Think Tank

Slumping merrily across tartan bean-bags is conducive to the thought process; it says as much in the Company Handbook. And so, arranged like Greek philosophers considering a particularly troublesome existential dilemma, they ponder and muse, mass debate and meditate. Oh, but it would have been fitting for the deliberations to have taken place in some clearing betwixt the stooping bows of olive trees laden with their dark fruit. Our truth-seekers could have plucked nature's bounty from the very trees, without having to stop their mental gymnastics for even a second. As it is, they have to make do with coffee and croissants; cigar-like pastries one would imagine rolled on the luscious, trembling thighs of a Marseilles virgin, if there ever can be such a thing.

And, unfortunately, their thought processes are held back by the constraints of architecture; four walls and a ceiling box them in; their flapping minds cannot soar to the full heights to which they are evidently capable. But they try; oh, how they try. Wings aflutter, they speak loftily of bottom-line figures, returns on investment and the fabled creature; the customer. Flightily, they consider how they can woo this savage beast. For let he that hath understanding calculate the number of the beast. It isn't your common or garden round figure such as ten pounds; rather, it is the magic number of nine pounds and ninety nine of your grubby little pence.

Marketing is the science of understanding human motivations and the glory of anticipation of where that fluesy, fashion, might chance to go next. It is also about having the confidence to lead; to have the utter conviction that your preachings, your soothsaying, will become a reality. If there were some way, perchance, of measuring the self-assurance in this room on this particular day, then that measure would record a final reading as being way off the scale. Oh, some talk of universities as being home to 'fine minds', but there they are not shelved properly; they are allowed to cork, to turn vinegary. Here, in this hallowed place, lie the true masters of the Wolfeian universe. Glory be, to these gods amongst men.

We enter, like shabby no-marks, and watch in awe-struck silence as they play arpeggios upon the rich threads of their majestic thoughts. We drink it in as though it is a stolen draught of heaven-juice. Six people - although I hesitate to use the pejorative people to describe these magicians of the soul - are in the room. They number five men and a woman. They are dressed like ancient Kings and Queens; finery of mind is embodied in finery of regalia.

Hush now, one speaks.

"If he is to be a true role-model, then we need him to better reflect the desires of kids today," says one of the men, sagely; his mane of a mullet hair-cut nods along with him, emphasising his wisdom. He is named Chris Parker and I would humbly wash his feet if he were ever to deign speak to me, a lowly peasant. "He has to have the look that they aspire to - buff like Andre, a little bit cheeky like Ant or Dec, witty like the one off Little Britain, but without the homo overtones, of course."

A giggle from the rest of this council of councils; they show that they are not averse to humour; they can be as other men are.

"What we need, is to get rid of the beard. At a push, we could turn it into a neat little goatee, but we can't have that," says a second man - Nick Hibbert - gesturing dismissively at the parchment which he has unravelled on the floor in front of him. If this scrap of papyrus is all that they have to work with, they will truly have to pull some magic out of the bag. It shows an image of a trampy-looking man wearing bloody sandals and a long beard. He has wrapped himself in some kind of sheet like they do at Halloween and, weirdly, this bright light shines out from behind his head - the illustrator should have used a flash.

"He needs to be clean-shaven. He needs to smarten up his act… He needs to look as though he cares about his appearance," says a third man. This man, if I may distract you for a moment, is John Buck; the all-powerful leader, although, as the sacred Company Handbook proclaims, everyone has a voice at one of these blue-sky thinking meetings. There is an air of the priest about the man, such is his subtle authority. He is the kind of man who looks at ease in any situation. Right now, he is lolling half-way onto the floor; most of the beans in his bean-bag have collected at the other end.

"Think of the money which will roll in if we do give him a shave… the razor companies will be all over us like a shaving rash… and they were looking for some way of launching that new one with the eight blades," says Chris Parker.

"What else?" says Buck.

"Can the tan," says Chris, star-pupil. "The guy on that paper looks kinda Middle Eastern. We can't have that in the current climate."

"Good. And?"
A. J. Kirby