Sunday, 5 July 2015



Life Sort of, Kind of, Imitates Advertising


Our neighbourhood is in the throes of extensive utility upgrades. Holes have been dug on our street and in our backyard. I smoke 20 to 25 cigarettes a day, so if the gas company wants to lay new and safer lines I’m pretty much okay with the inconvenience as more often than not I’m puttering around with something akin to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow between my lips.


When I was growing up in the 60s cola drinks were a no-no, they rotted your teeth and caused acne. Sophistication then was my parents entertaining or hosting a bridge night, my father would sometimes slip me a glass of Canada Dry cola with lots of ice and a wedge of lime on the rim and I would take it down to the basement to sip and savour as I watched Gunsmoke or Rat Patrol. Across the street my friend Mark’s family always had twisty, twirling bottles of Pepsi in their fridge. The ultimate was a cold Coca-Cola guzzled right out of a Depression glass green bottle. Afterward I could drop a saliva rope to my kneecaps and then reel it back in or speak an entire sentence whilst belching.


Children’s palates evolve. Eventually the staples and treats of childhood no longer entice. Forty years on and in my fourth advertising job I was privileged to work on various aspects of an agency’s Coca-Cola account for some 14 years. I knew it was time to get out when I realized I felt little other than contempt for a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s great brands. When a client calls a vendor a partner, all it means is that the client’s problems must now be shared – or else. Atlanta dictated my employer’s means of production to ensure that we would utilize other ‘valued’ partners thereby slashing our production margins to zero, renegotiated our agency’s long-established billing rates and then indicated that outstanding invoices would not be addressed for as long as 120 days. Any trickle down from that particular soda fountain was effectively shut off.


Today I can smell the wildfires burning in northern Alberta and eastern British Columbia. Rainfall was sparse this past spring. Summer storms threaten but never burst. It is Africa hot. We welcomed a visitor into this type of peculiar drought last month. All of our amber rum is gone now but we were left with a half case of mix, Coke. Last week a gaggle of gas workers gathered on our front lawn under the shade of our birch to munch their lunches, seeking some respite from the midday heat. They all wore heavy blue coveralls and heavy boots, salty sweat on tanned young faces.

While Coca-Cola in recent years has been ruthless with its employees and vendors in its efforts to maintain its blue chip stock status, its advertising message has always been social democratic: share. So I served up ice cold Cokes to the crew lounging on the grass in our yard, a seemingly thoughtful and simple gesture, intended mainly to get rid of the excess Coke. But here’s hoping the gas boys in blue will in the next few days be a little more painstaking with their fussy work on our property. We’ve no wish to be blown to Kingdom Come next time I light up.

No comments:

Post a Comment