Get up, Joe Edelman. It’s a new day.
That’s my own voice I hear, talking me out of bed, as it has every day, in the same way, for six years, since the morning after CNN first called Pennsylvania for Trump.
The dawn of an era, that I can tell you.
Showered and shaved, in my crisp white Oxford shirt, the gold ‘T’ monogram on the pocket, a classic TRUMP™ tie knotted carefully around my neck, like a stylish noose, I slide a pre-sliced Mar-a-Lago™ Mar-a-Bagel® into my Hamilton-Beach toaster, gazing, absent-minded, at my image in its gleaming stainless-steel surface, my funhouse reflection interrupted by the familiar block letters TRUMP etched into its side.
They were the first, Hamilton-Beach.
I’m a marketing man, a brand maven, three decades in the business, able to spot a trend from a light-year away, but even I thought it was stupid—hell, we all did—when ads for TRUMP™ brand toasters showed up in episodes of White House Intern. I’ve shilled for the most craven, plundering profiteers in the global sphere of commerce—and I say that with pride—but the voice in my head told me, that’s dumb.
Then TRUMP toasters started popping up, so to speak, in federal buildings from Tallahassee to Honolulu, in every embassy and consulate, in every Army and Air Force base, and, of course, in prominent product placements in Cooking With Melania’s White House Chef. Then the rumors started, of clauses in GSA contracts requiring, as a condition of doing business with the U.S. government, the purchase of certain items, all subject to undisclosed licensing fees, payable to the blind trust into which the vast array of Trump businesses had been placed in the weeks following Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.
They weren’t stupid, Hamilton-Beach. They were smart. They were very, very smart, that I can tell you.
I take my usual route along the Donald J Expressway, Exit 6A to Melania Drive downtown. Idling at the intersection, I study the electronic billboard towering above the Ford dealership across the way, its lot filled with row on row of gleaming new Trump 250 trucks. The billboard flashes a series of pitches for new menu items at McDonald’s.
A half-pound Trump burger between two extra-thick slices of Wonder Bread, the orange-ish Secret Service Sauce glistening as it oozes down the edges of the over-done ground beef, pooling on the plate, a 64-ounce Cherry Trump Coke and Supersize DJ Fries in the background.
Ronald Donald McDonald, now five years since the shimmering Trump pompadour replaced his red clown coiffure, hefting a two-patty, three-slice Trump Club.
Finally, the thirty-foot tall image of the president in the Oval Office, leaning across the Resolute Desk, a meat-eating grin on his face, knife and fork in hand, preparing to tuck into a Triple Bacon Trump, over the tagline, The best Trump Burgers are made at McDonald’s, believe me!
Genius! the ad man’s voice tells me. Pure genius, that I can tell you.
The morning concept meeting begins, as it always does, with the customary touching of the bronze bust of the president for luck. The first presentation flashes onto the screen.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” begins Fred Tosh, senior partner of Tosh, Vilsack & Trump (hon.) Advertising agency, “I give you the next huge advance in craftsmanship, in quality, and, need I say it, in style: the Ivanka!”
The room erupts in applause, the ad pros seated around the table, veterans of dozens of campaigns, shouting approval.
“Tremendous, really fantastic!”
“It sells, believe me!”
Wait a minute, it says, the cocksure inner voice, its last utterance lacking its usual bravado. Just…wait.
I listen for further instruction but receive none.
You know what to say, the voice tells me. Say it. I raise my hand.
“Fred, I have a question. The ad is Marla Maples in a bikini holding the product. A killer concept, overall.”
“Thanks, Joe, a super-killer concept, I guarantee you.”
“Yeah. But the name: Ivanka. Do you think that works for a commercial-grade reciprocating saw?”
The room goes quiet except for the barely perceptible sounds of eyebrows arching and sphincters clenching.
“She’s the president’s daughter, Joe.”
“Yes, Fred, I know who she is. Her name is on my refrigerator, it’s on my bed linen, on my running shoes, my luggage and my glass cleaner. It’s on synthetic pressed-wood fireplace logs, cans of baked beans, cartons of cottage cheese and bottles of bourbon. This,” I point at the screen, “this is a reciprocating saw. It’s used for construction.”
“That’s why it’s awesome! Think of our target market: construction workers, white guys with no education. They adore that delightful daughter of democracy!”
“Fred, didn’t you just do a remodel on your house? How many white guys worked on that?”
“That’s totally unfair, Joe! Those were all legal residents who came in through the Big, Beautiful Door. Besides, the president does great with Hispanics! He loves Hispanics!” Fred sets down his Bausch & Lomb LaserTrump pointer. “You’re missing the Big Picture.”
“Fred, do you remember when we worked at it? Not all balls and bluster, but real, mile-deep, sweat and strain work? Hell, we worked when slacking off would have served as well. We knew the product, we knew the market, we knew the buyers, we knew their minds. We crafted a message that spoke to their hearts. We were craftsmen. Anything obvious, hackneyed, trite—we didn’t stand for it, could not have even thought of it. God, we were good. Then what? This long, sickening slide into stupid, sloppy sameness. Not just us, but everyone. Show over substance, a big, tinted pile of hair combed over a bald expanse of intellectual poverty. Big Picture. Here’s the Big Picture: We’ve surrendered our last shred of creativity, giving in to pandering to the lowest of the lowest common denominators. And I don’t mean that in a good way.”
“Joe, we’ll take this offline. But let me just say, if pandering to the ignorant masses is good enough for President Trump, it’s good enough for Tosh & Vilsack. And Trump.”
Fred calls me into his office before lunch. They always give it to you just before lunch, so that you can clean out your office while most of the staff are down in the bar, enjoying their noon-time Trumptinis.
“Joe, we feel as if you and the agency are going in different directions. Lately you’ve been exhibiting some very concerning tendencies. We could try to work with you, but we’re finally winning again, here in Trump’s America, and we don’t have a place at Tosh and Vilsack (and Trump) for losers. We’ve decided that you would be happier and more productive at another firm.”
I pause before starting the engine of my Chrysler Don T sedan, a collection of mementos, formerly decorating my desk, in a box by my side. I light up a Trump 120 filter tip, America’s top brand since the ban on TV advertising of cigarettes was lifted by executive order, “a gift to America’s workingest men and sexiest ladies” on the occasion of the president’s second inaugural. I inhale deeply and exhale slowly.
You did the right thing, the voice says.
“Why did you wait six years to be straight with me? You could have told me sooner.”
Jesus. Who do you think you’re talking to?
I crush out the cigarette and flick the butt out the window. I back out of the spot, looking one last time at the sign:
Finding a job in Trump’s America. I’m up for the challenge. And no regrets. None.
In fact, I feel damn good, that I can tell you.
Copyright © 2017 by Charles O’Donnell, All Rights Reserved