In business, if you’re not growing you’re dead. Growth implies a return on investment and is the sole requirement of a shareholder. Of course the larger a business becomes the more profits are required to turn its wheels, yet profits and growth potential remain inversely related. A business starts out all potential, no profits, and ends at market saturation with money to burn. So, contrary to instinct, few want stock in a company that reaches every consumer in the world. Once you reach your potential you’re dead. In the business world The Simpsons would only be syndicated.
This creates an interesting dilemma for companies like Coke and McDonald’s. In a perfect world, reaching critical mass would be cause for celebration. Execs in glossy hardwood board rooms patting themselves and each other on the back in turns between lines of cocaine and styrofoam plates of ice cream cake. One whole wall a cross between a Lite Brite and Google Maps; plugging in the last peg to glow green in their eyes as god knows where, in the harsh ever drift of an Antarctic naval base, the golden arches flicker to the 99 billionth served. Instead, in our drab reality, where penguins suffer for a dollar menu, where greed needs eternally breed, we have the same double breasted execs, in conspiratorial panics offering up any desperate crumb of thought.
“We present to you Mac and Me,” they say, the words entering with PowerPoint’s exciting pinwheel effect. “A joint venture between The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s Corporations and Metro-Goldwyn… uh…uh… Metro-Goldwyn Meyer subsidiary, Orion Pictures.” Edward Markum III was noticeably thrown by the slide whistle attached to the boomeranging text of MGM, a calling card of Brent, the overeager son of our tech challenged third Markum.
Luckily that didn’t stop him for long. Presenting statistics, fictional at best, with expanding bar and pie charts, Markum went on to, “clearly demonstrate demographic gullibility for product placement in film,” and a, “global adoration for Hollywood.”
While McDonald’s and Coke were already global, this joint venture of fiction and product would allow growth through a products utilitarian re-branding. “Everyone drinks Coca-Cola, but do they use it as medicine?” Markum asked, he hoped, rhetorically. “I’m the idea man, I don’t know how they expect me to do the research too,” he often complained, verbally and physically, into the vacuum of his mistresses.
Suffering the confused silence, and, as totem caboose, the full duration of Markum’s gaze, weasel faced Greg Tillby offered up a questioning, No?
“Good, didn’t think so.”
Tillby thought best to inspect the inseam of his trousers while McDonald’s went on to receive the slide, “Haven of Cool, Sanctuary for the Rad.” McDonald’s had yet to expand its menu of high margin desserts as research showed few had room after the caloric deluge of a value meal. By turning McDonald’s into a dance hall, by suggesting its parking lots for exercise, meals per visit could grow 12%.
Of course none of this was any good without a movie people were gonna love. Enter Stewart Raffill and Steve Feke with their trinity of aliens, empathy for the handicapped, and a theme song delicately stolen from Back to the Future.
The end. He sat down.
As a rule Markum never finished a presentation with Q & A. “Why the hell would I,” he explained naked, sitting Indian style and preening his navel, “it’s the only time anyone gets to put their dick in your soup.” He rises to help zip the back of her dress as she questions her makeup into the mirror. “Don’t like it, fine, what do you got? Next. I don’t need to sit and get roasted for it.”
They loved it.
Of course with hindsight we can chuckle at their misguided attempts: Coca-Cola trying to forge voodoo trust throughout Central America by purchasing the rights to paint their logo on water treatment plants in the regions burgeoning industrialized pockets; adding more aluminum to their cans so they could legally say Coke now had less sugar; the “adult taste” of McDonald’s Arch Deluxe or the diabetic rainbow of their “no mess” and “to go” fried soft serve; and last but not least Orion’s propaganda variant of E.T., Mac and Me. Coke themselves have since realized the error, abandoning such joint ventures in 1996, opting for a more natural, grass roots approach to growth by backing lobby’s for strict Catholicism; funding militant demonstrators who sweep through grocery and convenience stores puncturing prophylactics on the sly with tiny needles. But at the time it was understandable. Much easier, when you’re up against the wall, to green light the first presentation then have to stand up and give your own half baked ideas. And then there were guys like Tillby, too damn nervous to vent original ideas: caffeinated liquors for the coming-of-age and diet soda that gave up on the unicorn of zero calories in order to approximate taste.
Given its origin, it’s no surprise Mac and Me is not your ordinary awesomely bad movie. I often hesitate to quote favorite lines for fear of robbing the movie any gusto. But with Mac and Me, if I say, “here, strap this vacuum cleaner on your back,” it only plates the delicacy that follows, doesn’t spoil. There are just too many damn preservatives in corporate propaganda for that to happen.