An Unscheduled Meeting

Recently, I ran into John at the airport. He seemed to be having a severe attack of writing; more intense than anything I remember him having any time recently. I had caught him in the middle of a week long writing break from work. So we started off on writing - and in a few minutes into our conversation we were discussing copulating lizards, Portuguese galleons and Catholic bishops. Even as I was wondering how every conversation with John travels into such bizarre realms, we had moved into advertising and poetry.

I started telling him how one of our earlier clients had perhaps stumbled upon something dangerously true about advertising. This client, a very down to earth retailer once told us that he’d realized that he could not advertise at that point as sales was low . He was actually saying that he’d advertise when sales picks up and he has enough money to advertise. Though he liked the idea of advertising - exotic shoots, gorgeous models, glamorous sets and photographers - like a new car or a house, he’d wait until he could afford it. Advertising did not seriously feature anywhere in his plan to increase sales.

Now that is a notion that will make any advertising guru shiver in his handmade Italian soft leather boots. Just like that, this retailer had turned every pretense of importance of the advertising industry upside down. Yet advertising is perfectly capable of dealing with such threats. At even the slightest hint of a doubt, I am sure advertising think tanks would rush in and reassure the people (through brilliant graphs and chart packed, well-laid out presentations) how advertising makes the world go round. Long haired, jean clad and appropriately rebellious, they’d charm cute television anchors into smiling at their brilliant commercials. Thus convinced of the need for advertising to interrupt our movies, our conversations and our lives, we’ll go back to our pizza-stained couches and switch on our flat screen televisions.

In contrast, poetry at least seems to satisfy a real need of a group of people somewhere in the world who actually go out, search for and buy a book of poems. However small that group is, it still means that poetry, which is often accused of being an elitist indulgence actually addresses a real human need while advertising with its claims of importance bolstered by complex research still has to interrupt our lives, cajole and coax us to buy into its claims.

Thus assuring each other all over again that writing poetry is not a strange aberration but a relevant reality, we stashed the poems back into our secret pouches, looked around to make sure that no one had noticed us and set off into our respective advertising careers.

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