Pitch man

Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

My agent, Harvey D. Shyster III, Esquire, called me up over the weekend to tell me about this great idea that he had.

This is never good

, I remember thinking at the time.

He had an idea to help me through my short-term budget crunch, he said.

The idea: endorsements.

“Have you ever thought about endorsing a product, say, for example, Coca-Cola®, or Pepsi®, or Sprite®?” he asked.

“If you were to endorse one of those fine soft drinks, or to cite another example of a fine soft drink you could endorse, Barq’s Root Beer®, you could make a killing.”

“You know, Harvey, I really hadn’t thought about endorsing any of those fine, fine soft drinks, or to cite other examples of fine soft drinks that I could endorse, Mountain Dew® or Dr. Pepper®,” I said, perplexed as to why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

“And I certainly never thought about the money that could be involved, and what it could do for me.”

I really hadn’t.

And there was a reason why.

“Why would the people who make those fine soft drinks, and also, let’s not forget, a plethora of fine, fine diet and caffeine-free and diet caffeine-free products, among other things, want me to endorse their already fine products?” I asked Harvey.

“And why would they want to pay me so much money to do so that they’d have to back a truck up to my front door to deliver it to me?”

“You’d be surprised, kiddo,” Harvey said to me as he shuffled some official-looking papers.

“You have the broad-based market appeal that companies like IBM® and Microsoft® look for in a celebrity endorser. I just got the results back from the demographic-market analysis that we had done on you a couple months ago, and you’d be surprised what we found out.”

Uh-huh.

Sure.

I would be.

At least interested, that is.

Demographic-market analysis?

“OK, I’ll bite,” I said.

“Well, pick a demographic … any demographic,” he said, looking through the report.

“Kids ages 8 to 18? They love you, enough to have their parents give them $100 to buy two new pairs of Levi’s® jeans, if you told them you thought they needed them.

“Young adults, defined in our study as people ages 18-30?” Harvey continued, not really questioning, but still, at least inflecting a question. “Get this. They adore you so much that they’d even buy O’Doul’s® non-alcoholic beer if you said you liked it.”

I was stunned.

“Need I go on?” Harvey said, sensing my amazement.

“Chris, the young folks love you, the older folks love you, the politicians love you, the baby-sitters love you, though I’d be careful there.

“The point is, well, we can do something here.”

“So … what are you talking about?” I asked.

“I mean, am I going to have to appear in a cheesy local TV spot with a guy in a chicken suit or some lady on a horse trying to sell cars?

“It would be one thing for me to endorse my favorite cereal, Apple Jacks®, or my favorite pizza, Papa John’s®, but it would be another thing entirely to shlock, among other things, used furniture for some guy named ‘Weirdo Al.’ ”

I have my integrity.

I didn’t say that, but I meant it.

“Well, you’ll need to get over that if you’re serious about a product-endorsement career,” Harvey said to me.

“Not everybody starts out like Michael Jordan, selling Nike Air Jordan® shoes, which, by the way, are fine shoes, to millions of schoolkids who can’t afford them, and using that as a base to build an endorsement empire through which he can now hawk Hane’s® underwear and Ball Park Franks®, to name just two of the 2,204 products that he endorses daily.”

And all are fine products, I’m sure.

“And all are fine products,” Harvey said.

Hmmm.

I wasn’t sure.

“You’ll have to start small,” Harvey said. “Honestly, kiddo, you couldn’t sell Nikes®, or Reeboks®, or adidases®, or anything like that. Not yet. But I bet you could sell … socks.”

I was incredulous.

“Socks?” I said.

“Socks,” he said.

“Think about it. You wear white tube socks with everything, to the point of being annoying, almost.

“You wear white tube socks with black Thom McAn® dress shoes. You wear them with white Thom McAn® dress shoes. You wear them with Thom McAn® wing tips. You even wear them with Thom McAn® flip-flops.

“Remind me to call the Thom McAn® people later,” he said, catching himself in mid-thought.

“They make fine shoes.

“But back to my point. I think we should have you start endorsing Joe Boxer® white tube socks. Now.”

Now.

Me endorsing tube socks.

“Yeah, come on,” Harvey said. “We could even put your name on a pair. ‘Grahams.’ That’s it. ‘Joe Boxer Grahams®.’ We could work with the company to try to make it cool to be completely and hopelessly unhip.”

I tried not to take offense at Harvey’s not-so-polite criticism of my fashion sense – not only because I don’t see anything wrong with wearing white tube socks with various dress shoes, but also because I could see that he was onto something.

“So we start off with something basic, like socks, or jeans, or maybe leopard-spotted bikini underwear, you know, something people need to buy because they have to wear them every day,” I said, trying to show I could see where this was going.

“Then we go for the specialty markets, like fitted Atlanta Braves® baseball hats, or maybe cheap rayon neckties, and then the endorsement requests will start rolling in.”

“That’s my boy,” Harvey said, intoning at me like a proud papa.

“But we have to be careful here. People only know you from what they read about in your column and hear on the radio, so right now they look at you and see, well, basically, an emotionally insecure guy who moans constantly about being overweight and also watches way, way too many sports on TV to have any semblance of a real life.

“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, Chris, but companies like Chevrolet® and Ford®, and also Isuzu®, they don’t exactly like to hire emotionally insecure role models,” Harvey said, breaking eye contact.

“If we want to make a go of this, we might need to, ah, um, tweak your image.”

“To sell socks?” I asked.

“We have the first commercial all laid out,” he said.

“See, there will be this guy in a chicken suit, sitting on a horse, and then you’ll come in and say …”

 

(Published 01-27-03)



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