They had their chance, and they blew it!
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong,” (Joseph Chilton Pearce) and yet, this is a fear that the folks over at Saatchi & Saatchi — an apparent global leader in advertising and communications — have yet to conquer. Step aside people, there’s a new kid in town and he’s bursting at the seams with game-changing ideas.
I guess I’ve always been a dreamer. An explorer in search of my own realities; daring to question the authorities and legal structures that loom heavy over my curious and ambitious mind. Even at the age of eight, I was removed from my local football team because I was brave enough to create my own rules to the century-old game. Sorry, what was that? Can’t use my hands? Er, guess what? I just did.
It took the referee — and other parents — twenty minutes to remove me from my sit-down protest after I received a red card. I even held a fisted arm in the air, which although I knew stood for black power (I was years ahead of my age in terms of social awareness), many of the other kids still saw its relevance and had full respect for my courageous questioning of the repressive fascist institution that is under 10s Sunday league football.
It was because of these early rebellious and anarchic years that my parents knew I was destined for a life of creativity; to become a leading force of innovation and artistry. Stephen King once wrote “Some birds are not meant to be caged… Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild” (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, 1982 [look it up]). These eloquent words always seem to spring to mind when I look over pictures from my childhood, and there isn’t a day goes by that my parents don’t thank themselves for never once grounding or correcting me. They encouraged me to forever believe that I’m right, no matter what, which is exactly what eliminates my fear of being wrong and hence, birthing a fearless creative.
Well, this is his story.
It was a bright and sunny Monday morning and yet another insecure “feminist” girlfriend of mine had just dumped me. She — like so many others before her — couldn’t handle a headstrong, iron-willed man such as myself. “Forget her,” I thought, “it doesn’t matter”. It was my first day as a Junior Creative at the world famous Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency and I was on top of the world. No woman could break my spirit and no petty issue (like being dumped) could deter me from my goal of becoming a world-renowned creative genius.
I stepped into the foyer of the London-based office and strode over to the receptionist (who was quite attractive, but in a non-pretty way if you know what I mean).
“Kyle Shephard. Junior Creative,” I instructed, knowing that saying my name and title alone would be enough of a signal for her to perform the relevant sign-in procedures.
“Ah, work experience?” she replied, chirpily. Er, excuse me? Work experience? I don’t think so, love. I quickly looked over my shoulder, to see if anyone had heard the garbage that had just flown out of this girl’s mouth, but luckily no one was stood nearby.
“No. Junior Creative,” I asserted back. She should brush up on her hierarchies before she embarrasses herself any further.
“OK? Take the lift up to the third floor and Nigel will meet you there. He’s the Creative in charge of interns.”
Nigel? What kind of a creative name is Nigel? Sounds like he’s from somewhere up North, like Wigan or Stoke. Surely she must have mispronounced it. After all, her track record for getting things wrong was already well-established in my mind. Nigels don’t work at advertising agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, they lay bricks and clean drain pipes. But when I arrived on the third floor, there he was.
“Hiya Kyle mate, how you doin’? I’m Nigel.”
He was a Northerner. A typical, bog-standard, X-Factor-watching, chip shop-loving, comprehensive school-attending, Northerner. I certainly couldn’t bring myself to repeat his stupid little name, so after a few seconds of staring at him, I eventually replied with a curt “Hello”.
This is not how I pictured a top advertising agency to be. He probably shops at Burton, listens to Chris Brown and wears G-Star Raw jeans with smart shoes and a Fred Perry, medium-sized shirt at the weekend, drinking cheap vodka shots in a Wetherspoon’s off Piccadilly Circus, before hitting Tiger Tiger to dance to some crap, Radio One, Floor Filler classics. What happened to the Theodores with square glasses and Levi’s jeans? The Samantha Jane Beatrix-Pattersons from Surrey? The Rupert Flo-Hunts with box-fresh Nike Airs, a simple white tee, a skincare routine and slicked back hair? Where are they? The proper creatives. I don’t want to work with some Fosters-drinking, Family Guy-loving, Zone Six-dwelling — because the rent is cheaper and he can park his Ford Mondeo estate on his drive for free — wanker. I want to be surrounded by people who know the difference between cous cous and quinoa. Is that really too much to ask? I didn’t move to all the way to London, only to pay expensive rent and extortionate travel fares, just so I could hang out with the kind of idiots that I grew up with, back home in Manchester.
“OK mate, first things first…” Bit patronising.
“…the staff kitchen is over there…” And?
“…the Photocopier, which you’ll be using a lot…” Er, I don’t think so.
“…is down there and you can put your belongings in the common room” Thank you, Captain Nigel Obvious of Huddersfield.
“Also, I hope you’ve brought a notepad and pen because remembering everyone’s tea and coffee orders can be quite tricky.” Tea and coffee orders? Is he having a laugh? I’m sorry Nigel mate, but do I look like I work in a Costa Coffee? Did he even bother to read my CV? I went to a grammar school for goodness sake. And I certainly didn’t pay £9,000 a year to attend a redbrick University, just so I could make you people teas and coffees! Who does this guy think he’s talking to? Then, just when I thought the situation couldn’t get any more dire, Nigel responded with a laugh when I asked him where my desk was.
The rest of the morning passed slowly and did not go so well. In fact, things only seemed to get worse. Firstly, not one person showed even the slightest bit of interest in the work I had produced during my third year of University, and became increasingly aggressive every time I tried to show them. By my fourth lap around the office, one Senior Creative was obnoxious enough to say “Karl, I don’t give two flying fucks what you did at University, just please get me my bloody coffee.” I soothed myself with the knowledge that one day she would work for me.
Secondly, my relationship with Nigel was deteriorating quicker than I anticipated. The catalyst, I suppose, was when he asked me get lunch for the two of us, which I did problem free, but unfortunately I remembered everything except his order. It was an honest mistake, yet he took it quite personally, which I thought was rather cheap coming from a man that forgot to assign the new Junior Creative a desk.
I also accidentally fired a staple gun at the back of his head when he asked me to check to see if the toilets were clean, causing someone to report the mishap to HR. What a snitch. She claimed to have seen me take a clear and orchestrated aim at Nigel, which was a complete fabrication. I think I may have stolen his chair too, on four separate occasions. Not my problem. He should write his damn name on it if it matters that much to him.
The afternoon soon came around and after an exhausting hour of doing shit tasks, I entered the staff room to sit down to eat the lunch I’d bought myself earlier, whilst reminding myself to give Nigel his change back from the ten pound note he gave me. Chicken and avocado sandwich on brown bread, banana, mint club biscuit and a Müller light yoghurt. It truly tasted as good as it sounds. There was, however, a strange atmosphere in the room and no one was talking to me. Occasionally, people would look over and giggle about something. Maybe I was trying a little too hard to fit in? Maybe I had avocado around my mouth? Or maybe they didn’t like my University projects? No, that couldn’t have been it. Either way, I just wanted to be included in their conversations and make new friends, but before I could introduce myself and show them how great a conversationalist I am, they all got up and left.
After lunch, I returned to Nigel’s desk and used his computer to update my Facebook status, when I noticed an opened email on his desktop. It was from someone at Guinness and they were coming in for a meeting. After scanning the email a little further, I saw that it was for a pitch. “Holy crap” I thought — this is my opportunity to shine.
I had to get into that meeting if anyone was ever going to take me seriously round here. I knew I’d get no support from Nigel, or anyone else for that matter, so I took matters into my own hands, which I’m very good at doing. I snuck off to a café around the corner for a couple of hours and worked on some ideas. This was an inspired move, because if I’d stuck around the office any longer, they’d have me cleaning shelves or mopping up after Nigel’s mess.
Upon my return, I secretly printed my design out on a large A3 piece of card. I threw a tea towel over the masterpiece to hide it and observed the meeting from afar, waiting for the right moment to make my entrance. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls that surrounded the central boardroom gave me a great view of what was going on inside. I could see some pretty important people in there, so I wrote down what I needed to say on some cue cards and rehearsed the pitch in my head. After introductions and handshakes were done, they all took a seat and started to discuss something. This was my chance. It was now or never.
Go! I marched across the office at full pace, prints and coffee in hand, my gaze set and focused on the boardroom. I saw Nigel clock onto me yet, before he could acknowledge my intentions — Bang! I kicked the boardroom door in. The room fell silent and Nigel stood up, ready to once again stifle my ambitious efforts.
“Kyle!?” he shouted.
I paused for dramatic effect, standing in the doorway. And for quite some time.
Eventually, Rob Potts, Executive Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, broke the silence, “I’m sorry, can I help you?” Finally a bit of respect.
“Save the apologies for later mate,” I said out the side of my mouth, “and yes, you can help me by finding a plinth.”
Rob shouted at Nigel, “Who is this guy!?” Clearly impressed by a Junior Creative, that was bold enough to make an entracne in the way that I did. Rob’s face painted a picture of intrigue and surprise. But mostly intrigue.
“Get out Kyle!” screamed Nigel, undeniably jealous of all the attention Rob was now giving me.
“My fellow colleagues of Saatchi & Saatchi” I pronounced, whilst completely ignoring Mr. Plain Jane, “Distinguished representatives of Guinness. May I present to you, your new print ad campaign for February 2016,” I paused, took a deep breath and whipped the tea towel off the prints and unveiled my — soon-to-be award-winning — design, for all to see. The whole room gave a sharp gasp in amazement, as they marvelled at the boundary-pushing work I had created for the alcoholic giant.
You could hear a pin drop. The entire office had succumbed to a deadly silence and there wasn’t a closed mouth in the room. I noticed Nigel had started to hyperventilate, panicked that his job was now compromised by a younger, more creatively-gifted intern with a better name.
“What the hell!? Get that shite out of here, now!”
“That shit behind you. Get it out of here.” Someone clearly didn’t like it and I was surprised to see it was Rob.
“I don’t understand,” I said “I thought you said you wanted to help?”
“Help!? You’ve just kicked the door down and brought in a picture with a minstrel on it! And it doesn’t even make any sense. Nigel seriously, who is this guy?”
I couldn’t believe it. Rob clearly didn’t have any artistic vision whatsoever.
“Well you’re wrong,” I fired back. “You must be blind if you can’t see the quality of this work.” The room feel silent.
“What did you just say?” I could see Rob was close to loosing his temper.
“OK Kyle, it’s time you left,” announced Nigel, as he made his way over to me from around the boardroom table. Regardless of the fact that he was still hyperventilating, I could see a wild look lying deep behind his eyes; ready for revenge from the staple incident before, supported by a blinding sense of envy.
He was approaching fast. I had to defend myself. He was now at arm’s distance, so with barely any hesitation, I threw a lashing of my black Americano — with two sugars — over his face.
The room gasped as Nigel yelped in pain. “Holy shit,” screamed Rob, as Nigel slowly raised his shaking hands to his scalded face. His eyes fluttering from the sheer agony from the boiling hot coffee masking his acne scared skin. I knew he’d retaliate, so I scanned my immediate area for the nearest staple gun. But to no avail, so I picked up the nearest chair.
“OK mate, calm down. I’m not sure what’s going on here, who you are or what you want, but we can talk this through,” said Rob, quite nervously.
“Stay back! Everyone stay back!” I roared “You had a genius in front of you and you’ve fucked it up, for good,” I wanted to say, but couldn’t because of the sheer amount of adrenaline that was flowing through my body as I held the office chair threateningly aloft. All I could do was continue to whimper “You’re wrong!” quite inaudibly. Nigel had his face in his hands, screaming — in excruciating pain — for an ambulance.
The Guinness lot were understandably petrified, which I will take 50 — no, 30% of the blame for. The Marketing Director, who I believe was called Mike, had strategically coordinated a defensive position for himself and his team, in the far corner of the room. They huddled together like penguins; the men placing themselves at the front, acting as a sort of human shield in a bid to protect the woman at the rear (sexist). It was at this point, that I started to question whether my pitch was going quite as well as I’d hoped for.
What started off as a minor disagreement, quickly turned into a siege involving the CEO of the Saatchi & Saatchi Group and the Metropolitan Police. I just wanted to explain myself and help them to see what I saw in my own work, but after locking the door to stop anyone from leaving the boardroom, I had clearly removed all doubt — in everyone’s mind — that I was going to leave peacefully.
Rob, who was now hiding under the table, tried to negotiate terms with me, for the safe release of himself and the other members of staff. There was no time for that, so I forced them all to “… Shut up and listen” whilst I gave them an in-depth, two hour presentation as to why this was a great piece of work and how it could be mutually beneficial for everyone, if Guinness were to use it publicly.
Eventually I gave up, coming to the realisation that I just wasn’t ready to be famed for my ingenious designs, and that Nigel was in desperate need of medical treatment. I was simply ahead of my time and yet, the saddening truth was that everyone could clearly see how great my work was — they just didn’t have the balls to support it. They were so wrapped up in the ‘what ifs’ of releasing such a controversial piece, that they were terrified by the implications it may have for society as a whole and the reception it may receive from the advertising industry, knowing full well that it represented such a staggering creative leap.
I remain adamant that it was right for me to defend myself against an aggressive, abusive and violent bully such as Nigel. I also hold a dear pride for how I conducted myself whilst at Saatchi & Saatchi. I was audacious enough to take risks, whilst bringing a purity to the company; a purity that can only derive from the innocence of a man that still creates from the heart and believes, with conviction, that his work means something. That’s me; that’s my spirit as man.
However, I did technically assault Nigel, giving him third degree burns whilst traumatising several other members of staff from Saatchi & Saatchi and Guinness. To them, I am sorry, but I will never apologise to Nigel. He’s stupid, short-sighted and doesn’t possess one tenth of my talent. He should just quit his job already and go back to Cumbria or wherever the hell he’s from.
Maybe he’ll look back on this one day and learn a worthwhile lesson from it. When young, talented and ambitious people enter his life, he should harness them and give them space to create, because if you try to cage an exotic bird like me, they may just fly away. Sorry Saatchi & Saatchi, I shall not be returning, for I am taking my talent elsewhere.
Since time of release, Kyle has been convicted for GBH and battery. He is now serving seven years at Dartmoor Prison. Saatchi & Saatchi have refused to comment on his sentence, but can confirm Nigel is making a slow recovery.
DISCLAIMER: The above is purely fictional and should not be misinterpreted as anything other than for comical effect.
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Dafty is rep’d by Victoria Lepper Associates for literacy and performance.
Edited by Harry Taylor @harry_taylor88.