Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – “Some Will Die” (Episode IV)
Recap: Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has just secured a $150,000 retainer for the publicity launch of VGlobe a new online video network. Vance has returned to his offices in the Hancock Building to inform his team of the new client. He is about to explain the campaign to his staff after revealing the name: “Some Will Die.”
Vance lived for moments like these: A roomful of people hanging on his every word. He enjoyed teasing his little crowd, coaxing an intellectual orgasm out of the experience. Standing at the head of his War Room’s table, as erect as possible with a booze and alcohol jellied spine, the only thing keeping Vance awake was a fire hose of adrenaline flushing unconsciousness out of his system. Vance was in his element as the tightrope walker, and this campaign was a high wire act that would either make Blowfish the hottest property in the county or a valueless home business, staffed with Craiglist part timers.
“’Some Will Die’ is a transmedia reality game show that will launch VGlobe Online with a splash like the world has never seen before. We’re tackling our biggest problem: Fat, and we’re going to make people suffer.” As Vance spoke, his custom software program ran images across the War Room screens: people stuffing their faces with food, lying in the hospital on heart monitors; the program identified and flashed images based on whatever he said. Jack liked gaming it. “F***,” he said loudly, filling the screens with everything from medical school images to vintage pornography.
Tom Agness, Blowfish Chief Creative Director and a member of the Group of Eight had heard this puffery before; Vance upsells a client on some wild scheme then delivers a stunning two month’s of work before his ADHD kicks in and turns his head in a different direction. Agness had been dragged through more “world upending” campaigns than anyone deserved to suffer through. Most worked – but the toll they exacted on everyone was hardly worth the salary. Vance was the only one in the room driving a new Maserati every year. No one would question why Agness wanted out – and his resume was floating all over town. It was just a matter of time before he would escape the psycho bin.
“Reality shows are pretty 2002, Vance. Who cares – it’s all been done. What are we doing here? ‘Biggest Loser’ meets the island of Dr. Moreau?”
Vance knew Agness was in it for the fun at this point; treading water until a better job came along. He hadn’t liked the little smart ass since the former Blowfish HR director twisted his arm to hire him away from Burnett. Vance had gotten laid out on the deal then f***ed, finding out that Agness was about to be fired for selling General Mills on relaunching Toucan Sam as a gay cartoon character. On top of that, he couldn’t stand the fact that Agness was one of those guys who pulled all his opinions from the front page of morning’s HuffPo. Ask him a question about anything that lept to page two and he was lost. Frankly, Vance had had enough.
“You don’t like it, Tom? Hit the road. You’re the first casualty of the show.”
Agness looked at Vance. This couldn’t be happening. The timing was all wrong. Besides that he had a date tonight and wanted to borrow Vance’s new Gran Turismo.
“It’s called ‘Some Will Die’ and you are officially dead to Blowfish as of now. You’re fired, hit the bricks, pal – this room is for confidential company business, so get the f*** out.” Vance pulled a $100 euro note from his pocket. “Here’s your severance; get your suit cleaned for that interview with Edelman tomorrow. Intruder alert.”
Agness’ chair disappeared from under him and he fell to the floor. Vance’s one security guard, Chuck Giletti, entered the room, Taser at the ready. He was a luxury item that Vance had since he could afford rent.
“Show him the door.”
Vance pulled his flask from his pocket, remembered it was empty and looked around the room.
“Anyone else got any comments on the idea so far? Good. As I was saying… ‘Some will Die’ is a reality show that delivers on its promise.”
Mayhew looked up from the Trib on his reader. “We know the promise – what’s the premise?” he smiled to himself, better to say a few witty things than vomit over the room with self-indulgent attempts at entertaining oration. Vance had that covered.
Tom Agness gave the screens a once over as he exited the War Room for the last time and yelled: “Fat chance, Vance!” He was happy to have gotten in an appropriate last word. He’d make sure that Vance paid for this insult, one way or another.
Vance continued. “We’re taking all the elements that have ever worked and amping them up a notch. Our show starts with a group of morbidly obese contestants…”
“Visually attractive morbidly obese contestants,” offered Jimmy Wells, the youngest member of the Blowfish G8t. Wells was officially an account coordinator and known brown-noser, as well as (unofficially) Vance’s protégé and hatchet boy. He even looked like a mini version of Vance: athletic, but with unfulfilled potential, medium height, dark hair and eyes. Vance had used Wells as a long distance stand-in on more than one occasion, when he had to appear to be in two places at the same time.
“Of course, we’re looking for the bright shiny Twinkie buried under all that ugly Crisco. We start with a very public call for entrants. The ticket for admission is simple: high weight and low self esteem. We want fatties who have to lose around 150 pounds and we’ll give them eight weeks to do it.”
“Eight weeks? That could be fatal,” Naomi commented. Suddenly, everyone was listening to Vance.
“Well, it’s not called ‘Some Will Die’ for nothing. Anyway, all the contestants will sign a waiver – indicating that they’re willing to die trying to lose that weight. And here’s the kicker – we’re going to try and kill most of them. We just need the proper drill sergeant/sadist type to keep the activities rolling … someone who is a cross between Mengele and Jillian Michaels”
“Sounds great, Weight Watchers will be quaking in their boots. What’s the reward? Eternal happiness? 100 virgins?” Mayhew felt atypically motivated to offer snide commentary over this plan.
“A year in paradise. Anyone who completes our rigorous, nationally televised, 24/7 total public humiliation contest gets to live like a rock star for six months in Hawaii, Manhattan or Spain, depending on their inclination. Of course, we’ll Truman Show that, as well. AND if they manage to keep the weight off, they keep the lifestyle forever.”
“And you’ll be throwing every temptation under the sun at them…,” said Naomi.
“Every day of that six months. I expect to lose most of them to drug addiction, alcoholism, STDs, dangerous lifestyles, you name it. And we’ll have a nice betting site on every aspect of this program. Well?”
The screens filled with questions marks.
Vance looked around the room. He wasn’t sure if his staff was stunned or liked the idea. Peggy Bump, Blowfish CFO, and one of the only women Vance had hired particularly because she wasn’t attractive, raised her hand.
“Talk with me before you price these programs Jack, you clearly didn’t charge enough for this one.”
TO BE CONTINUED ….