Adventures in Marketing I recently started temping part time for a company that does focus groups. I'm going to call this company, FGH (or Focus Group Hell). This is not the company's real name, but I have noticed a lot of marketing companies have initials as names. Usually you have to say each letter individually. For example, if the company is BIB, you don't call it bib like that thing that holds drool, formula, and mushy carrots on a baby's front. No, it's B-I-B. To which I respond. . . O.K. I let it all roll over me while making mental notes.
Hoping to make a little extra cash for a trip to New York (in perhaps July), I landed in FGH-dom for a few hours each week. At first, I found FGH to be a mellow and stress-free environment. Focus Groups show up, I sign them in and give them name tags, Focus Groups eat sandwiches, Focus Groups are led to a room with a mirror on the wall and talk about stuff, Focus Groups sign out and get some cash (or, excuse me, incentives), Focus Groups leave. Pretty straight forward, right?
There is also an in-house kitchen. At some point in the course of the evening, I'd get a really nice home cooked meal from the on-site chef who has opinions on everything and will tell you all of them. She also makes excellent food, and I appreciated it fully.
At one point, the in-house chef was having MS Word problems.
‘Why am I typing over the words in front of it?' She asked befuddled.
I reached over and pressed the insert key. Suddenly, the problem was solved. I made her promise that she wouldn't tell anyone that I was smart.
The Focus Groups came. The Focus Groups go. Without sitting in on an actual focus group session, I have learned a few things about the American consumer:
One. The American Consumer likes turkey sandwiches.
Two. The American Consumer will read a magazine that‘s three months old—especially one containing pretty clothes. Three. The American Consumer can not put magazines back on end tables in a neat and organized manner after reading said magazine.
Four. The American Consumer likes to give his/her opinion on products he/she will probably consume before they come out.
Five. The American Consumer does not mind that their opinions are being viewed though two-way mirrors, audio taped, video taped, and tallied for the sole purpose of them consuming more of said product.
Six. The American Consumer cares about where the bathroom is, how hot the coffee is, and how quickly they can get their envelopes (aka incentives) and get the heck out of there.
Seven. The American Consumer will look out the window, see the stop-and-go traffic, and sigh at all the inconvenience.
So I worked at FGH a few times. I picked up the basics quickly. I even knew where the bathrooms were.
Into this world, walked the Evil Dawn. Have you ever met someone and within ten minutes of this meeting wanted to totally destroy that person. Not in a realistic and cruel way, mind you. No, you want to pull out a giant mallet and totally flatten the person in one big wallop like on Saturday morning cartoons? Yes, you are an adult, and yes, you can still be civilized to this person, but at the end of the day, FLAT!
In the BBC comedy series The Office, there is a character named Dawn, a receptionist who always had the most perfectly bored look on her face. TV Dawn was cool. TV Dawn knew that much of the office world was bullshit. Sure her boyfriend was pretty but shallow. Sure she didn't realize just how much oppressed Tim loved her. But she still understood what was what and who was who in the office context.
Evil Dawn was TV Dawn after she went over to the Dark Side. By the way, has anyone seen the new Star Wars movie yet?
Why spend time writing about Evil Dawn when I could be in a dark movie theatre watching Anakin whine his way to the big heavy mask? I believe that Evil Dawn can teach us things about ourselves and how to live. Evil Dawn is an archetype. I've met hundreds of Evil Dawns, but don't tell Evil Dawn that. Evil Dawn believes she's special.
The first thing I learned about Evil Dawn was that she had worked there for three years but doesn't work there anymore even though she was working right there in front of me. Okayyy. Either Evil Dawn is making a shit load of money or she can't let go. Yes, I think Evil Dawn is the midst of separation anxiety---they'll never make it without me, it will be chaos without me.
Lesson Learned: When you leave a job, you're gone. Don't go back. It's one thing to hang out with work friends away from the job. It's another to still work there. Let go. You're gone. Enjoy your new life.
When I spoke with Evil Dawn about her new job, she said something about lawyers and how they don't intimidate her. She talked about how she was still learning and how there was so much to learn. What this taught me was that Evil Dawn needs to know every single stupid rule, method and step before taking even the tiniest action. Heck, it took her five minutes to explain where the bathroom was. Sure, I knew already, but it seemed really important that she tell me all about it.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes just do it is more than a Nike ad slogan. Sometimes, it is the guiding light away from inactive insanity.
As the shift wore on, I realized that Evil Dawn thought the job was really important. She kept telling me to not stress out for no obvious reason. She talked on and on about the same things. How to do the sign ins. How lucky that the tape labels were already done (because after all, it's really hard to go on MS Word, find a pre-set template, and then print out labels on a Laser printer).
Lesson Learned: Nothing is so much easy or hard. It's thinking that makes it so.
Because the Evil Dawn was truly wise, she would not just tell you you did something wrong. She would go into a ten minute bland monologue as to why it was not only wrong, it was very wrong and wrong again. When you did something right, she praised lavishly. After all, you had learned something from her. It's all about her.
Lesson Learned: If someone messes up in an office environment, it's okay. The Old Republic will not fall. Keep it all in balance. Let the force flow through you. I wonder if I can build my own light saber.
Another wacky character in this surreal universe was DeeDee. DeeDee wore a nice suit and had long blonde hair that always looked windswept. She had wide eyes, so she always looked like she was in a panic. Apparently, she was the office drama queen. At one point, she leaned against the reception desk in exhaustion because she was under a ‘deluge of shit'. This led to a long silence from the three people in the immediate area. Yes, even Evil Dawn was rendered speechless.
Let me put on my teacher hat for a moment. If someone is temping in an office in either Los Angeles or New York, there's a pretty good chance that that person writes scripts. I know writers who would pay money for a line like that. Don't be too much of a drama queen office person. You might end up in a movie, and you might not like what you see.
And don't ever be afraid to ask where the bathroom is.
I think I have finally figured out why I never pursued marketing as a career. The people in marketing are really strannnnnnge.