King Henry’s Finest Royal Ketchup

15 Apr

Twickenham Station at 7:38 a.m.: “Platform number four for London Waterloo Services. Calling at Richmond, Putney, Mortlake, Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and London Waterloo. Platform number four going to London Waterloo.” No doubt: the ultimate wake-up-call! Routinely the train stops a couple of minutes behind schedule. My two banana muffins and a cup of coffee are already history. Business people conquer – as far as possible – their seats. An elderly woman – obviously mentally off-peak – spreads tons of pigeon food all over the place: “Mind the gap!”

I grab some sheets: yesterday’s Evening Standard and bury my face behind them. It is one of these typical self-disciplined behaviours, which are waiting to be performed in passion. Only amateurs would penetrate other travellers with their steering eyes in British trains. Unfortunately I am not that much interested in family dramas and sport news. And there is a problem. One of my clients desperately wishes to be entertained with a somewhat blockbuster-look-a-like commercial treatment for his brand new product King Henry’s. Any ideas for blue-blooded ketchup that wants to rule the world? Deadline: today 11:00 a.m. The guy to my right into his phone: “Guess where I am?” Indeed, that is an interesting question: “Mind the gap!”

waterloo

London Waterloo Station; photo by: CLICK

Leaving the train at London Waterloo all passengers are spontaneously sentenced to celebrate patience. The platform’s exit has been closed by SWT-members who want to examine our tickets individually. This procedure normally costs you half an hour minimum. Of course, you can use the stairs in the middle of the platform to reach London Underground’s area without interruption – but no one does. I do. After establishing the invention Full English Breakfast queuing became the most important institution to keep English souls in balance. A busker’s sax plays Dave Brubeck’s Take Five while I am waiting for a Northern Line train. The security guys are out of balance and about to arrest him. “King Henry’s Finest Royal Ketchup!”, oh what a terrific mainstream claim! My brain seems to be back in business. But what about the complete story? “We have to be mind catching!” the company’s C.E.O. reminded me recently. The last time I was following such orders, I worked on this nail thing. You know one of these fictional jobs your client wants to test you with. I was allowed to create everything, the brand, the print campaign, and the marketing strategy. “Do whatever you want but remember: be mind catching!” “Certainly Sir! I’ll be aware of that.” And what did I do? I went for the oldest joke in advertising’s history. My brand: MasterNails. Synopsis: On the poster you see Jesus Christ who just dropped off his cross. He is nothing but grounded. Headline: “With MasterNails, it simply wouldn’t have happened.” Copy: “MasterNails is keeping things together. For a lifetime. No matter how long a lifetime lasts…” I became the C.T.F.O. (Creative Task Force Officer) of our agency with immediate effect – a position, which did not exist before, so I used this unique opportunity to improve my handicap: “Mind the gap!”

Inside the train I am confronted with a group of chewing-gum chewing secretaries, ugly dressed, aged mid fifties, reflecting in Austrian about the quality of English advertising by examining the wannabe-billboards. “Yes, you can easily see that British advertising is much more better than ours.” A cultural misunderstanding must have inspired them to visit the island. In England – as a matter of fact – advertising is either the best in the world or the worst. There is nothing in between. London Underground trains however proudly provide you with only the worst. “Objection, your honour! There is one exception: The ads for a beer called ‘Spitfire’, that had been in use a couple of years ago. Three pints of beer were shown. One completely filled, one half-full, and the last one empty. Headline: Goering, Goering, Gone! Claim: Spitfire. The bottle of Britain.” In this case I appreciate being overruled! It is a great campaign, unfortunately some jealous guys in Britain are trying to give the word seriousness another stupid – not to say German – dimension as This Article In The Internet shows: “Mind the gap!”

goering.jpg

visit boreme.com to see more

Outside Leicester Square tube station at precisely 8:55 a.m., I am stepping – slightly off-minded – on a gentleman’s shoe. Crockett & Jones vs. Church’s 1:0. The gentleman’s frozen face turns into a helpless smile and over to me, apologising: “Excuse me, Sir!” In my eyes more firm than a frigid “I am not amused.” My destination is Café Bohème (13-17 Old Compton Street, Soho) – the spiritual home base of my mind –, opposite Maison Bertaux (28 Greek Street), the one and only place in London where you can buy real French croissants. And when I say real, I do mean real, the real ones, which have not been made with this certain butter-what’s-that? – mentality, the ones, which become frightened by the idea of being drowned in unlawfully prepared coffee; the ones that leave large leaves of their own tasty crispy-crunchy skin texture on the plate behind; large pieces you can literally create your own bathtub-armada with. Café Bohème serves precisely these croissants. And they serve them perfectly: with strawberry jam, butter, and a jazz band. I open my sketchbook to vanish the emptiness, to fill the pages with bloody blue-blooded stuff: stuff that is about to rewrite the history of advertising: stuff that surely gives my personal CV a real good kick. I know it sounds insane but as a creative you have to be a little bit this way. You have to want to be the best! However, it is almost 9:30 a.m., so I am in a hurry: “Mind the gap!”

Maison Bertaux, the one and only home of the one and only real French croissants in London; photo by capturedsight

11:10 a.m. in my office. I am calculatedly late. On my way to the conference room I am pouring down a cup of coffee in an uncalculated rush. Oliver Cromstein, the client’s C.E.O., hands me a photo showing his ketchup-faced three-year-old daughter poking holes with her fork into mummy’s handbag. His humour is famous: “Oh, she’s gorgeous, isn’t she?” I state, honouring our sophisticated long-term-business-relationship. “Well, if you say so you say so”, Cromstein replies hardly satisfied. He is an experienced businessman and a passionate mood-killer. “Mr. Cromstein, I’m very pleased that you’ve come to see me. This circumstance drives my heart into pure…” “Stress?” “No, not necessarily, I thought more about using the term happiness.” He is not pleased at all and asks: “So, have you been mind catching lately?” “As I always am.” He looks down my Buchanan knickerbockers. Duncan Chrisholm & Sons Ltd. (47-53 Castle Street, Inverness) does them for me. “Hmm, Crockett & Jones”, he comments respectfully. “Mr. Cromstein, I really like your double-cufflinks.” He takes a serious breath. Best moment to launch the attack: “Mr. Cromstein, are you still keen on wanting to thrill the public’s opinion?” “Definitively YES!” he announces nearly majestically. “If so, put your seat into an upright position: our location is London’s Tower. Three defrosted chickens are placed in front of it sitting side by side on a huge stone. Three little crowns are carefully protecting their necks. Some red blue-blooded ketchup is running over their chests. In the background, a tremendously tall bottle of ‘King Henry’s Royal Ketchup’ completes the scenery. Voice Over: ‘As three of Royal six most famous UK chicks would say…’ “Hey, he is about to buy it! I can smell it! “The three Chicks: ‘Over our tasty roasty skins, ‘King Henry’s’ has to be spreaded! From our legs to our wings we’ll be flavoured like freshly beheaded!’ Voice Over: ‘Freshly beheaded or ‘King Henry’s Finest Royal Ketchup!’ The three Chicks are laughing cheerfully … (short pause) … and now, Mr. Cromstein, here comes the best part: CUT!!!

ours

Billy Wilder once said: “Awards are like hemorrhoids. The older one becomes, the more gets one of them!”

It takes Mr. Cromstein quite a while to re-establish his countenance, then he asks surprisingly: “Spreaded? What’s that? Correct me if I’m wrong but generations of schoolteachers weren’t getting tired of hammering ‘to spread, spread, spread’ into our minds, not to say our souls. So what the hell does ‘spreaded’ mean? Based on my understanding it’s wrong, isn’t it?” His mind gains profile, so I have to be diplomatic: “Mr. Cromstein, in advertising there’s no such thing as right or wrong. There’s only one rule, and this one rule forces us to attract attention, because it simply says so! This unique and history based TV-treatment represents a nicely balanced commercial between to be and not to be; in addition with an enormously powerful mind catching aspect and that’s ‘spreaded’! The main message is pure and genially kept simple: If you eat you survive, if you don’t you don’t. If you do both with ‘King Henry’s’, traditionally you do best!” I think that Mr. Cromstein could possibly be overwhelmed by the fact of dealing with a walking accident right – or wrong – now. Alternatively he could possibly be convinced already but it seems he is not aware of such an option so far. Right or wrong, now my creative driver’s seat does not find itself in a dynamic and comfortable kick-down-and-go-for-it position. “My dearest Hamlet Hamster, I know you are a highly decorated creative – even though you are a German, no doubt – but with any respect” – he is definitively getting furious – “have you ever thought about the question, WHICH sensational reason the fundament of the entire British Empire’s history could be? No? I nearly thought so! So let me tell you: it’s our grammar – our holy beloved grammar! When we had ‘spread’ ourselves all over the planet ruling it, we didn’t ‘spreaded’ ourselves, did we? Our look-up-to-success was built on grammatical correctness and not on stupid word games! My ketchup is to be the strongest, the toughest in the world – nothing less. It’s a serious business. I do not compare myself with anything less than the best. Wannabes must not interfere with my business. From the moment we started misusing our language the British Empire became less influential. Do you know why the fucking Germans fortunately never won the Second World War? It’s because they couldn’t handle their grammar! Hitler’s speeches were complete phonetic and grammatical disasters and their best authors were banned. The question is whether we want to become as weak as Germans by belittling our lingual system or not.” “Mr. Cromstein, you are a genius! I’ve just got the idea; I mean a brilliant one, really!” Mr. Cromstein, seemingly impressed by my compliments, listens carefully: “Why don’t we sell Grammar Cakes? Grammar Cookies? You know, stuff like this: ‘No hammer mistakes with Grammar Cakes!’ Is that a claim or what? ‘Feed your mind? So eat my kind!’ – Yeah, so here we go! Let’s conquer and educate the world by selling cookies and cakes! At least: The Empire Strikes Back! It turns out Darth Vader was running a bakery in 58, Frith Street during his earlier lifetime. His ambitions to become Prime Minister were obvious and a public’s shock. Therefore he established the ‘Grammar Cakes & Cookies Foundation’ in – well let’s be generous – a couple of hundred years ago. Sir Francis Drake, Lord Nelson and Charles Darwin were among its members…” “Hamster!” Mr. Cromstein interrupts me uncomfortably “I am not so sure if this is your day today…” “Honestly, I see it quite the other way round, Mr. Cromstein!” “Mind the gap!”

I close my eyes and listen to Satchmo’s “I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world!” When I open them again I am about to guide Mr. Cromstein to the elevator where we pass Walter and Jacob at the coffee machine chatting about their washing powder job: “Hey, Hamster, listen to this…” definitively noticing in who’s company I am. “…The brand is ‘Sir Arthur’s Best’, right?” “Right!” “The scenery takes place in Sherlock Holmes’ living room. Sherlock asks Dr. Watson: ‘And what happens when you take one or two lines of pure SirArthur’s Best’s washing powder? Elementry, my dear Watson, you will stay clean forever!’” “Very nice, Jacob. Nothing less than I expected! But I think we should ask Oliver Cromstein here for a professional grammar check first, shouldn’t we?” (Cromstein disappears silently.) CONT. TO JACOB: “Em, you’re doing this for real or for Cannes?” “Cannes – of course!”

As the elevator’s doors open I point down to its step, on which the company’s name SCHINDLER is clearly written in capital letters. I give myself another go: “Mr. Cromstein! You see? ‘Schindler’s lift’! It means you arrived! This is your new home. Your personal safety cell. No more Germans, no more grammar, which automatically means no more danger! Enjoy yourself! Good-bye, Mr. Cromstein, and thanks for popping around. See you next time!” “Yeah, and in the meantime you enjoy yourself by fixing this ‘spreaded-thing’, right?” “Right!”

Written © by Hamlet Hamster; published 1997 in: The Face, London. (Story to be continued.)

2 Responses to “King Henry’s Finest Royal Ketchup”

  1. Miss Cellania April 15, 2007 at 2:26 pm #

    Your English is better than mine. Ha! Clients never seem to realize the ONLY thing that matters in advertising is whether it is memorable. And a grammar crime in England is memorable. I’ll look forward to the next installment!

  2. hamlethamster April 15, 2007 at 3:27 pm #

    You’re a natural born native speaker, provided with a great sense of humour. Enough reasons that your English is better! I am glad that you enjoyed my story. Well, it will be continued – but not now.

Comments are closed.