"Your doctor has your written permission to inject
just about anything he wants into your IV bag."

Seth Godin, Permission Marketing

"You'll pay money just to see yourself
with Doctor Robert..."

The Beatles, Revolver

Entropy Gradient Reversals

a selection from work in progress on
Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices
forthcoming from Perseus Books, Fall 2001
copyright Christopher Locke 2001 all rights reserved

Code Blue in the Marketing Ward

I wake up this morning at 3am -- hey, I'm writing a book over here, all right? -- and the first thing I see is this crap from Sprint.

From: Sprint [r15901@discounts-direct.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2001 2:17 PM
To: clocke@panix.com
Subject: Dear Christopher, Sprint requests your permission

Dear Christopher,

Everyday more and more exciting and important information is being communicated via e-mail. In the future, Sprint would like to communicate with you via e-mail, and send you exciting and "Up to Date" information on new products and services that Internet users like yourself would have interest in. Sprint is presently seeking your permission for the privilege to serve you efficiently and electronically via e-Mail. Thank you!

Where did a fucking Telco get the idea I might like to get "Up to Date" information from them? Who is responsible for this? I think I know. And I think a little payback is in order. Good. I needed something to kickstart my head this early.

I never should have taken the job. It was just after midnight in L.A. and I was sitting at the desk in my third-floor office drinking cheap whiskey from the bottle and watching a blood red moon rise over the City of Angels. A full moon. In Scorpio. The calendar had just ticked over to Friday the 13th. Could my luck get any worse? The phone rang.

Where do these studio execs get my unlisted number? PacBell says it values my privacy. Yeah sure. It turns out to be Harvey Promoski over at Universal. What a loser. He's telling me the script writers walked out on his project today. No wonder. Bottomliners sounds like one of those films that should never be made. Not a lot there to distinguish it from every other POS these guys have cranked out in the last ten years, but hey, what do I know? Promoski's telling me there's big money behind the thing. Julia Roberts likes the storyboards, he says panting, all excited. Yeah? So who's she play? Just asking. I'm not committing to anything here. Martha Rogers, he says. He's impressed, I can tell. I can tell he wants company. And we're talking to Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, he whispers, like it's a big secret if he's telling me, for Seth Godin and Sergio Zyman. Respectively, he says. Harvey reads the dictionary.

What are you telling me 'you never heard of them,' he yells into the line, like it's a personal affront. The actors, yeah, I say, but not the other ones. Was I supposed to? Maybe you better give me the plot. I listen. I tap my pencil on the blotter. I look at the clock. My luck has gotten worse.

Bottomliners. Whose godforsaken idea was this? I can't believe what I'm hearing. It seems a bunch of third-year grad students at the Kellogg School of Management figure out a way to experience Chapter 11 without really bellying up. They come back, he's telling me. Do you get it? They know what it's like to bore in, but they're still holding all their options! Wow, I say, not bothering to explain why. But get this, he says, they start having these, like, creeped-out visions, on accounta stuff they did. You know, customers they screwed, perpetrating boredom, lies. I can tell he's reading from the script. "Somehow we've brought our sins back physically. And they're pissed."

We even got the creatives working on it. "Bottomliners -- Some lines should never be crossed." Whaddya think? Why do they call them "creatives," I'm wondering, but I know it's not worth asking. Yeah, I say, sounds hot. So what was it you wanted from me? He tells me again about the script guys taking a powder and the next thing I know I'm on a plane. Background, he'd said, we need background. They want to know what it's like to be at death's door. What can I say? I need the money.

I'm at the St. Vitus Dance Hospital for the Criminally Insane. I finally manage to find the staff lounge and here's my contact, Dr. Robert. Rising to shake my hand, he tells me everything's been set up. The marketing ward is right this way, he says, not wasting time, and I should follow him. He's got grand rounds, he explains, and they just got a wave of new admissions so it's pretty hectic. I can imagine, I say, looking around. I've never been in a marketing ward. How's your immune system, he asks, producing a paper mask from the pocket of his white coat. I dunno, I say, some days I get as many as 100 spams and I haven't crashed yet. That's nothing, he says. In the Level IV hot lab we've recorded over 100,000. No kidding, I say, bored already. I jot the figure in my notebook. Per minute, he says, glancing at me sideways. You don't want to go viral, believe me. I take the mask.

Good decision, he says, the place is crawling with MTDs. This is a new one on me, so I ask. Oh sorry, I forget, he says. Specialization, you know. Not fatal, usually, but they can be very nasty. Marketing Transmitted Delusions. I look at him. I don't say anything.

Dr. Robert takes the chart from the foot of the bed as he sweeps into the first room, all cheerful confidence. And how are we feeling today, Mr. Godin? I grab a look at the chart. Hey, isn't this the guy Harv mentioned? The doc looks over at me, annoyed that I'm interrupting. Form follows fiction, he says, winking, and jams a thermometer into Godin's mouth. Ooo didn ash ma pamishon, he protests.

The guy doesn't look good. Do they ever leave, I ask. Oh, they come and go, says the doctor, but the recidivism rate is high. Over 98 percent. This fellow's a regular, aren't you, Mr. Godin? He reads the thermometer. Frowns.

What about the ad agencies, says the guy in the bed. With so many talented people, why aren't they working to solve this problem?

There, there, the doc says, checking Godin's pupils for dilation. Don't you worry about the ad agencies. You're in good hands here.

Why's he talking about ad agencies, I ask, puzzled.

Oh, Seth here thinks a lot about advertising. It's his profession. When he's out there, that is. Got a thing about permission, though. It's odd. You should have seen it when we asked him to sign the permission forms. He smiled down at Godin as if he were a bad little boy. Took five orderlies to get this rascal into a straitjacket.

Early on at Yoyodyne, says Godin as if it just occurred to him, we discovered that we needed one full-time customer service person for every 10,000 people in the database.

And are we taking our meds like we talked about, asks Dr. Robert, ignoring him and surreptitiously rolling his eyes at the ceiling for my benefit.

Godin looks at him a minute, blank. Then says: Your doctor has your written permission to inject just about anything he wants into your IV bag.

That's correct, says Dr. Robert, approvingly. They've obviously been over this ground more than once. And are we cooperating with the staff? But Godin is counting on his fingers now, distracted. Suddenly he looks up at us as if coming to. One lucky customer could win a $100,000 shopping spree, he says.

I'll be back on Tuesday, assures the doctor. If there's anything you need, you just tell Nurse Ratshit. And he ushers me out. Yoyodyne?, I ask when the door closes. What was that all about?

Dr. Robert looks concerned. He's been watching this Buckaroo Banzai video over and over and yelling 'Laugh-a while can, Monkey Boy!' Scares the crap out of the night desk. But look, we've got to keep moving.

Who's next, I ask as we walk down the long florescent hallway. The doctor checks his list. Hmmm, let's see. Today we've got Sergio Zyman, Don Peppers, Harry Beckwith, Steven Cristol, Peter Sealey, Geoffrey Moore, Al Ries, Jack Trout, Sam Hill, Glenn Rifkin... quite a list. He flips the page on his clipboard. Oh, and Philip Kotler.

Are they all like him?, I ask, gesturing back to the room we've just left. Are they, all, like... you know.

I'm afraid so, the doctor replies, stopping to look at me full on. He takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes. Suddenly he looks weary. Beat. Been at it too long, I think. Must take a special kind of person. To keep it up. To keep the cheery smile in place while listening to such demented gibberish day after day. Personally, I don't see how he does it.

The will
And high permission of all-ruling heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation.

John Milton

a selection from work in progress on
Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices
forthcoming from Perseus Books, Fall 2001
copyright Christopher Locke 2001 all rights reserved

Note: except for this particular bit of gibberish...
Ooo didn ash ma pamishon
...Mr. Godin's statements are quoted from his book
Permission Marketing.

the Buckaroo Banzai quote is from, c'mon
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

Entropy Gradient Reversals
All Noise - All the Time


Nothing to disclaim at this time.


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Entropy Gradient Reversals
Copyright Christopher Locke


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