A quick scan of my surroundings to get my bearings, revealed that the room-size, u-shaped conference room table set-up was actually modular, in two-person sections. The floor-to-ceiling windows were in the front of the room, and there was a long, sleek wooden credenza along the wall to my left. On the tables, in front of me, were the supplies that apparently the Marketing Department thought someone might need for a creative session: a couple stacks of magazines, from Car & Driver to House & Garden, a box of office ‘art’ supplies, including glue sticks, Scotch tape, foam core, a ruler, scissors, colored pencils, Sharpies, and finally, a small crate of solid-white, label-less, empty, plastic packaging containers, like a spray bottle, cleaning powder canister, detergent bottle, etc. I immediately took off my jacket, hung it on the back of a chair, pushed up my sleeves, and opened my own bag of tricks. In the movie “Starman,” Jeff Bridges plays a non-corporeal alien who has come to Earth, Wisconsin actually, and brought with him seven small spheres which provide energy to perform miraculous feats. He used one to send a message to his people stating that his spacecraft has been destroyed, another to bring a deer back to life, and as far as I was concerned, there was the one he left in my bag to put it all out on the table. Without sitting down, I read through the four marketing problems, and chose the second one in mere seconds, knowing there was absolutely no time for brain-fucking this assignment. Go with the one that speaks to me first, and get started as quickly as possible.
The problem at hand was to imagine the future of household cleaning. In the new millennia, what might we expect from consumers when they clean their homes, and how will they differ from the way it's done today? I had all the ingredients, now I just needed the recipe for success. The one thing I knew for sure, was that nobody that was in this room earlier in the week, in my situation, could do what I could. Their approach, collectively, was without a doubt, essentially all the same, give or take a possible personal touch, but creative?
At that time, stainless steel in the kitchen, chrome in the bathroom, and brushed metal appliances were trending like Restoration Hardware, so I decided to marry this scenario to the guy that loved to, not just wash, but detail his car. Gary had taught me to detail cars in his driveway, as soon as he got his license and the black, '78 Olds Cutlas Supreme, with the T-tops and brushed gold rims. Two of the hacks Gary taught me were to use liquid dishwashing soap to wash the car, and using Pledge foaming spray, lemon scented, to make the tires look wet 'n shiny. My consumer would be that guy, the one now using his car detailing mentality of meticulously taking care of his shiny toys to now clean his sleek place. I was my own target market.
Flipping through the magazines at a frantic pace, my X-Acto knife with its #11 blade in hand, I began slicing out the images I 'd need to create an ad and packaging for my brand-new brand, 'Details'. I came upon a double-page spread ad for a car that took up about a third of the layout with nothing but blue sky. That was all I needed to have enough matching colored paper to create labels for my three package concepts. Channeling my inner John Klimo, eye-balling the label shapes to fit their individual containers, then drawing a matching DETAILS logotype onto each with my big black Sharpie, I now had a line of household cleaning products, geared toward men, ready to market. The ad would come together just as fast, with no second guessing. Taking a piece of foam core, I cut out an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet to build a single page layout that had a mosaic of all the chrome and stainless, shiny, masculine looking things I could cut out of the magazines, on the left side of the page, leaving room on the right for my headline, and at the bottom for my sign-off and market product shot. The headline was simple enough, and I hand-lettered it in a nice sans-serif, bold font that read, "It's All In The Details." The product shot was a quick drawing of my spray bottle, complete with its matching blue sky label and logo. For a tagline along the bottom of the ad, the perfect line came to me in a stroke of pure magic, and I only hesitated for a second before committing to the irreverence. Time was running out, and I needed to prepare for the presentation portion of this audition, so I quickly put everything away and stuck it all behind the far end of the credenza so it was all out of sight. I moved one of the modular tables to front and center and grabbed a chair to place behind it, backwards, so I could use it as a hidden side table. With all the props and supplies that were provided, there was also a CD player and some CDs to choose from, so I brought it up front and dropped in a disc that had something in the way of contemporary but instrumental music playing just loud enough to be ambience. I dimmed the lights in the back area where the panel would be, and turned them up in front, where I would be presenting from. There were still a few minutes left in my hour, so I grabbed that leftover piece of foam core and made a real, down 'n dirty demographic board with nothing but pictures of cool looking guys, and stuck it next to my ad and products on the backwards chair. Pulling down my sleeves, throwing on my suit jacket, I buttoned up and stood front and center as the congregation began to take their seats.
Everyone arrived, on time, at the same time, and filed in to take their places around the conference room, which was beginning to resemble the judges table at an Olympic event. The panel was skewed a little more female than male, aging from thirty-something to fifty-something, and the only person I recognized was Ronnie, who took the role of moderator and introduced me to my jury at large. The vibe they brought into the room was very relaxed, very matter of fact, and had an air of casual Friday about it, which made me all the more comfortable with my position as the last candidate. The hour leading up to this moment was, by far, the most exhilarating professional sixty-minutes I had ever experienced, and, although it had been billed as a 'creative session,' to me it was no less than the culmination of a lifetime as an artist. It seemed as if I was never alone in that room, that all of my teachers were there, guiding me, pushing me, cheering me on. By the time I introduced myself, I knew this was no longer an audition, and certainly not a job interview - that was for damn sure - this was going to be a presentation of what I'm capable of, of what I can offer that no one who came before me could bring them, and why the advertised position for a Creative Marketing Manager was literally written with someone like me in mind. This was a room full of like-minded people, and for the next ten minutes, I had their undivided attention.
------- This Story Concludes Next Week. Stay Tuned for The Last Candidate -------