That evening, she sat with Barry over drinks at their favorite watering hole.
“Couldn’t you have signed somebody like the Feg?” She traced the rim of her martini glass with a slim finger. “At least they only smell awful and leave slime trails.”
“Don’t be so gloomy. Come on, remember how well Evans & Zager did with the Soterians?”
“That was a gut. The only thing wrong with Soterians is that they like to eat gerbils. They happen to be geniuses at developing microelectronics. They gave us pinky ring gaming consoles and edible motherboards. People want those things, Barry. They’re marketable. What do the Cacs’kians have to offer? They live crammed into big pyramidal hives, their starships can’t make it past twice light-speed without someone getting out and pushing, Cacs’k’s got no particularly spectacular scenery, they’re not much for arts and crafts….”
Barry slowly shook his head and took a sip of his drink. “Yes, well, there must be something on that planet of theirs. Come on, Nipu, this is a great deal. No PR firm in the solar system will touch these guys!”
“Well duh, Barry, there’s a reason for that. They’re chickens, for godsake!”
“They only look like chickens. They’re closer to insects than birds. You said it yourself; they live in hives. They don’t have hollow bones. They don’t have bones at all, in fact, just a structural network of—”
Nipu set her drink down with a clunk. “I don’t care if they have a damn Erector set in there! They look like huge chickens, Barry. They cluck, they leave feathers all over the place; you saw the reports. It’s impossible! We’ll be hearing laughter all the way from Titan.”
“That’s exactly why we have to take them on.” He lifted a finger to the bartender for another round. “We meet this challenge, and we’ll be famous, Nipu. Not to mention so rich that you can’t imagine.”
“If we tank, we’ll be doing desktop publishing for the Grace L. Ferguson Storm Door and Exterminating Company, somewhere in Possum’s Upper Colon, Arkansas!”
They both knew she meant that he would end up in Possum’s Upper Colon; despite her father’s ill-concealed scorn for public relations work in general and Barry Ehrens in particular, Frank Carpano would float his daughter if she came home. Barry, on the other hand, had grown up working on a farm in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. He wouldn’t be going back there.
Barry placed a hand on her shoulder. She yearned to cover it with her own, smaller, hand, but she controlled herself. Office romances, after all…. “That simply isn’t going to happen to Ehrens & Carpano, Nipu.”
Over the next couple of days, Nipu, never one to sit back and dither, threw herself into concepts and marketing projections. On the morning of the third day, she called a meeting with her partner.
“The big problem is that we can pitch ‘em till their eyes spin, but without some tangible product, we twist on the gibbet while the raven flies down to pluck out our eyes.”
They stood before a table littered with memexes and paper. Presentations crawled across the memex screens and gibbered at them, while text flashed off and on from the paper. It was all very glitzy, high tech, and 22st century.
Barry nodded slowly. “Right, but did you ever study the old Lexus campaign in school? They displayed nothing but the car’s logo for months, in all the media. It took weeks before people were even sure it was a car the ads were talking about.”
She eyed him. “Do you mean for us to go walking blithely down along the longest limb anyone ever saw? Stretching from here to Cacs’k? You want us to promote them without actually having a product and just sort of hope one turns up?”
He didn’t reply. She saw one of the memexes catch his eye. Frowning, he picked it up. “What the hell is this?” He showed her the screen. On it was a still image of a familiar-looking series of concentric red circles.
“Push PLAY,” she suggested.
He did. As the proposal flowed past their eyes, Nipu’s jaw dropped. He began to grin.
“That’s lunacy,” Nipu said after a minute. “We can’t do that!”
“Oh, yes, we can.”
The next day, Barry contacted the Cacs’kian enclave and requested the presence of Nuncios G’erk and H’okgon. As soon as the aliens arrived, he conducted them to the conference room and launched the multimedia proposal.
“And this one,” he murmured to Nipu as the lights faded, “has been repalettized for their visual spectrum.” He tapped her memex, on the table in front of her. “You can watch the human-friendly version on this.”
The presentation opened with the familiar strains of “Merry Go Round Broke Down,” as the Warner Brothers logo dissolved into a sequence of moments from classic Chuck Jones and Robert McKimson cartoons starring Foghorn Leghorn.
Unable to help herself, Nipu had gone rigid in her chair. Her hands clutched the table. She had forgotten her tranq this time, and she could feel panic closing in around her in the darkened room. There was a high-pitched ringing in her ears.
Barry, ignorant of her distress, addressed the aliens in a calm and confident manner. “Here on Earth, we’ve a long tradition of amusing our children via the medium of animated cartoons.” Foghorn dropped an anvil on an unsuspecting dog, tried to teach a small bird how to build a paper airplane, and strutted across the screen singing “Camptown Races.” The screen view shifted to a crowded toy store. A group of children cuddled and cooed over stuffed plush dolls representing Foghorn, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, the Tasmanian Devil, and others.
“Marketing and merchandising these cheerful, non-threatening, and familiar licensed characters is still a multi-billion dollar business,” Barry went on. “There’s hardly a person anywhere on this planet that isn’t familiar with Bugs and Daffy.” The aliens stared raptly at a montage of children and young adults wearing tee shirts, hats and other clothing, all bearing either the WB logo or one or another character. “Taped collections of the cartoons and of related movies are among the top-rated selling items, year after year. We have theme parks dedicated to them.” Now the view was of an amusement park in which life-size costumed replicas of the characters cavorted and mingled with the patrons.
“And look there.” A familiar helmet-topped little figure wearing a metallic skirt skittered across the screen. “Marvin the Martian! What a cute little guy, huh? We’ve had animated aliens for nearly two hundred years.”
The presentation ended. As the lights came up, Barry handed copies of a prospectus to the Cacs’kians. “It’s very simple. If you can capture the hearts of our planet’s children, you’ll assure yourselves of a higher market awareness than any other group of extra-solar sophonts.”
While G’erk and H’okgon clucked and twittered between themselves, Nipu leaned over toward him. “They’ll never go for this,” she whispered.
“Yes they will,” he whispered back. “I can put them into every shopping mall, supermarket opening, and party store on the North American continent.” He tapped her prospectus. “Look at screen seven: we’ve got industry interest in developing a cartoon show. We can re-use some of that footage for computer games.”
He straightened up and folded his arms across his chest. “This can work, Nipu. You wait. In six months, the Cacs’kians will be Earth’s best-known aliens.”
The aliens looked up at him and Nipu. G’erk raised a feathered arm. “Wishing to discuss finer points of presentation and strategy.”
Barry smiled. “Gentlebeings, let’s talk turkey.”
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