THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

 “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.”…

Image result for crank call

Crank Call by Graham Annable

“I will tell you of something your greedy leaders will not: At eleven o’clock AM Texas time, the Earth’s ultimate imperialistic endeavor, Space Colony 1 has been completely and utterly destroyed!” There is more than one stab into the belly and genuine pride in his delivery.

Francine eases herself down into her chair, gasping at the mere thought. This man does not sound like your typical crank.

“Did you hear me woman? The Taliban, Nepal and Korean governments applaud this accident. Allah and Buddha have spoken.”

“I heard you,” she whispers faintly. Everyone in southern Texas knows someone who works in the space industry or Space Colony specifically. “I am not inclined to believe you sir,” is all the journalism she can muster.

“You are the only civilian who has this information, use it to disgrace the infidels and enhance your own career and that of your station. Reuters would gladly break this story, no problem.”

“If I am the only Westerner to know this, if it is true, wouldn’t NASA want to hold a formal press conference?”

“But you do not want to share the spotlight,” he pauses, she mulls. “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.” He slips back into his Arabic vernacular.

“I’ll need more information before I can break this story.”

“You must have a source in the space program; I suggest you confirm it with them. But they will tell you the same things, if they are honest. They will speak of how an asteroid has destroyed your space station and stopped the useless expansion into space. They may try to rescue the project, but they will fail, Allah has prevailed. You will not discover your source…”

A dial tone abruptly replaces the bearer of horrible news.

And what is she to do with this? No one else of import is at the station.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 52


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 51

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 51

“Assalmu alaikum. Who I am, is of little importance, what I have to tell you may change your life,”…

life-changing

Yes, Francine was lying to the Senator when she told him of her doing real work. The evening cast is 4 hours away and as for the script, she would read whatever they put on the prompter, unless it makes her look stupid or cheesy. No, Francine was headed for the comfort of her personal, fully equipped dressing room.

She flashes her thumb against the print-recognition coder, to gain access to a world no one is allowed to know about… that and her age. In a world of investigative reporters and scheming assignment editors, only her cleaning lady has access to it, lest the governor declare it a disaster area. Queen Francine does not rank #1 in market neatness.

It is a sanctuary fit for the General Manager, or Senior Vice-president for that matter, who coincidently Francine has been engaged to, ever since she was up for lead anchor on the 6 & 10; not  coincidently. The poor sucker guy may be witness to the next Ice Age before she sets a date.

Once inside, she succumbs to her narcissistic ways, her image filling the large lighted mirror. She does a pirouette to verify whether that diet she started was working or not. All it takes is one chauvinistic comment about her butt to trigger that. She nods her approval, complains about why nobody has invented a better pair of pantyhose, and goes about putting herself back together.

Once seated, she leans forward for a closer inspection of her midday makeup, that when it was applied this morning, only served to polish the already perfect face of Aphrodite or Venus de Milo. Even her many enemies cannot dispute how truly pretty she is.

Her nose was a bit on the shiny side, God forbid, reflecting light like the hood of her 2029 Corvette; Nothing that a swirling mass of tinted powder won’t cure.

Satisfied once again, that perfection is achievable, Francine decides to make her routine appearance among the peons in the newsroom. She has lucked out this day, arriving just in time to schmooze a throng of Junior High speech students; Autographs gladly, pictures surely, questions, “Talk to the news director over there.” More pictures?

She was about to see if anything new had crossed her desk, when a telephone call comes through to her cell phone. The 1970s ABBA oldie anthem “The Winner Takes It All”, beckons her to answer. Nobody is allowed to call her at work, “It might be my agent,” she thinks aloud.

“Is this Francine Bouchette?” The voice on the other end of the line has a thick, unfamiliar accent.

She has half a mind to hang up, but anyone who has her number has good connections. “This is she and who may I ask is this? I am very busy, so make it brief.”

“Assalmu alaikum. Who I am, is of little importance, what I have to tell you may change your life,” the caller must be Arab or Muslim.

“I am listening, but you’ll need to get to the point.”

“We have chosen you to tell a story, on a day that will live in infamy, as will your name.”

“Please don’t play games here, whoever you are. If this story requires national attention, you have the right girl.” Francine is playing right into the man’s hand — a full house.cell-hell

“If you meet our needs woman, you will need to listen closely and ask not what your source is.”

“Okay, yes,” and what is with that “woman” reference? It isn’t hard to disrespect this particular female and this old-school moron is lucky she hasn’t dispatched him to cellular hell.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 51


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

… Senator Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”…

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business.”

“Unfortunately Senator Boyles, my interviewing skills and 20 bucks gets me a bus trip to Beaumont, unlike your friends in high places,” she pulls a small mirror from a handbag to check her hair, “as you well know. Your path to Washington started as an alderman back in Austin, if memory serves.”

“Well Honey, you are soooo right about know the right people and considering the innumerable favors you are doing me in this all-important election year, I would like to number you as a good friend and my good friends always come out on top.” And he means it. “In fact, if you are thinking about doing a story about my work in ol’ D.C., I would gladly throw a wing-ding party in your honor; then you can take national stardom to the bank.”

“That would be wonderful Senator Boyles,” she leans over to give him a peck on his rosy cheek. He would appreciate this kiss even more, had he known how hard it is for her to be nice to anyone. “If you will excuse me gentleman, but I have a script to edit for the 5:30 cast; bound to be a shitload of mistakes by my writer.”

She leaves the set in her typical prima donna style; no words of praise for the set-crew, head tilted back prima-donna-intersectionwith skirt swinging from side to side, as if propelled by some mysterious force.

Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”

Queen Francine. All the director/lackey can do is roll his eyes… and think about the heel marks on his backside.

Francine makes her way through the maze of hallways and stairways that snake through the modest four-story KHST building. She whizzes past offices… sales and on-air talent, engineering facilities, editing stations, and rooms storing old-school tape and video. Even the room that harbors the most activity, the reporter’s’ area is left in the dust; all those poor stiffs with eyes fixed on computer monitors, listening to police scanners and the five competing television stations in the Houston market.


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 50


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 49

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 49

…Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business…

Image result for filly artwork

First Filly by Barbara Busch

meanwhile-caption-001“That is why I think that Houston, indeed the whole state of Texas can make a successful transition from fossil fuel production to that of high-tech robotics. We have the space industry in place, we have the brightest minds East and West of the Mississippi, and we have the biggest hearts that God gave humans; we are Texas dammit….”

oil-rig-001“I am sorry Senator Broyles, but we are fresh out of time for this week. I would like to thank you for your forward glance into Texas’ future:After the Oil is Gone’.” The pleasantly attractive, every-girl type interviewer turns to face camera two, “I am Francine Bouchette and this has been another informative edition of Inside Texas, a production of KHST 13 News.”

The studio relaxes from its keyed-up-on-air mode, the harsh beaming lights going dark one by one. Ties are loosed, blouses unbuttoned, one or two, and pleasantries are exchanged between the crew and guest.

“Thank you Senator Boyles,” the director earnestly shakes the experienced legislator’s hand, “you always give us a good show.”

“Any time Larry; you folks know how to treat a country boy right.” And the extra exposure doesn’t hurt around election time. He continues with his exaggerated Southern drawl, “I live and breathe Texas!”

Senator Broyles

Senator Broyles

Francine Bouchette

Francine Bouchette

Francine waltzes through the set, past the two men. The Senator had been casually eyeing her after the program was a wrap and when she got within a rattler’s’ tail away, he reaches out and puts a lecherous hand on her lower back. She pretends not to notice.

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business. You make those stiffs covering Capitol Hill look like hacks.”

Deep inside, she agrees and if she gets her way, her rise to the top of network television will be swift, cold, and calculated. There are footprints on the backs of any pretty-pretty that has stood in her way; the guys she merely steamrolled.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 49


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 48

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 48

We have two people alive on Mars and we will not rest until they are safe, back here on Earth!…

Space Colony!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” A dazed technician stands, face paled by disbelief.

“It’s gone…” All he can do is point at the mission mockup and the flashing light that no longer shows anSC1 explodes orbit line around Mars. With all the distractions, no one had been monitoring the status lights; one green blink on the surface, none in orbit.

“Mr. Crippen, what has happened,” Aldona Afridi has more than a passing interest in the goings on?

Roy frantically seeks out key faces around the room. Total shock applies, with some tears on the move, spreading among most of the assembled 100.

cropped-mars3.jpgThey mourn the realization that any further contact with the McKinneys, now helplessly stranded on the Plain of Xanthe, would be impossible. The orbiting Colony was their only lifeline and that now seems utterly destroyed.

As good a good leader does, Roy Crippen collects his thoughts and regroups. There are contingency plans for such an unthinkable occurrence as this. He must sort through the options; no matter how limited they seem at this point.

“Mr. Frodo… sorry Afridi,” he has Tolkien on his brain. “We will be in touch with you in the near future. In fact I will arrange for you and your family to be picked up by American operatives in Turkey. Thank you for trying to warn us, perhaps we will find a place for you after all. Please leave your contact info with Mr. King.”

“I thank you for your kind offer, but isn’t the Space Colony project now terminated,” assumes the guilt-ridden accidental co-conspirator?

mckinneys-of-space-001“We have two people alive on Mars and we will not rest until they are safe, back here on Earth!”

The McKinneys are aware that Roy Crippen will not give up on them.

“Please ready New Mayflower for immediate liftoff,” Crippen commands, “zero hundred hours. No later!”

A rare midnight launch and don’t spare the afterburners!!


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 48


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U Gotta Have This – WIF Consumer Corner

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Marketing Campaigns

That Went

Horribly Wrong

Marketing is definitely not a science. They can teach it in school, people can claim to be experts in it, but sometimes even the most successful businesses and brands drop the ball in absolutely stunning ways. A good campaign is a rare thing, and it inspires consumers to go out and consume your products. Most campaigns are perhaps effective but forgettable at the same time. And then a select few are bungled so badly that they’ll be talked about for years to come and used as examples of what you should never, ever do. Like these:

10. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Bomb Scare

It’s a good rule of thumb that if your advertising campaign immediately invokes a police response because people think you placed improvised explosive devices around the city you’ve done something wrong. This was the case in 2007 with a guerrilla marketing campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in Boston. Turner Broadcasting took responsibility for a series of LED light displays that were placed on buildings depicting the Mooninites characters. For whatever reason, when people saw these with their hastily wired and powered frames, complete with some electrical tape and exposed wiring, they determined it must have been a terror attack in the making.

Word is that it took the intervention of a staffer at the Boston mayor’s office before law enforcement officials even realized what was going on. Because everyone who had fallen under the impression that these were explosives was too old to know what Aqua Teen Hunger Force was, only this young staffer was able to point out that this was a cartoon character everyone was getting so worked up about. The whole debacle was labelled a bomb hoax even though no one was implying there were any bombs anywhere and while it did garner some attention, it was probably not what the producers of the show were hoping for.

9. Miracle Mattress’s 9/11 Nightmare

Every year in September we remember the events of 9/11, and often businesses will do something to commemorate the somber occasion. In 2016, Miracle Mattress in Texas decided that their best method of memorializing the events of September 11th would be to have a twin tower mattress sale, complete with a commercial in which two employees fall backwards into twin towers of mattresses, knocking them over. It was arguably one of the most tone-deaf advertising campaigns in the history of advertising. If there’s one rule that most companies will go by, it’s not to make comedy out of tragic loss of human life, especially for the sake of making a few dollars off of a mattress.

The backlash was fairly severe. The owner of the company issued a statement apologizing for what happened, claiming that the commercial had been done by one single location without his approval. The woman featured in the commercial made a tearful apology video but the damage was clearly done at that point.

8. The McAfrika Mistake

A fresh, tasty pita topped with seasoned beef, cheese, and tomatoes sure does sound tasty, and that’s what McDonald’s thought in the year 2002 when they released it in Norway as the McAfrika. That proved to be a very bad move.

While Norway no doubt had consumers eager to eat the tasty snack, the fact that a terrible famine gripped Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and many other African nations at that very same moment made it a case of utterly abysmal timing.

Despite widespread criticism for being insensitive, McDonald’s did not stop selling the burger and kept it on sale for as long as they’d intended. Their concession was to allow charities to collect for African famine aid at McDonald’s locations at the same time. Proving that McDonald’s was really adamant about digging their heels in, they even re-released the McAfrika six years later to support the Olympics and got the same negative feedback a second time.

7. Toyota Stalker

A good sign that your marketing campaign has gone off the rails is when a court allows a person to proceed with a $10 million lawsuit against your company for cyberstalking. That’s exactly what happened to Toyota with their guerilla “stalking” campaign.

It started when Amber Duick got a random email from a guy named Sebastian Bowler. Amber lived in LA and it seemed that Sebastian was from the UK. He emailed letting her know he was coming to visit. Amber had no idea who he was and just ignored it as spam. The next day he emailed her again, dropping her home address in the email, saying that he was coming to lay low. He was also bringing his pitbull, who had a problem with vomiting.

Sebastian continued sending daily emails to Amber, each one from a location slightly closer to her home. The emails detailed how he was trying to avoid the police as he road-tripped across America (in a Toyota Matrix, of course) to her home. Once she even got an email from a motel where Sebastian had apparently stayed, giving her a bill for a room the man had trashed. As it turns out, it was all a “prank” orchestrated by Toyota.

Toyota claimed Duick had agreed to be a part of an “experience” while she claimed she had no idea this was going to happen to her and suffered serious emotional distress. How did it end? Settled out of court.

6. Spotify’s Murder Doll

You can make a solid argument that this Spotify commercial is actually a really good commercial, but it still got banned in the UK. The commercial features the Camila Cabello song “Havana” and a creepy little doll that apparently murders people whenever the song comes on. It’s filmed in much the same style as a horror movie, with quick flashes of the scary doll and people screaming as it stalks them through a house.

The problem with the ad was that it was deemed to be too scary, which you could argue is a compliment, but it still makes it a fail at the same time. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that while they understood it was a parody of the horror genre, it was still likely to cause undue stress to children who saw it, and so the ad had to be removed.

5. Pepsi’s Harrier Jet

Humor is a tricky thing, and what one person finds funny another person will find offensive. What one person thinks is a joke another may take very seriously. Pepsi learned this the hard way back in 1996.

In 1996, Pepsi ran a campaign where customers could collect Pepsi Points and exchange them for swag like t-shirts or hats. The more Pepsi Points you collected, the better swag you could get. And in their commercial they tossed in a joke about how if you collected seven million Pepsi Points they would hook you up with a Harrier jet. John Leonard thought that sounded like a great deal. The fine print on the contest said that you could buy Pepsi Points for just $0.10 a piece without any purchase required of Pepsi products. That meant a Harrier jet was only going to set you back $700,000.

While Pepsi obviously meant this as a joke, assuming no one would ever actually collect seven million Pepsi Points, Leonard figured this was a sound investment because the Harrier jet normally came with a price tag of about $23 million at the time. So the 21-year-old found five investors to front him $700,000 and he sent it off to Pepsi to await his jet. Obviously this didn’t work out and a lawsuit came of it, which Pepsi ended up winning after a judge decided that no reasonable person could have believed Pepsi was going to hand over a multimillion-dollar machine of war in exchange for buying soft drinks. Still, they learned their lesson and when they ran the campaign later on they changed it from seven million points to 700 million points.

4. IKEA’s Pee Coupon

Everyone likes a coupon, and it’s hard to think of new ways to innovate getting those to customers. Leave it to IKEA to be ahead of the pack. In 2018, the Swedish company rolled out an ad featuring a picture of a crib. The text read “peeing on this ad could change your life.” So right away they clearly did something a little odd here.

The idea behind this was that if you were pregnant, you could get 50% off the crib. How could you prove you were pregnant? The ad doubles as a home pregnancy test, so that if a woman did in fact urinate on it and it proved she was pregnant, then the coupon for the crib would appear. On the one hand, it is very innovative, and on the other hand you have to urinate on it and then bring it to a store and give it to someone. While the ad campaign actually was praised for being so creative, the fact remains that it was literally asking you to bring a urine-soaked advertisement from your home to a store to give to some hapless cashier who would then have to perhaps file it away somewhere.

3. Vitamin Water Gets Offensive

Snapple really pioneered the idea of having cute little phrases inside their bottle caps. Unfortunately, not every company is able to replicate that same idea. Vitamin Water in Canada tried a similar marketing gimmick by printing messages inside of their bottles. In Canada there are two official languages and that means messages would have to be printed in English and in French. This worked out poorly when a customer popped open one of their bottles and found the message “you retard” inside.

The Edmonton woman who opened that particular bottle has a sister with cerebral palsy, which made the insulting message all the worse. She assumed it was some kind of prank, but it turned out to just be a very poorly managed linguistic contest. Coca-Cola, which owns Vitamin Water, had been printing one English word and one French word inside the bottles caps. In French the word “retard” translates as “late.” But when an English-speaking person is getting that message, paired with the English word “you,” there’s no particularly satisfying explanation for why it happens.

2. LifeLock’s Social Security Bungle

Few things are more embarrassing than smugly proclaiming you can do something better than anyone else and immediately learning how wrong you are. The CEO of LifeLock learned this in the hardest and worst way ever.

In 2006, in an effort to show off just how great their personal identity theft security system was, the CEO of LifeLock published his social security number in advertisements. The idea was to show off how utterly secure their system could make you. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that since then his identity has been stolen at least 13 different times. Adding insult to injury, the company was also slapped with a $12 million lawsuit for false advertising since all that identity theft proved their system did not do what they said it could do.

1. Heineken Gets Called Out for Racism

In 2018 Chance the Rapper took to Twitter to call out a commercial from Heineken that he felt was being explicitly racist. The commercial, which uses the slogan “sometimes lighter is better,” featured a bartender sliding a bottle of Heineken to a woman who looks like she really needs a drink. So far, so good. The problem was when you combine the “sometimes lighter is better” slogan with the visuals in the commercial.

The bartender was light-skinned, the woman who receives the beer is light-skinned, and everyone else is not. The beer slides down the bar past no less than three visibly dark-skinned people before it gets to the woman who drinks it. Now maybe it was only Heineken’s intention to be discussing the shade of the beer, but their casting choices made race become a prominent issue.


U Gotta Have This

WIF Consumer Corner