One Wrong Move
Concept, design, deadline, reference, sketch, presentation, strategy, campaign, props, jpeg, PDF, traffic, flame, grid, Avid, CMYK, RGB, DPI, audition, execution, resolution, location, brand extension, high definition, post-production, brief, reach, frequency, story board, scamp, production value, show reel, key visual, Photoshop, Pack-shot, layout, convert, freehand, offline, online, renders, insight, input, breakdown, USP, GRP, TRP, RTB, SOV, CPT, digital, segmental, conceptual, advertorial, engagement, OTC, FCMG, casting, styling, briefing, brainstorming, PPM, pantone, shooting, rating, repositioning, branding-shmanding. Shut the hell up already. Fuck, what do they want from me? How did I even find myself here?
Hello, I’m Karnie. I’m twenty-eight and living in Tel Aviv. I love the summer; hate it when the shampoo runs out mid shower; to this day I am still traumatized by that time I had my hair cut off when I was of twelve; and I love my coffee strong, really strong. Maybe ‘cause that’s what keeps me awake and brave enough to cope with this life. What do I do? I work at an ad agency as an account executive.
An account executive is the one who runs things around here. The truth is, I always dreamed of working in advertising. I never knew exactly why. I guess it seemed like a good starting point for life, and a great line for my high school reunion. “So, what do you do?” They’ll ask. “Account executive,” I’ll say, and it’ll sound awesome.
I arrived here (here, as in, Schulman-Scher-Melinsky SOS, one of Israel’s largest ad agencies) about a year ago, and ever since then have been conducting my life in a frantic dance, trying to make my way through this big crazy world. It looks something like this:
Senior Blonde speaking: “Write the brief, give it to the traffic manager and tell her to send it over for work in the studio. Make sure to tell her that its urgent/critical/hysteric. Check with the media and find out what’s going on with the prices for the double in the Seven Days weekly magazine, and ask the planner about the research guide. Oh, and get this, they closed the ad without convert again. That is so not ok. What do you mean you haven’t had lunch yet? But it’s only 5. OK, eat and then call that pest and ask him if the key visual has been approved yet. Tell Natalie that the visual is really bad; we have to look for something else. This is totally not up to par with what we’ve been looking for. And smile sweetie. Why are you so sad?”
“That’s not it. I don’t know. I suppose I was thinking of something different; and the model, does she say fresh to you? She looks like she should be selling anti-wrinkle cream and not a refreshing health drink. And what’s with these fonts anyway? Who can even read that? I want a new idea, I’ve already asked for at least two new concepts yesterday.” Mr. Alpha is the Marketing Director of Berrylicious, a natural strawberry drink. Mr. Alpha is the tough, serious type; the type that must’ve served in the secret service or something. Well, I don’t know about the secret service but definitely the IDF Special Forces unit, where he probably had all his spontaneity beaten out of him. I bet he’s firing in all directions even at home: his kid shows him a drawing he did in kindergarten, and he starts explaining to him why this really doesn’t fit the concept.
“Moving on to another issue,” he continued. “I wish to talk to you about something. Yesterday we received the monthly report. It’s bad, really bad. The board wants to cut back on the budget. I need you to be more creative. Don’t come to me with any huge campaigns; think small, smart, and cost-effective. Don’t bring me some gigantic script where only the catering girl’s salary could fund an entire movie production.”
A massage on the beach in Koh Samui. That’s what the man needs right now. I would take down a double spread ad from the media plan right now and send him there on a direct flight if I could.
In Front of My Computer.
A price proposal for a campaign. How do I even begin calculating this? I thought to myself. Take off 10 percent, add 5 and then add commission. According to the daily dollar rate, or in his special media prices…??
“Ohhh Myyy Go-od! I’m gonna kill you, I swear!” He’s done it to me again. It’s Ben-Ben, a copywriter at the office (his real name is Benny, but he’s such a Ben-Ben). He’s turning 27 next month, which doesn’t prevent him hiding behind the door, yelling, “Baaaa,” and making me scream with terror every single time.
Other times – as appropriate for a man of his age – he would place an innocent looking box on my desk which pops every time I touch it, or make all sorts of noises come from various unexpected directions, sending me on a search for my sanity. I don’t know what’s more annoying, the fact that I fall for it every time, or the fact that he never tires of trying out every prank on me and dying of laughter every time he sees me all shaken up.
When he’s dealing with a client however, he can be the most serious person in the world. He’ll present the creative ever so coolly; and explain to the client how much the creative concept suits the language of the brand in a way that would speak to the consumer at eye level and that would eventually make them love the brand. And I am the only one sitting there thinking to myself, “come on already Ben-Ben, stop showing off.’”
I felt shitty today. I mean, seriously shitty. I’ve been on this crappy carbs and protein diet for about a week now. I saw my dietitian yesterday and no results, nothing. And to think I’ve been so good; I watched what I ate, I elegantly ignored all the brownies that were piled up in a tempting pyramid at the Berrylicious meeting, and every evening as I came home I struggled with my hunger, which was screaming, “help me;” and stood there chopping up a salad like a good girl.
On top of everything else, the new account executive they put next to me in my office – the one who only a month ago made the startling confession of never really having a serious boyfriend and never being approached by anyone, it was one of those types of conversations that make you feel like you’re not alone and that maybe your condition isn’t as bad as it seems – suddenly met someone two weeks ago, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Today she received a huge bouquet of flowers, the kind that costs at least a hundred and fifty shekels, and at least three charming text messages. Now, I’m not saying I’m not rooting for her, ‘cause I am. What can I do? Not be happy for her? But deep in my gut I felt a pinch; the kind that says: why is it so easy for everyone else and so hard for me?
And then, when Ben-Ben saw my bummed out face in the hallway and asked me what was wrong and I told him, he gives me a look that says: “Stop it honey, there are far worse things in life.” I felt like protesting. I want to fight for my right to get bummed out by the little things in life. I’m allowed to wake up in the morning and feel like the ugliest thing in the world!
From: Rona Grossman – Management Secretariat
To: Account Executives Department
Subject: weekly meeting
The meeting will take place at the large boardroom at 11 AM. Throughout the meeting, studio manager, Daniela, will present the new studio work regulations.
No late arrivals
The “Inherent Guy” began to speak. I gave him that name the day I finally realized that he simply didn’t get enough love as a child. Inherent is a planner at our agency, and he’s actually a smart guy. But he has this unyielding need to make an impression on everyone around him, and it has gotten so bad that he no longer speaks like a regular person. Now every word that comes out of his mouth is: inherent, coherent, consensual, and eminent: “It is imperative that we venture into yet uncharted territories. We’ve concurred that the conceptual map is relatively crowded, but have recently discovered a new tactic that may potentially bare the fruit of a new and intriguing conceptual vision.” Hello? Does anybody here have a Webster’s Dictionary?
Meeting with the Creative Team.
The Art Director opened the meeting. She has a lot of confidence for someone who had just started last week. Well, that there is a lot of creativity in the creative department: Standing there in her indefinable green Adidas top, a pink skirt and red striped knee socks.
“The look and feel of the ad is going to be very clean,” she began; “very mellow, serene, and flowing. The key visuals are not going to be of some preppy-faced models, but of regular everyday people, like us.”
Regular? Like us ah? Thanks darling, I love you too.
There was something about this girl’s diction that made her sound so intelligent in every situation. I bet she could speak about dried tomatoes and make it sound super interesting.
In the Office Smoking Corner with Dolce & Gabbana.
Dolce and Gabbana are the agency’s Haute couture duo. Dolce has ridiculously long legs and a one of a kind sense of high-fashion. I will never forget my first day here when I saw her wearing a knee length silk skirt and little pointy shoes – the ones with the tiny French heel – which I was certain even the Prêt-à-Portea shows in Paris hadn’t exhibited yet. Ok, so Forever 21 is not her thing.
It took me a while to realize that Dolce and Gabbana, my comrades in the ever combative accounts department, are a rarity in our local scenery. For despite the glamorous image of the advertising industry, not everyone dresses according to the latest trend. And judging by the array of H&M jeans parading in front of me in the halls every day, I can proudly say that I’m in a good place somewhere in the middle. Much like Dolce, Gabbana too is completely into high-fashion, and let’s just say I could take out a mortgage on her outfit alone.
But despite all that facade, they actually turned out to be really sweet. Apparently, beneath all that Prada has a kindness and warmth that I haven’t felt from any of the other people here. I guess it’s because they are so beautiful, no one really dares to get close to them, which probably makes familiarity a rare necessity for them. I naturally had no problem clicking with them, due to a long and committing process of chain-smoking to death of course.
Another thing I learned about Dolce and Gabbana was their expertise in discovering crucial informative details. Yesterday for example, I met them again in the office smoking corner, and as I sat down right between the two of them, I made sure to turn my head from one to the other like I was watching a tennis match.
“What’s up Karnie, do you have anything to tell us?” asked Dolce in a teasing tone.
“We heard that you’re going to get another account soon. A big one. Very big one, ” added Gabbana.
“Are you serious? Who told you?”
“What difference does it make?” Gabbana shrugged her shoulders. “If you want us to keep supplying you with important information, you better quit trying to guess our sources.”
“OK. Can you at least tell me which account? You have to give me at least that.”
“Stop right there, honey. From this point, it’s up to you to find out the rest,” the two of them answered in an almost perfect unison.
By Big Boss’s Secretary’s Desk.
I hovered restlessly over Rona Grossman’s desk. My little chat with Dolce and Gabbana had me completely wired. What is going on here? I was so sick of this insufferable feeling of never knowing what is really happening in there behind closed doors; what they truly think of you; or even where you stand with them... if at all, that is. I felt I had to know.
“Hi Rona,” I began snooping, “What’s up? You got your hair colored didn’t you? Say, when would be a good time to speak to him?”
She shot one irreverent glance at me and said: “Forget it. He’s in a board meeting. At 2, he’s meeting with a new client, then he’s going in to see Schulman, and then he has a business conference all through the afternoon. Let’s see... you could try in... two weeks on the 24th.”
“That long? Wait, did you just say ‘new client’? What new client?”
“Nice try Karnie. I’ll say it again, forget it.” And with that she immediately picked up the phone, a swift and almost automatic motion for Miss Grossman, which says: “get out of my face.”
Senior Blonde had another one of her triumphant moments:
“OK. Honey, I’m going out for post-pro, so be a dear and finish with the invoices, the briefs, and the summary of today’s meeting OK? What did he say? He’s leaving? Excuse me!? That is so rude. Tell him it’s absolutely out of the question. He has to finish the ad by tomorrow and I don’t care how. So what if his sister is getting married tonight? Alright, you can manage can’t you? I really, really have to get going.”
Night Time. Pillow.
 About forty dollars.
Monday Morning. Before My Morning Coffee.
Senior Blonde was in a particularly bad mood today. She had that look on her face again, the one with the knit eyebrows, the pressed lips, and the flushed cheeks.
“Karnie!” she called me, “Mr. Alpha called me last night, right when I was in the middle of something very important, to say that he hadn’t received the sketch for the print ad. Naturally, I couldn’t get a hold of you so there was nothing I could say to him.”
“But...” I tried to squeeze in an explanation.
“No Buts, you know how delicate the situation is. This is the fourth design he’s asked for in the past week. We just can’t seem to get whatever it is he wants. He’s already asked to meet with Schulman, which probably means we’re in trouble. I’ve asked you several times to send me the sketch as soon as it’s ready. I just don’t understand what language I have to use for you to understand,” and she turned her back to me as soon as she was done.
“But I did send it! I spoke to his secretary, and she told me he did receive the ad,” I shouted at her back in the shrill voice, like a chicken led to the slaughter, while keeping my eyes on her perfectly blown-out golden bob hairdo.
Yes, Senior Blonde is severely stuck somewhere in the mid-eighties, with her round bob meticulously curled inwards and every hair in its exact place. I would give anything to pour a glass of water over her just once, and see what the results of my experiment would be; just like in Chemistry class.
“I don’t know anything about received or not received,” she said impatiently. “What I do know is that he’s angry with me, and I really don’t need that right now. Send it to him again and call to apologize.” Bam! Another door was slammed.
Ever since we moved into our new offices, the doors have been slamming much harder. Someone needs to issue a new law: “All doors in ad agencies must be made of plastic! PLASTIC! Not wood, not metal, not glass. Plastic!”
From: Aharon – Planning
To: Schulman-Scher-Melinsky – All
Subject: Short questionnaire
We’re conducting a little spontaneous survey for a new client, so please help by answering the following questions:
1. If you have bad breath (or you think you do), what are you going to do to get over your concern?
2. What does “clean smell” mean to you?
Please direct all of your answers to me.
Thanks for your help,
Phone Call from Mom.
“Sarah! How is it going dear?”
“What do you mean Sarah?”
“Oh, Karnie sweetheart.”
“Hi Mom. So, you’re mistaking me for Sarah again?”
“No sweetheart, I actually meant to call you too.”
“What’s going on?”
“Everything’s fine Mom. Listen, it’s crazy here, I’ll speak to you later.”
“Wait! Wait a minute.”
“What Mom? I’m dealing with a mess here, I’ll speak to you later.”
“Karnie, let me just get a word in.”
“It’s your father. He started with his nonsense again.”
“What is it this time?”
“Do you remember what happened on Friday?”
“So he went and told the whole thing to Uncle Nachum.”
Uncle Nachum. I’m 28 years old, and she still calls him Uncle Nachum whenever she speaks to me, as if I won’t know who she’s talking about if she just says “Nachum.”
“And, what happened?”
“Oh, it was a whole big mess. Uncle Nachum called us and was so angry, asking how we could do that to him and... Oh, don’t ask.”
“What’s with you Karnie? ‘Well? Well? Well?’ I’m telling you something and all you have to say is: Well? Well? Well?”
“What do you want from me? I told you it is crazy here right now, and you’re talking my ear off with all of our family drama. Mom! I don’t have time for this now.”
“But you never have time. You can’t even bother to listen to a single full sentence anymore.”
“Mom, I’ll talk to you later tonight. People are waiting for me.”
“OK. Bye.” she said under her breath and hang up.
From: Robbie - Account Executives Department
To: Schulman-Scher-Melinsky – All
Subject: Ford Fiesta in top condition
For sale – ‘99 Ford Fiesta, fifth hand, top condition, test valid for a year.
For further details, see me, fifth floor.
We’ve arrived at the sound studios to record the Berrylicious radio ad, with the oh-so-sexy famous actor Mr. Alon Aboutboul.
My God, I’m dying. He’s the ugliest most beautiful guy in the world, with that rugged Mediterranean look of his.
He takes his seat in the studio and puts the headphone on. I take my seat with Ben-Ben on the other side of the glass.
Ben-Ben began directing him, being all professional, saying, “do this like that” and “do that like this.” And him? He is being absolutely charming; following directions without giving us any celebrity attitude for even a moment. He even agreed with Ben-Ben, saying: “Yes, you’re right. This take really wasn’t so good. Let’s do it again.”
I sat there, watching from the side, mesmerized by the stubble on his face, his nonchalant attitude, and that tone. I bet his all toned…
Once we were done recording, he suddenly turned to me and asked:
“Say, are you going to central Tel Aviv?”
“Not at all. But for you baby, I’ll drive to the Lebanese border,” I said to myself.
“Yes, sure. Where do you need to go?”
He gets into my car with all of his magnetizing presence. I felt as though we’ve known each other for years. After all, I’ve spent so many Saturdays and holidays with him.
Then I started thinking that all of those little gestures that actors make on screen are actually a part of their natural everyday body language. Sure, three years at the Beit Zvi acting school must’ve taught him how to get into a character, walk in its shoes, and penetrate its vary soul. But that pout he does with his lips – that’s all his. He must’ve been doing it since he was five years old.
He glanced at me from the corner of his eye. I kept driving, pretending to be focused on the road.
God, please get us into a traffic jam because I can’t stand the suspense. I can’t turn my head to look at him. One more minute and I’ll cause an accident. And what if he says to me right now: “Say, do you feel like going for a drink?” I was daydreaming. My heart would probably roll down from my chest and land somewhere by the brakes.
We got stuck in traffic. Thank God. If this wouldn’t have happened, I would probably turn to him right now and say: “See, I have a weak heart and you are so handsome. I know how this goes. We will go to the nearest bar, you will order me a glass of wine; I’ll ask you questions about all the movies and TV shows you were in; and you’ll return my questions by asking me some questions about me. I’ll answer, and then we’ll kiss by the bar, while you sneak a few glances left and right to make sure that there are no Paparazzi around, but I won’t care. And then, you’ll ask for the check and we’ll go to your place. But we won’t be able to control ourselves, and start making out against the elevator mirror, before staggering into your apartment. Yes, just like in those movies you starred in, in that scene where the couple begins undressing each other right in the hallway and falls down while still passionately going at it on the floor.
Finally, we’ll get into your bed. Your apartment will be a mess, and so will your bed. But who cares, after all you’re the talent, and I am in your bed. Respect. And then we’ll fuck. We’ll fuck like crazy, A, because I love it, and B, because I’m insanely attracted to you. I don’t know if it’s the wine or your persona, but you’re definitely not letting me down. You’re just like in my fantasies; sensitive and thoughtful, strong and passionate. But then it will all be over. And even if you really are awesome and this goes on for several unforgettable hours, I will eventually get out of your bed, put my clothes on, and won’t even expect you to ask for my number. I’ll simply leave through the front door, and everything will go back to being as it was. I told you, my heart is weak, and you are so handsome.”
“Say, do you have anything to drink?” he asked me, jerking me out of my internal dialogue.
“Like a bottle of water or something? I have a terrible headache and I have to take a pill.”
“Ahh, yeah. Sure, sure,” I answered and pulled out a bottle of mineral water.
He got out of the car on the corner of Nordau and Ben Yehuda Street.
“Thank you for the ride and the water,” he said, flashing his “Aboutboul smile.”
“You’re welcome,” I answered. He turned to leave and I watched him walking away.
What’s happening to me? This man is married with probably around 800 children, and an actor on top of everything else.
I’m living in la-la land. If something doesn’t happen in my life very soon, I’ll go crazy.
At the Studio. The hurricane hit.
“You have to do this right now. It’s urgent/critical/hysteric! Seven Days magazine called and said that if the print ad isn’t coming in right now, they’re pushing us next to the obituary section, and that will also be where you’ll find my career!”
“OK. Karnie, calm down. We’ll handle it and call you when it’s ready,” said the studio manager.
“No. I AM NOT LEAVING before it’s done.”
“Do whatever you want. Your phone’s ringing.”
I answered my mobile. It was a client: “Listen Karnie, we’ve decided that the phrasing in the strip isn’t good enough. We have to come up with a better headline that will motivate people for action.”
A motive for the action? Now? Where the hell is the copywriter? Oh, she’s out on recordings. I called her, and in utter nonchalance she came up on the spot with the following poem: “Don’t miss this chance, don’t stay away. Fantastic sale for just one day.”
So much bullshit in one sentence. OK, now I get who I’m dealing with.
“Write this down,” I said to the junior designer in the tone of a pissed-off drill sergeant: “See you at one of our points of sale, for a free product sample!”
In My Office. Sitting in Front of My Computer.
A new Facebook message from Shelly. Her smiling face is perpetually beaming at me from her profile photo.
My beautiful Karnie.
I was so happy to get a sign of life from you this morning. Finally! I feel like we’re not talking enough lately, and I miss our phone chats so much. I know it’s difficult because of the time differences and with you working so hard lately. But I’ll even make do with Facebook messaging at this point.
I thought about what you wrote to me. Sometimes I’m amazed at how far you came and how much you’ve changed. You? Actually speaking at a presentation? (Or a Pitch or whatever you call it with all your polished advertising words...) You?
I remember how “Unibrow” used to turn to you in the middle of class, and your face would turn as red as a tomato. You were so shy back then.
Sometimes I think you chose to work in this business just to tackle your problem, like those people who have a fear of heights, and who jump out of airplanes to face their fears.
Anyway, I’m good. I started my internship this week in a charming little preschool on the Upper East Side, and for the first time since we’ve arrived here I actually feel happy. But it’s still very stressful. If I want to get a job here, I only have a short three week period to prove myself, and not in my native tongue, mind you. You know, I have to prove to them that I can be a good preschool teacher, while speaking perfect English the entire time. Otherwise, their kids may start speaking English in an Israeli accent; God forbid :)
New York is scary. Yes, scary. The buildings here are so tall. I walked down Second Avenue yesterday, and stopped to look up. For a moment it seemed
like the buildings were having a conversations amongst themselves, saying: “How are you? You’re looking good in the sunlight. Say, have you had any reconstructive work done or something?” They are so close that sometimes I think they’re going to kiss at any moment and the entire city will be crushed under the pressure of their embrace, and melt into one giant mush of millions of people and thousands of yellow taxi cabs.
Amit works all the time, so nothing has changed. I thought things between us will change once we finally get here, or that I’ll at least have him to myself when he gets home every evening - just him and me – no distractions, no parents, no friends. But sometimes he comes back at such late hours that even that little time fades away.
But at the end of the day I’m happy that we moved here. I thought about it a lot and I realized that there was no other option. Everything I’ve been through back home became intolerable. The job offer they made Amit here couldn’t have come at a better time.
You know, Yes, I still dream about Daniel sometimes and I think about him a lot, though it’s been a long time since I stopped hoping that something would happen; that he’ll just show up one day and tell me that everything is alright.
Karnie, are you by any chance still in touch with his parents? Do you know if they’re alright? Are they still holding on? The last time I heard anything from them was when his mom called to say that they’re getting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved and are continuing the search.
OK. I’m going to stop talking about this now, ‘cause I’ll start crying again. By the way, how are your parents? Tell your mom that I miss her couscous like crazy.
Anyway, Amit just walked in, so I have to go. I’m sending you a kiss, and for God’s sake, find the time to write once in a while!
Phone Call from Sarah.
“So listen.” Here she goes again with her middle conversations, as if we got disconnected just a minute again. No hi, now how are you? Nothing.
“Could you drive Dad to the Social Security offices today?”
“What do you think?”
“What do you mean: what do I think??”
“Sarah, it’s a mad house here today, do you think I can just walk out in the middle of the day?”
“Oh and I can, ha?” she says in her all too known martyr tone.
“What do you want from me? Dropping this on me like that. How can I possibly take off for a few hours and just drive over to Kfar Saba right now? If you can’t do it, let him take a taxi.”
“This isn’t about taking a taxi! He needs help! You know the lines they have over there, and you know he’s going to need help. Do I need to tell you that if he stands on his feet for too long he has pains for a week!?”
“Sarah, I can’t! What else do you want me to tell you?”
“You know Karnie, I knew this would happen. You don’t care about anything but yourself. You’ve been like this ever since Dad got injured: ignoring everyone and not helping, as if none of this has anything to do with you.”
“Are you settling accounts with me right now?? Because I have a meeting in three minutes.”
“Why am I even trying?” she said as she hung up.
Yes, conversations with Sarah have neither a beginning nor an end, and every time we speak she reminds me how far away I am from our hometown of Kfar Saba, (despite the fact that it’s only a 30 minute drive from Tel Aviv). All I could think was how rooted she is in that little town, as if it were the only place on earth. Even Sarah’s relationship with Mom and Dad is so strong and certain, as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. Deep down I know she will always be there for them; in an annoying, secure kind of a way; in a way that would never raise any questions, which is so unclear when it comes to me.
She’s been that way her entire life: going on every holiday with Mom and Dad, glued to them like a ten year old girl. She would drag her boyfriend on family holidays, while I would always come up with some headache, throat irritation, or any other excuse that would allow me to be left alone at home. She was 26 and six months before she even moved out, and even that was because her boyfriend gave her an ultimatum; either she moves in with him or he’s breaking up with her. Even after she got married, it was obvious she was going to buy a house in Kfar Saba, right next to Mom and Dad. And even that garnered a whole discussion; will she and her husband buy a house on Herzel Street, 200 yards from Mom and Dad? Or maybe a nicer looking house on Rothschild Street, but that is – God forbid – not within walking distance.
Evening. Blind Date.
After several months of being alone, I decided to go on a blind date.
Fuck, I hate it. But Dana, my best friend (married+1, I might add) is worried about me becoming spinster account executive for the rest of my life. Dana is someone who has been here, she’s tasted this life and this business. Then she decided she had enough, and moved on to the greener pastures of marriage and to the sublime happiness visible only to those who had gotten married and had kids.
Dana’s great concern for me usually leads to me finding myself in various bars with strangers I had only just met: one was friends with her husband, the other is a distant relative of hers, and the third served in the IDF with her and she conveniently just happened to run into him that very day and said to herself: “Oh my God! He’s just perfect for Karnie.”
According to that theory, half of Tel Aviv is perfect for me.
But the most annoying thing about all those dates is me having to explain to my potential candidates for love what it is that I actually do for a living. It goes something like this:
“Account executive, ha? Wow, impressive. Did you study economics? You must really be good with numbers (at which moment their eyes drop at a 30 degree angle. Funny, very funny. I’ll show you numbers).”
“No,” I struggle to answer patiently, “I studied communication.”
“But what does that got to do with it?” They are usually confused.
“What do you mean ‘What does that got to do with it’?” I still strive to maintain my patience.
“Aren’t you the one who allocates the client’s budget?” They always state with a distinctive sort of confidence.
“No. That’s what the media department is for.”
“I see.” No they don’t.
And then comes the million dollar question: “So what is it that you do?”
And I’m stuck having to explain that it’s called an account executive, not accounting, which is a very clear and simple difference.
In the elevator. Taking a moment to assess myself again. Well, I wonder what weirdo Dana has lined up for me this time, I said to my reflection in the elevator mirror. I can’t believe this guy doesn’t even have a Facebook page. Who has actual blind dates anymore?
As I opened the car door, I discovered a tall guy with beautiful eyes waited for me in his car.
“Hi. Pleased to meet you, I’m Eli.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Pleased?” That’s the understatement of the year. I have to hand it to Dana – she did good for a change.
I guess I like them big and tall, so that I could feel petite. He’s cute; let’s hope I don’t mess it up this time. The problem with me is that whenever I meet someone I actually like, I become a mute. It’s with the morons that I’m in my prime and shooting witty comments at every direction.
“Dana said you are a true beauty, but I never imagined how right she could be.” He smiled at me.
A beauty? And a true one at that? I haven’t heard that expression since I was four years old, and even then, the only ones who said it were my Mom and Dad.
Maybe it was true back then, but what four-year-old girl isn’t beautiful?
I wonder if he was talking about my nose when he said that. That nose of mine, which looks pretty good from the front, up until the moment when I turn my head to the right. It’s like those pregnant skinny women, who no one can tell are pregnant until they turn around and you can see a tiny bulge.
Or was it the distance between my eyes? Ever since I read that article that said that the ideal distance between one’s eyes should be the size of an additional eye, I realized I didn’t fit that standard of beauty. I’ve been obsessing over it every morning since, because with me the distance is maybe about half an eye.
And then there’s the height. I guess that when it came time to grant me some height, God was in the bathroom. For years I’ve been telling people that I’m 1.60 meters. I admit that’s a stretch, literally. I have a vague memory of the day I was enlisted for my mandatory two year service in the IDF. I remember the army doctor giving me my physical, and I saw him writing something like 1.56 meters in his chart. But I guess that as time went by, I embellished that number, and I’ve been believing my own lie ever since.
And don’t even get me started on the weight issue. I’m one of those women who had to go through their entire lives hearing other people tell them that they’d be such a knock-out if they only lost five or six kilos. And indeed, for most of my life I’ve been on an anthropological journey through the wonderful world of diets: powders, needles, and pills. Luckily, I have Ben-Ben to whom I can whine about it, and he’ll always say that I have nothing to worry about because I’m “curvy in the right places.”
But hang on, this is far from over. I also have a tiny scar on my forehead that is a reminder of that day when Shelly and I went to the community pool when we were eight years old, and in a moment of sheer brilliance, she decided to jump on me. Indeed, her jump was so impressive that one of her front teeth – which back then (long before she had her braces) protruded a little – went right into my forehead.
Maybe it’s my coloring. That’s actually my strong suit. For nature (and perhaps Grandma too) has given me blue eyes, in that shade that one sees in travel posters of the sea around the Maldives; and that natural red hair which I’ve always hated as a child but is now suddenly so trendy that it saves me a fortune. Even Isaac, my hairdresser, who keeps telling me what a gorgeous color I have and that it’s totally not worth his while keeping me as a client. But other than that, nothing about me would exactly pass the Anna Wintour test. That’s for sure.
The guy started the car and began driving. I noticed that every time he changed gears, he turned his head towards me. But I kept my eyes forwards like I couldn’t tell that he was checking me out. It’s amazing what we can see from the corner of our eye.
In the Bar.
We walked into a dusky bar in down town Tel Aviv. A glass of wine, and another; a Moby CD in the background. The bartender asked us what we wanted to order. My date looked at me, waiting for me to say what I wanted, but I couldn’t decide.
“Order whatever you want,” he said, “treat yourself. You only live once.”
He certainly had no problem treating himself, as he ordered food and kept encouraging me to taste his order. Surprisingly, I found myself telling him anything that went through my mind. And still, he sat there, enchanted, looking into my eyes, nodding and smiling at exactly the right moments. With every nod, I made another mental note to myself, and eventually got into a perfect tempo of storytelling, like a stand-up comedian on a very good night. Eventually, it got to a point where it wasn’t only him that seemed enchanted but the entire bar: The bartender competed with him over who would be the first to light my cigarette; the guy on the right – the one sitting with a date of his own – couldn’t stop shooting glances at me; and even the hostess looked me over from head to toe. What’s going on here? Hello? Where were you all last week, when I was sitting right here with a friend of mine on the bar, starving for a glance?
Later, my date told me that he was 30 years old, an investment consultant, interested in alternative medicine and even studied Shiatsu for a while. He only ever had one serious ex, it ended a long time ago, and now she was living in London. He said he loves herbal tea, especially chamomile, and doesn’t understand how anyone could drink coffee, and that he would never ever be able to live with roommates. I listened, floating away on his words, and completely ignoring the time or the fact that I had a presentation at 9 AM the next morning in Jerusalem.
Tuesday. On the way to the Presentation.
Today we presented the creative for Berrylicious, having received the brief only a week ago. Some production assistant blabbed to a friend of hers who works at our agency, that our competitors are all set to present their own campaign. Big Boss lost no time picking up the phone and calling our client, and within two days it was decided that we’re producing an $800,000 campaign.
The creative team worked like crazy all week long. They were completely drained, but from my experience; the most outrageous ideas come out of pressing deadlines. In fact, it was so outrageous that it seemed to me that we really took a risk this time. Especially C.D, whose name is actually Dan, but ever since he was promoted to creative director we decided to call him by his professional initials to make pronunciation easier for everyone.
C.D had already told me about the script four days ago. In general, he likes telling me about the scripts before anyone else. He says it’s because I react like a little child: bursting out laughing if it’s funny or rolling my eyes when it’s boring. Later in the creative meeting, he talked about the script again and everyone was in shock. Reactions like, “What the hell?” and “Are you crazy? The client is going to throw us out of his office,” flew across the room. But I, unlike everyone else I was in favor of his concept, which caused everyone to look at me in disbelief, trying to figure out what my interest was.
Jerusalem. The Client’s Boardroom.
Big Boss opened the meeting with a passionate speech, and then let C.D present the Creative.
Wide open strawberry field.
Narrator: ‘This year: No gimmicks, no sex, and no bullshit! This year we invite you to see how the Berrylicious drinks are really made’.
In a didactic, dry, and deadly serious tone, the narrator said: ‘We gently pick the strawberries, wash them with care, select with precision the juiciest and most beautiful strawberries, put them in a blender, and pour the fresh delicious juice right into the bottles.’
During his serious and didactic narration, the footage showed the female workers of the factory, and they weren’t exactly your typical idea of factory workers; they were beautiful, slender, scantily clad in little sexy outfits, and all of them were busy teasing the camera by seductively licking the labels as they stamped them on the bottles.
As the juice flowed into the bottle, the narrator added: ‘Berrylicious – Don’t just look at it, taste it’.”
I studied the looks on everyone’s face. Two agonizing minutes crept by in utter silence. Oh, the pressure.
Finally, Mr. Alpha, the client, spoke: “This is the dumbest script I’ve ever heard in my life.” C.D kept his cool and began explaining things to the client in his own language: “It’s true that it’s an edgy script, but there’s a double twist to it. While it seems like the script is all about sex with the alluring half naked girls, the real message comes through in the end like the phrase: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ By presenting it this way, we actually give the audience everything: On the one hand, we are conveying the commercial message through the didactic text, which describes the process of making the juice; while on the other hand, we’re creating a little bit of a sexy atmosphere to draw the audience’s attention. The twist in the end is that we refute it by actually conveying a social message.”
The client: “Nice, Dan. But I’m not sold.”
C.D: “Tell me, when you go to a doctor and he gives you a prescription, do you ask him how come he prescribed you those specific pills and not other ones?”
The client: “No. Why? What has that got to do with it?”
C.D: “It means that the clients don’t always understand that the ad agency is comprised of a staff of professionals, just like in any other field. And so, they allow themselves to object to any opinion that the ad agency presents them with. Just like you’re rejecting a good creative concept for no apparent reason.”
The client: “Calm down Dan. I get that you’re upset.”
C.D: “I’m not upset. Don’t you understand that this isn’t at all personal? Excuse me for caring about your business like it was my own. But this is the launch of a new product we’re talking about, right? And the fruit drinks market is overflowing as it is, isn’t it? I mean, you have Fresh Delights, Berry Juices and Cherry Pop. And everyone is doing the same idea. So you need to shock people; you need it to be the next craze on Twitter and Facebook tomorrow morning. If you don’t, no one will pay any attention.”
Mr. Alpha got up from his chair nervously, turned to Big Boss and said: “control your staff. I want to see a new concept within three days,” and left the room.
I wish I could film the whole thing. “It would’ve been great,” I thought to myself.
In the Car. On My Way Back to Tel Aviv.
Leaving the presentation, everyone looked crouched. As he stepped into the elevator, Big Boss gave C.D a hard time, telling him to wrap his head around the fact that he wasn’t a copywriter who smoked weed in the halls anymore, but a creative director who could no longer allow himself to talk to the clients that way.
C.D put on an offended and angry face but kept quiet. And me, I sat in my car with a sweet serene smile spread across my face while the screen on my mobile phone showed two missed calls from Eli, my date from the previous night.
 “Saturdays and Holidays” was a famous Israeli TV drama starring Alon Aboutboul