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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 125 - Sally MaGuire and the Ad From Hell

The ad broke Monday evening in prime time. Sally MaGuire and her design team monitored the reaction from her office at MaGuire & Associates Advertising on the 54th floor of a high rise just off Madison Avenue in New York.

She’d fought hard to get this account, a Chinese computer company, beating out three other agencies with an ad campaign designed to appeal to an untraditional television demographic, people aged 40 to 59. Why this age group? Sally believed that the computer in question would appeal to them because they included the younger part of the Baby Boomer generation, who hadn’t grown up with computers but had embraced them from the beginning.

However, the ad – that was the problem. The Chinese hadn’t been the easiest customers to work with. They wanted it done a certain way, no exceptions. She guessed they weren’t used to having anyone disagree with them and get away with it. They weren’t going to start with her.

The ads started running at 8 p.m. Eastern time. She’d bought time on each network and several of the biggest cable channels. The exposure would be millions of people. The sales? Well, that might be the problem.

First problem, the computers were made in China. They did have an American style name, The Connector, but everyone knew the company was Chinese. She worried about that. Second, this was a new computer in a saturated market. Sally knew that and she’d told the Chinese that. Better to be up front with them.

The first reactions would come in on Twitter. They always did. People saw something, anything, and they sent out tweets. This would be the first test. Would people like the name? It was, after all, the first Web 2.0 computer name.

Sally had put a lot of effort into creating the image of using this computer as your one and only connection tool, flying in the face of the cell phone blitz and its huge percentage of the Internet traffic market. How could an ancient piece of equipment like a computer compete?

So Sally hovered over her computer screen. No, she didn’t have The Connector installed in her offices yet. She might never have one. After all, it was just a computer, just like all the other computers in all the other offices all over the world. Her job was to sell the world on the new computer, not buy a batch of them.

Sally knew that it was all in the perception. If enough people believed this computer was different, the Chinese would sell enough of them and go home happy. If not, well, it was a nice account to have for a while.

To sell The Connector, she’d set up the machine as a super cell phone, with a bigger screen, much more power and connectivity and instant communication with anyone. If everyone believed cell phones were the way to go, then she’d sell computers as the newest cell phone, even if it wasn’t.

The first reactions started to come in. Pretty snippy to start with. “Back to clunky cell phones??” “The Chinese are a bit old fashioned, wouldn’t you think?” “Don’t trust the damned Chinese.” “What the green-foggin’ doubledy-gooker of a computer is that?” “Just what we need, another computer.”

The Internet orders would be next. Sally would get copies of the orders by email from the company’s shopping cart. A damned nuisance to get rid of them all but she’d know. She checked the email address. Should be thousands of orders. Nope, just a few dozen. She was astonished. They weren’t ordering the computers. They were ordering mice. That’s right, the mouse. The mouse wasn’t supposed to be for sale. What on earth? It wasn’t even on the cart. Far as she knew.

“Run the ad for me,” she said. The ad played out on the television screen. Whatever the problem was, they’d see it on a wall sized screen. It played and looked good, thirty seconds from beginning to end. I’m good, she thought. At the end, the web address came up on the screen. Get yours from all the big computer retailers or order online at: —. She read the address. It looked okay. She’d done everything right.

Sally sighed with relief. Joe, her assistant, said, “Aren’t you going to the site?”

Sally frowned and typed in the URL right from the television screen. Letter for letter. It went to the sales letter. Okay, that was good. Except at the bottom of the letter was a list of bonuses you got with the computer, among them a monitor and a mouse. Nothing new there. She pressed the buy button. There on the screen was the order form. And there in bright letters was the product. “One computer monitor mouse” and the price $1.200 plus tax, if you lived in New York.

She stared, stunned. Of course the shopping cart was with an American company for Americans to use. And of course the Chinese had hired someone to translate everything, and of course nobody had shown her the final order page. She assumed it was right. They had never been wrong.

The orders clicked in with monotonous regularity. It was 8:15 p.m. She called the programmers. No answer. They’d all gone home. She tried texting. No response. First dozens of orders, then hundreds, then thousands. Her promotion was a success and because of some very poor translation and a number that got misread, they’d sold a batch of computer mice for a buck twenty. She envisioned the crowds on the phone the next morning, every one of them wanting not a mouse but a new computer for their $1.20. Of course the fulfillment house would ship one computer for each order anyway. That was what they were supposed to do. Too bad you couldn’t recall and advertisement, she thought.

Then she thought about the phone call she’d get from the Chinese. THAT would not be pleasant. Of course they’d blame her even though she hadn’t done anything but promote the product. But her day tomorrow would be hell.

She didn’t sleep a wink that night.

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