Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shooting the Moon

Meteor scatter and moon bounce are radio terms, although they sometimes pop up in other contexts.

Vance Lindstrom was not dissatisfied with his job - or with the quality of the work he did - in the advertising department of DietTronics Corporation, a manufacturer of weight-loss products. But he was disappointed that in his twelve years with the firm he had not written a phrase or slogan that had swept the nation and fell easily and often from the lips of people everywhere. There was no "Where's the beef?" or "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" on his resume. Even his efforts to stand out from the Vance in accounting, and the Vance in R&D, and the Vance in shipping, and the Vance in legal, and the Vance in human resources by calling himself "Ad-Vance" never caught on.

Then one morning, Mr. Jennings, the advertising director, called Vance into his office. He was concerned, he said, because Vance wasn't generating ideas the way he used to. Vance protested, telling Mr. Jennings that he had made significant contributions to three projects last week.

"That was last week," Jennings said.

"But it's only quarter to ten on Monday morning."

"No excuse," Jennings said. "Now, Vance, I see you ran in a marathon over the weekend. How did you do?"

"I was eleventh in my age group."

"You coach your son's Little League team, don't you? Is the team any good?"

"The kids are having fun and playing hard," Vance said.

"What place are they in?"


"Somebody told me, Vance, you entered the Chili Cook-Off at the county fair."

"I did," Vance said. "I got honorable mention."

"Vance," a very serious Mr. Jennings said, "you're eleventh in your age group as a marathoner, in fifth place as a Little League coach, honorable mention as a chili chef, and you haven't had a usable advertising idea in an hour and a half this morning. Do you know what we call it when that happens to someone like you who was once a bright light coursing across the advertising sky?"

"No, I don't think I do."

"We call it meteor scatter. And it's not a good thing," Jennings said. "The bright light becomes a host of faint flickers. And we can't use a slew of barely visible glows here at DietTronics. I suggest you reassemble your scattered meteor."

The day got even longer after Vance left work and found himself in the midst of a huge traffic jam. While he waited impatiently and listened to a ranter rant on the radio, Vance noticed the teenagers in the car next to his. They got rambunctious as time went on, and finally one of them put his rump against the window and lowered his pants.

By the time traffic was moving again, Vance's advertising brainstorm had taken shape. In the "before" segment, a woman of great bulk, wearing the most unflattering pair of skin-tight slacks imaginable, bends over. Her seven-year-old son is a few feet behind her with a popgun that shoots ping-pong balls. He fires: the ball hits his mother's backside and falls listlessly to the floor. In the "after" segment, the woman has been transformed by a regimen of DietTronic products, and in her new pair of seemingly sprayed-on pants, she is slim and alluring. This time when she bends over and the boy shoots the popgun, the ball springs off her shapely and firm posterior, whizzes by the boy's ear and knocks a glass off the dining room table.

The next morning, Vance presented the idea to Mr. Jennings, who loved it. After several months of hard work, the ads based on his idea appeared on TV. In a trice, they were the hottest commercials on television, and everyone was quoting them.

Vance was the toast of the advertising world. But none of the honors pleased him as much as his experience one Saturday in the local bookstore. Standing at the magazine rack, he notice two young men of college age looking through a magazine and commenting on the pictures.

"Wow! Put that chick on home plate and shoot ping-pong balls off her butt; you'd get a home run every time," one of them said. "We're talking some serious moon bounce here."

"Moon bounce," Vance said to himself. "You're standing five feet from the guy who coined the term."

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