What lies below is the first entry to the second round of the already infamous search term challenge, in which Jacob struggles with what is a quintessential female prerogative.
If you are the author – or know or guess who the author is – hold your tongue; this post will be updated with author details after the challenge is over. If you are not the author, you better get crackin’ on your own entry as the deadline’s November 8th!
Voting has closed, so I can now reveal the author of this entry: MCM.
Ten minutes into the meeting, Jacob finished with pleasantries and took to the whiteboards. With confident strokes, he sketched “PUBLICITY” across the entire length of the wall.
“So,” he said, clicking the pen closed with a smile. “Let’s break it down for you.”
Sara, Anna and Gretchen said nothing, just stared expectantly. Jacob winked at Sara, and she blushed, giving him the juice he needed to roll.
“Publicity is not as hard as you think,” he said, starting his trademark stroll across the room. “Publicity is about connecting with your customers, about—”
“Sorry, Jacob,” said Anna suddenly. “Can I interrupt you for a second?”
Jacob didn’t miss a beat. He nodded broadly and motioned as if he were indeed handing the meeting over to her.
“Absolutely!” he said jovially. “Let’s do it!”
She took a pocket projector from her bag and turned it on. Instantly, an image appeared on the wall beside them: a complex graph of detailed demographics, broken down by market segment and sexual preference.
“We want to take things in a new direction,” she said. “After internal discussion, we realized we need to be a little more cutting-edge with our plans.”
“Exactly where I want you to be,” he smiled. “You read my mind.”
“What we want to do is show how people relate to our product in an intimate way. We feel like we’re being too clinical.”
She clicked her laptop and the image changed to show a woman with an iPhone pressed up against her naked breast.
“Hold on,” said Jacob, trying not to laugh. “We’re still talking about accounting software, right?”
“Yes,” Anna said seriously.
“Okay,” said Jacob. “I… um… so we’re saying keeping track of cash flow is a lot like… um… a baby latched on to her nipple.”
“I see,” said Jacob. “I see, and I like it! It’s unorthodox, and very cutting edge! ‘Strange Publicity’ is where it’s at. Are you sure you’ve never done this before?”
He winked at Sara again, and kept up the seamless, confident act for another fifty minutes, until the three women bustled off to their next appointment, leaving him in a room of what amounted to gadget porn. When Rick came in, he hadn’t moved an inch.
“Gavelston’s calling for you,” Rick said, staring at the glossy print-outs on the table. “She said you didn’t file proper expense reports for… uh… what’s all this?”
“Long story,” Jacob sighed. “Gonna be a long week, too.”
“Looks like it. Need any help?”
“Nah,” said Jacob, snapping back to attention. “I’ve got this under control.
* * *
Seven days and ten hours of sleep later, Jacob had the whiteboards covered with mock-ups. Women with iPhones on breasts, sleeping next to Blackberries, caressing a Palm Pre. It was intimate and sensual and he couldn’t stand to look at it anymore.
“Good morning, ladies,” he said as they took their seats. “I think you’re going to like what I have to show you today.”
Anna leaned back in her chair, browsed the options, and glanced over at Gretchen, who nodded back.
“Actually,” she said, “we’ve done some internal testing.”
Jacob’s arms dropped to his sides.
“You have,” he said without knowing how he felt.
“Yes,” Anna continued, “and what we found is that the porn motif you seem to have embraced, it just doesn’t sit well with our customers. They feel exploited. Used. And it’s not the kind of image we’re trying to project.”
Jacob’s mouth was hanging open, but he closed it quickly, smiled, nodding.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You’re so right. Businesswomen hate being exploited, and what I’ve done here? That’s just salt on a wound. What you need is—”
“Social media,” said Anna. “Viral marketing.”
“Exactly!” laughed Jacob, snapping his fingers for effect. “Exactly! Viral marketing, like—”
“How to make a male body part cake.”
Jacob’s smile barely faltered, but he had run out of things to say. He looked from Anna to Gretchen, and from Gretchen to Sara. Sara was blushing, but the other two were dead serious.
“Male… body part… cake.”
“Okay. And by male body part, you mean…”
“It needs to be easy for people to make,” said Anna, “and be as accurate as possible, so that they feel a sense of accomplishment. You can handle the rest, yes?”
Jacob laughed, but caught himself, waved it off.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Excellent,” said Anna, at the door. “We’ll see you Friday, then? We’re really excited about this new direction, Jacob. We’re really looking forward to seeing what you come up with.”
They left him in silence, his eyes fixed on a blank paper on the table. It wasn’t blank in his mind. Rick popped his head in the door, grinning.
“How’d it go, porno-boy?”
Jacob said nothing. There was nothing to say.
“We need the room in ten. Can you clear out by then?”
“And seriously, man. Keep those pics away from Gavelston. She’s on the rampage today, and this won’t help.”
Jacob ran each picture through the shredder, just to be sure.
* * *
Jacob almost spilled his coffee when they sat down across from him, polished and elegant, glaring at his dishevelled state. He shuffled his black-covered folders, trying to keep from crying. It had been a long few days.
Sara was the last to enter, her periwinkle peasant skirt drawing Jacob’s eyes like a moth to a flame. It was so hypnotic and yet off-putting all at the same time, and when she sat down to face him, he felt himself about to drool.
“I’m really excited about today’s meeting,” said Anna with a touch of compassion in her voice. “I hope you are, too.”
“I am,” said Jacob, snapping back to attention, trying to put on his best smile. “It took a lot of doing, but I think I found a really great recipe that will appeal to women of all ages.”
He handed the folders over, but before they could open them, the crept open and Gavelston entered, her greying hair pulled back tight in a bun, her face stretched wide and stern.
“Is this a good time?” she asked, and Jacob just about shrieked.
“Oh yes!” said Anna, standing. “Please come in. Jacob is just about to show us his grand creation.”
Gavelston looked at Jacob, looked him up and down with visible distaste, and then turned back to Anna with a smile.
“I’m as excited as you are,” she said.
The four women opened the folders at the same time, and Gretchen let out a gasp, dropped hers. Jacob avoided Gavelston’s furious stare, lowering his head into his hands.
“What is this?” said Anna, pushing her copy across the table so the cake design was directly under Jacob’s face. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Jacob looked up at her, trying to find the words.
“I’m so sorry,” said Gavelston, taking the other folders from Sara and Gretchen. “I’m so sorry this happened. Believe me when I say this will be taken care of most severely. Most severely.”
She sneered at Jacob, snatched his copy away and threw it in the trash.
“They… they wanted it…” he whimpered, then realized what he’d said, and smacked his head into the table.
“You are fired,” fumed Gavelston. She touched Gretchen lightly on the shoulder, and motioned to the door. “If you’ll come with me, we can find someone better suited to your needs.”
The two of them left as Anna and Sara stood, avoiding eye contact with Jacob as he disintegrated into tears and coffee stains.
“You… you asked for it, didn’t you?” he sobbed. “I heard you. You asked for it.”
“Oh, Jacob,” said Anna. “We didn’t ask for it. You asked for it, the second you broke Marie’s heart.”
Jacob looked up, eyes wide.
“You think you can cheat and get away with it, Mr Big Shot? Think again. You may not care about anyone but yourself, but we do. We asked her what would help her, and you know what she said?”
Jacob shook his head slowly.
“Inflicting pain to Jacob,” Anna beamed. “How you feeling now, Mr Big Shot?”
Jacob sighed, rested his head against the table. Anna left the room with a bounce in her step, but Sara came around beside him, crouched down and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “But I don’t date unemployed men. See you around!”
Jacob was removed by security ten minutes later.