{ The Big Opportunity }
Todd Cesaratto
illustration by Joerael Elliot

Boss HogThe Superior strides purposefully into the meeting room. A harried secretary, who is holding stylish bottle of water from the finest, purest springs on earth, hurries after him. He stops and she stops, almost slamming into him. Meekly, she proffers the bottle. He looks at her severely. She slaps her forehead—the slap says, "Stupid! Stupid!"—withdraws the bottle, opens it, creeee-snap!, and hands it back to him. He glug-glugs, slides sleeve across lips, ah, and begins to orate:
   "Okay people, look sharp, when it rains it pours, and right now it's monsoon season, more new business coming down the pike, big opportunity, Big Opportunity here, prospective new client needs a new product launch handled, client's a world leader, world leader in the global solutions industry."
   Around the table, all save one of the team members reverently mouth the words, "Global Solutions Industry."
   Suzie, the new fast-track account executive springs up and tears off her business suit, the smart grey one with the hidden Velcro stays, revealing a colorful cheerleader's uniform with the name of the Firm stitched across her breasts. Clap, clap, clapclapclap. "Gimme a G, gimme a L, gimme an O, gimme a B-A-L, Global! Global! Global!" She screams and somersaults. "Whew! Yeah!" Everybody in the room, except Stan, claps and screams and somersaults. Larry, giddy with enthusiasm, takes up a bottle of the finest mineral water and makes ready to spray the proceedings but is halted by the Superior's icy glare.
   "All right people, let's simmer down. People! Take a look up here, here's the business."
   "B-U-S," Suzie begins before Candice muzzles her good-naturedly with a red rubber ball gag.
   "Thanks Candice," the Superior smiles like a kind father who doesn't like to be, but will be, stern. "The new product's called The Probe and what The Probe does is it adds value. Value. Value to the customer. Value to the network. And most importantly, value to the end user. Our job is to come up with an integrated program conveying this multi-level value to the company's target markets. But integration, while a lot, is not enough—our task, our grail to find, per se, heh, heh—look sharp!—our goal is to show the Probe for what it really is, which is—for its key demographic of end-users—the Holy Grail of Global Solutions." The Superior's expensive be-tasseled loafer tap, tap, taps Italian tile. "Yes, Stan?"
   "So we're like Percival."
   "What?"
   "The knight of the round table who searched and searched for the Holy Grail."
   "Exactly! Moving on—"
   "But um wouldn't it, I mean at least for me I think it would...that it would help our quest to know a bit more about the 'Grail' what it looks like, what it does."
   "Anyone who was listening care to tell Sir Stan here more about the Probe?"
   "Murblemurmlemumm-muuum!" says Suzie.
   "Anyone able to help Suzie out?"
   Larry, still red and tingly from the Superior's sharp glance, raises a tentative hand. "I-it's a value-added solution delivery system."
   The Superior ponders, creating, with his delayed judgment, an anxiety that only his approving, fist-slamming EXACTLY! can alleviate. Gourmet cookies leap from their tray and Larry swoons. "A value-added. Solution. Delivery. System...and I think it goes without mentioning that this product is sexy...so let's get back to our trademark award-winning outside-the-b—Yes, Stan, something else?"
   "Yes, I'm sorry, I don't mean to smirk in disbelief, but what exactly is the value, a-and how is it added?"
   "The value, Stan, is ROI. ROI, put your goddamn hand down, Stan, I know you don't know your acronyms, means Return on Investment, what the company delivers—"
   "Yes, but isn't that sort of a basic business tenet that every com—"
   "QUIET! Sorry, Stan, I'm sorry now really but you must let me finish. I don't want to have to use the ball on you before it's been properly sterilized...now where...um, Big Opportunity...."
   "Mrrr Uhhh Ayyy," says Suzie
   "That's right, Suzie, thank you, ROI. What makes this company's ROI different is its real-time proactive delivery system—one of the first of its type. But The Probe's value doesn't end with ROI, it also delivers networking solutions right at customers' fingertips via secure login. If you'll get the lights, Karen."
   On the screen appears a slide titled, "Communicating Value-Added Solutions", sub-titled, "An Exciting New Initiative". "Now, as we know people, our central image, the circle, represents 'renewal' and/or 'hope'."
   Lines trisect the circle, labeled "Your Business", at 120-degree intervals. The vertical line points heavenward to a video image of a member of the celestial host talking into a headset, labeled "End-Users Your Front-Line Staff". The angel, nodding, smiling, looks down and left at "Your Customer", an irate little troll connected to the circle by the second line. The troll looks up at the angel, glowering, shaking its fist, and hissing into a phone. The third line leads to "The Probe"—a prod from which lines of energy pulse, crackle, surge. The living energy's variegated color scheme was chosen by the best graphic design shop in town to depict benevolence, patience, and knowledge. The colored energy weaves itself around the two tendrils extending from the Probe's tip, waving to the frequency of the Ineffable, that join the three images into a triangle. Washed with benevolent light, the troll loses its frown and begins to smile, becomes less ugly, though not pretty like the angel, who nods, nods, and smiles even more beatifically.
   The Superior, his face also caressed by flickers of benevolent light and living energy, paces before the screen. "Soon as I got the company's RFP," he says, "I started concepting the opener for our presentation right away, brought in topnotch talent on the graphics and animation, a high-profile think-tank on the labels, glug, glug, this is a Big Opportunity people...and we're going after it with a bang!" Moist noises from Suzie's direction (and her furtively jiggling elbow) make it clear she has begun to masturbate.
   "So we got our bang, i.e., 'Communicating Value Added Solutions', and we keep the bang rolling with 'An Exciting New Initiative'. What now, Stan?"
   Karen leans over and whispers in Stan's ear, "Stan, it'd be better if you just kept qui—"
   "Ah yes, well, right, I hesitate to mention," Stan says, "but uh since we are after all still in the development phase, sorry, sorry, I'll get it under control in a minute, but shouldn't we write [sic] between New and Initiative, I mean an initiative is an introductory step, implicitly, Something That Is New.... So.... I mean...."
   "Suzie, would you, ah, mind taking a break there and giving me that ball. Scratch that, Helen, get HR on the horn and see why Stan hasn't received the Team Player microchip I ordered for him last month yet, and if it's down there just waiting to be processed, tell them to fucking...excuse me...tell them to process it ASAP and have Tech Support send an implant team up here so Stan can take immediate delivery."
   Stan coughs. "Em, I mean, I suppose your running gag about the microchip is sort of funny...in a Draconian sort of way...Minion, toe the line, or be punished...but em...."
   The Superior drains his water bottle and, with precise movements, screws the top back on.
   "Y-you are joking, right? I mean the microchip's like your metaphor for desirable groupthink, right?" Stan's smile sinks to a pursed horizontal line.
   "Well Stan, we'll just have to wait and see who's joking, now." The Superior turns back to the screen. "Moving on.... We got our bang, now what else do we need? You, Larry."
   "A big idea."
   "A Big Idea for a Big Opportunity...what else? Candice."
   "A S.W.O.T. analysis."
   "Very good. What else?"
   "Get some key industry opinion leaders on board."
   "Very, very good, and...and?"
   A joyous cacophony ensues, conducted by the Superior's approving index finger and pinky—the bull horns that say, speak: "Strategy, Tactics, Budget, Vision, Cutting-edge Creative, Unifying Themes, F.A.Q.s, Focus Groups, Round Tables, Short-term Goals, as well as Mid-range and Long-term, Taglines, Tie-ins, Top-notch talent, On-site Promotions, Off-site Appearances, Celebrity Tours, Third-party Research". The Superior's bullhorns dance in a way that hasn't been seen since preparing for The Big Pitch last week. Enraptured, he points without thinking to Stan.
   From Stan a hesitant silence. Karen grips his forearm. "N-never mind," he says.
   "No, Stan, go ahead, microchip's on its way up anyway," the Superior's forehead is illumined with "Your Business", his entire skull haloed by the hopeful circle like a saint in a medieval painting. "Go ahead, Stan, I want to—no I insist on hearing how you think we should develop Key Differentiators for the Big Opportunity. Go ahead, still got a few minutes of autonomy left."
   "N-no that's...." Stan looks around at his co-workers; all are staring straight ahead at their personal Focus Points. "Fuck it. What you need.... What you should do to show what an outside-the-box shop we are is run a full-pager, no a center spread, in a prestige pub that shows someone from our team here, get Larry there, shambling away from his recently vacated grave, arms straight out in front of him, chasing, in a slow inexorable shuffle, a town of panicked people, chanting, no moaning, insipid marketing terms. Put those in a bubble coming out of his mouth." Stan rises, backs to the door. "B-but I'm still working on the perfect tagline—" He flings the door open and leaps into the arms of men wearing white suits and hoods with dangling elephant-trunk respirator tubes. The front man holds a large pneumatic surgical instrument, cocked. The others rush Stan to the meeting table and slam him prone on the mahogany surface.
   Mineral waters roll about, fall to the floor. Cookies leap, some roll, some crumble. Suzie flings her body over the projector. Candice, Larry, and Helen smirk and shake their heads, and so, after a millisecond, does Karen. The Superior makes note of her sluggishness.
   The man with the gun jabs the nozzle behind Stan's ear and compressed air shoots the TP chip to its appropriate subcutaneous depth. "Let him up," his filtered, tinny voice orders. "All right, give the filaments a second to bore into the brain's compliance centers, and you can continue with your meeting. Okay, test."
   "This is all a practical joke, right?" Stan says. "Something you do to indoctrinate new people to the corporate cult-a-aak, aak—"
   "Okay now, calibrate," says the man with the gun to another man who twists a dial on a remote control.
   "Aak, aak, okay now," Stan says, clapping once. "We got good ideas here, people— Focus Groups, Round Tables, On-site Promotions, a standard-issue arsenal for our profession, all foundation pieces we need, pieces no program's complete without...but still we're in the box, still in the box! We need to get out of the box, we need to blow the goddamn box off the map! If we want to win this business.... If we want to win business this big, we need to demonstrate our ability to create...The Megatrend. Hope you agree with me, boss, good. May I?" The Superior steps back and Stan moves in front of the screen. He makes a circle with bullhorn fingers around The Probe. "We need to move away from looking at this strictly as a B2C paradigm because The Probe has legs to penetrate the B2B market and drive a push strategy while we pull simultaneously from the B2C side. It's a classic pincer movement, one that can capture market share if executed properly. But first we must take a step back and design a program that's both results-oriented and preproactive. Our Megatrend must be capable of showing everyone in The Probe's target market that this is a product that can differentiate them in new and exciting ways."

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