Not many of you will believe me when I say this, but rest assured, the Chicago Portfolio School is haunted.
It was a dark and stormy night in late October and I was working on the fourth floor at CPS. Class had ended, but I was working late on a campaign for Pine-Sol and I refused to go home. I glanced out the window. Traffic whizzed on the street below and the sounds of engines revving, brakes squealing, and sirens whirring in the distance floated up to me. A chill hung in the air. I was making marker comps… and that’s when the trouble started.
My marker comps were pinned to the tackboard and I sat with my notepad staring at the wall. I was wondering which of my print ads worked best when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around, but all I saw was old scrap paper fluttering in the wind. I refocused on the tackboard and noticed something odd. Four pins were in the middle of one of my executions and the words “feels like a one off” were written in what appeared to be a red sharpie. BUT I DIDN’T HAVE A RED SHARPIE…
“I must have done this absentmindedly,” I said to myself, looking back down to my legal pad. I wrote a few more headlines. Wash your floor with a Christmas tree. Boring. The best thing about Pine-Sol is the easy cleanup. Dumb. Make your house smell like a lumberjack’s daydream. Ugh. I rested my forehead in my palms, when I heard a voice behind me whisper.
“Where does it live?”
My head snapped around, but I didn’t see anything. “Who’s there?” I yelled.
Then, again, from just behind my ear, “Say it straight… then say it great.”
A cold sweat dripped down my brow and my hands shook as I uncapped my pen and grabbed a piece of printer paper. I drew out a bottle of Pine-Sol being poured into a bucket and wrote my headline. At this low price, buying Pine-Sol is just a drop in the bucket. As soon as I wrote that final “t”, I felt hard slaps across my face. SMACK! “Never base advertising on the price.” SMACK! “Don’t use puns.” SMACK! “That’s too see-say.”
My heart was pounding and I struggled for breath. “Who are you?” I gasped. “What do you want with me?”
At that, a cloud began forming in front of me. At first it seemed like a haze or a fog rolling in from the street, but after a moment I saw her outline form. The apparition was a young girl, in her early-to-mid twenties, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. She had thick-rimmed glasses and a sharpie in her pocket. Her mouth fell open, “My name is Gashley, and I am the portfolio school spectre.”
I began to say, “Gashley, that’s an odd nam—”
Interrupting, she shrieked, “It’s a portmanteau of ghost and ashley! I don’t make the rules for ghost naming!”
“Oh”, I said, “Why are you here?”
“It is my curse to haunt hopeless students of this school, to tell them when to give up on a concept.”
“How did you die?”
“That’s a long story”, she said. “I had become obsessed with a concept that none of my instructors liked. I shopped it around, and one by one they told me it wasn’t working, but I didn’t believe them. I thought that it just needed to be pushed. So I pushed, and I pushed, night after night, trying to make this concept work. Well, I pushed too hard and had an aneurysm. I didn’t kill my idea, and it wound up killing me. And now I’m here to tell you to kill yours.”
I tried to explain to her that I almost had the concept figured out, and started pointing out my other executions on the board. “Booooooooo!” she howled, and then, “just to be clear I am not just saying boo, I am heckling your terrible idea.” It was only then, looking at her ethereal corpse, that I realized she was right.
“Pine-sol is for lumberjack housewives on a budget is not a genius concept,” I agreed, “Thanks Gashley.” With that, she vanished into thin air. I haven’t seen her since, but I still sometimes hear her whispering “would you put it in your book?”
Written by: Jon Podulka - CPS Blogger & 3rd Quarter Copywriter