The entire building appeared empty when Jason arrived and he knew most of his colleagues at The Frazer Agency were on vacation for the holidays, but he decided the ten-story climb would at least feel quicker than the elevator and maybe even sober him up a bit. He was exhausted after running up the empty stairwell, panting on the landing outside the office. All he had to do today was show up and glad-hand the clients while his assistant Brad took care of the presentation. After last night, Jason felt like his music career could finally take the next step and he might be able to escape this agency hell once and for all, but he didn't want to sabotage any of the work.
Slapping his own face and taking a huge gulp from his bottle of water gave Jason a brief second wind. He lifted his arm to take a whiff of his armpit but was interrupted by a vibration in his left pocket. Frantically grabbing his phone, he saw that Brad was calling and instantly picked up. He blurted out “one more second. I’m here. Has anyone arrived yet?”
“Jason.” Brad’s voice was soft, “my train broke down.”
Jason froze. “But I need you to lead! My gig went late so I didn’t get a chance to look at the new concepts you sent last night.”
“I could try to call in, but the service is spotty.”
“We have to make it work.” Jason was pacing in tiny circles outside the agency. “I can’t fuck up the first presentation.”
“I don’t know what to say. You have to do it. You must have absorbed something this week. We've been meeting in your office…”
“Just get here.” Jason angrily hung up and whispered “shit.”
He had gotten through similar situations in the past, but after discovering his new assistant was highly motivated, Jason began dumping all his work onto Brad. Now three months in Jason barely knew what his own team was doing. He gave himself another slap and opened the door.
Caleb sat at the front desk, giving Jason a quick nod while lifting his hands to tighten an already taut tie. Jason reached down to feel his own tie and pulled it together as best he could. When sliding on a clean suit that morning he didn’t have the patience or coordination to tie a new one and the knot from last week had lost form. He walked up to the desk and Caleb handed Jason a comb, then whispered “Mr. Frazer. The team from Handi is waiting.”
“Shit. Did you get them coffee?” Jason asked.
“Yes of course. They’re in room C. But Sir…”
“Mr. Handi is here too.”
Jason gulped. Regina and Terri from the brand team were one thing since they would be eager to get through the meeting quickly. He could breeze through with them and send the presentation over e-mail, but Mr. Handi would require a show and have more questions. Jason heard the elevator door slide open and turned to find his father. He felt like he was going to be sick but swallowed and smiled. “Hey Dad, I didn’t think you were coming in.”
“I wasn’t planning to, but your mom and brother went shopping, so I figured it would be a good time to catch-up.” Mr. Frazer examined his son. “Your face is red.”
“Hello Mr. Frazer.” Caleb sat up with a beaming grin, “great to see you.”
“Now that’s the type of face I want to see when I walk into my agency! How was your Christmas?”
“Jason, isn’t the Handi presentation today?”
Jason answered “I was just heading in. Brad’s stuck on the train though, so I was going to give them a tour while we waited for him.” He tried to quickly sneak off to the conference room.
“Are they waiting? What are you doing out here? It’s the holidays. Don't bother with the tour. I’m sure everybody just wants to get going. I’ll come say hi.”
Jason stopped and turned abruptly, knowing his dad would sit-in if he saw Mr. Handi. “Dad, leave it to me. It’s only Regina and Terri. Please let me handle this.”
Leaving his son with a proud pat on the back and encouraging nod, Mr. Frazer started towards his office.
Jason jogged to the conference room door, took a final deep breath, then lifted his shoulders and opened the door with a huge smile on his face for the clients sitting at the far end of the table.
“Hello everyone! Happy holidays! Sorry for my little delay, but I’m sure Caleb took great care of you.”
“Hey Jason, don’t worry about it at all.” Regina smiled brightly and leaned over to shake his hand. She was a pleasant day-to-day client, young and eager to get good work from the agency.
Jason reciprocated and said “thanks Regina. Step-mother still in town?”
“She’s still there,” Regina chuckled. “Thanks for giving me an excuse to get away.”
Jason looked over at Terri and was met with a cold expression. She was more interested in sales than marketing and typically stayed on her computer during these presentations. Jason just said, “how are you Terri?”
“You’re late.” Terri flatly replied.
Mr. Handi put his phone down and rose out of his chair, still sporting the bulk from his NFL days. He said “don’t worry about it Jason, good to see you.” His soft, deep voice typically gave Jason comfort when he heard it on the TV commercials, but Mr. Handi's mere presence right now was terrifying, “these two told me they were coming over, so I decided it would be more fun than closing the year out with my accountants.”
As Mr. Handi reached out his enormous paw, Jason wiped his sweaty palm before extending it, “great to see you too sir.”
Jason heard the door swing open behind him. He felt a deep relief, assuming Brad made it in. Then he was startled by his dad's voice exclaiming “Big John Handi! I thought I saw you in here!” Jason turned around to a brief glare from his father before they both returned smiles and attention to the clients.
Mr. Frazer greeted Mr. Handi with a pat on the back, continuing “We have some great work for you to see today. I’m very happy I made it in for this.”
Jason pleaded quietly “Dad, you don’t have to --”
“Hey Jimmy!" Mr. Handi bellowed. "I was so excited for the first work I decided to come see it for myself.”
“Terri, Regina, how are you doing?” Mr. Frazer said, ignoring his son. “Happy holidays.”
Terri stayed seated, but gave a light grin “I’m great Jim. Thanks.”
“Me too, hi sir,” Regina stood and eagerly reached out her hand.
Mr. Frazer shook Regina’s hand and said “please, call me Jimmy,” before taking a seat next to Jason.
There was a brief silence before Jason stammered “Ok… great. Ummm. Let me dial Brad in.”
Jason reached for the phone and his dad grabbed his arm, “just get going. Brad can join when he gets here.”
“Ok. Yeah. That’s fine.”
Another long pause. Mr. Frazer kicked his son under the table and Jason jumped up and looked up at the screen: Handi Hardware – Q2/19 Print campaign
Jason stayed on the cover page as he gave an intro, “Handi Hardware has enjoyed steady growth the past two years despite physical store traffic declining everywhere. It all comes down to one thing: an experience.”
Mr. Handi leaned back in his chair and tapped the table, “we’re all familiar with the strategy, Jason.”
“Yes, of course. Just wanted to level set.” Jason leaned over his computer and an e-mail popped up in the corner of his projected screen with the subject sick show last night!! He quickly hit ignore without looking up to see if anyone noticed.
Slowly, Jason clicked through the strategy section, eventually stopping on a slide that only said concepts. He had no idea what ideas were beyond this, so he began another boilerplate introduction.
“When we present concepts here at Frazer, we always start with a brief idea statement then get into the campaign visuals.”
Jason saw Regina and Terri share a look of impatience. Mr. Handi glanced at his phone under the table. Jason’s phone vibrated on the table in front of him and he looked down to find a message from Dad: “MOVE ON!”
This was it, he opened the next slide and found the title ‘Do It Ourself.’ The clients looked intrigued. Jason read monotonously, “The problem with DIY is that the Y can feel lonely. But Handi hardware is a communal experience, so you can be confident before doing it…”
Mr. Frazer gave his son a look of disappointment and Jason knew why. He was ignoring the most important presentation lesson: never just read, know the work and use the page as backup.
Jason thought he remembered one of these ads and was determined to win them all over, so he decided to wing it with confidence. “This is a really fun idea! We’re going to show the outlines of Handi-employees helping people with their DIY projects at home. Handing someone a tool or holding a level. Even when you DIY, you’re not alone.”
Believing he nailed the intro, Jason clicked to the next slide to reveal a whole group of people in a store working together on a single project. Jason must have been thinking of a different concept.
“Um so… As you can see…”
Mr. Frazer’s eyes were bugging out of his head. With his back towards the clients, he mouthed ‘what the fuck?’ to Jason.
Terri smirked and said, “Jason that doesn’t look like what you just described.”
Mr. Handi raised an eyebrow, “I’m not following either.”
Regina was bright red.
“Well, concept two…" Jason rapidly clicked through the slides to get to the correct concept. "It's like ghosts helping them. But... nice ghosts. You just have to see it.”
Another e-mail notification popped up over the presentation window and Jason accidentally clicked it. An image of him playing guitar on-stage, a ripped shirt revealing his bare chest, tongue out with a topless woman pouring beer into his mouth, took over the screen. Above the picture a caption read About Last Night…
Regina burst out laughing and Jason could feel Terri's schadenfreude without looking at her, but neither Mr. Handi nor Mr. Frazer were amused.
The door opened behind Jason. Brad walked in and said “hi everyone, so sorry I’m late. How’s it going?”