difficult to say, but Frank doesn’t want you working on his account.”

“His account?” I screamed back, and then slammed the phone down.

How dare he call me at my home, near bedtime, and tell me that! My boss had no compassion for a fellow human-being.

I brooded for a few seconds.

Doesn’t want me. Really?

I’ll be at that stupid breakfast meeting tomorrow. And everyone in that lounge would know how evil my boss is. And mark my words, the William tears will bucket down in torrents. I will shake the Sheraton from its foundations.

The next morning I’d worked myself into such a state that I nearly forgot my lines. I bashed through the doors of the breakfast lounge and screamed as loud as I could.

“You bastards. What have you done to me.”

Every head snapped in my direction.

Except my boss.

He wasn’t there. The bastard.

Heads returned to their meals.

“Window seat, Sir?” the waiter asked.