They say that sex sells. But when Max Cohen takes a job in a Pittsburgh ad agency he learns that sex kills too. Max is hired to work on the account for a multinational steel corporation, but when the client fires the agency, he finds himself on the "Muffler King" account, promoting a local chain of muffler and auto service centers. It isn't long before Max learns that Big Jim King, founder and president of Muffler King, is a sexual voyeur who uses the agency to source young subjects for his sexual escapades. Max must carefully negotiate big Jim's Desires, the agency's need to keep Muffler King as a client, and the advances of Kitty Wells, Muffler King's marketing manager and Big Jim's duplicitous lover. The Ad Game is a both rollicking look at the world of advertising and a cautionary tale of uncontrolled appetites.
9:01 a.m., Monday morning. Sienna is telling a f-----g joke, spitting out lines at breakneck speed. Five or six people stand around her cubicle, their lips curled into knowing smiles, like this is going to be one funny joke.
"A skinny little white guy walks into a prison cell on his first day in the pen. His cellmate is an enormous brother, sitting on the bunk staring at him like he’s gonna eat him for dinner. The little guy just stands there frozen in fear. The brother doesn’t say a word. It’s silent for a long time. The little guy’s practically p----ng his pants. Finally he can’t bear the silence any longer, so he clears his throat and says `I'm…I’m in for embezzlement. What are you in for?’”
“'Murder, first degree,' his cellmate replies.”
Knowing smiles all around. The fluorescent light is so white it’s almost blinding, pulsing down on the crowd that surrounds Sienna’s cubicle. It’s a mixed crowd split almost down the middle between young hipsters dressed in black, and throwbacks—women with big hair and pastel polyester, and guys in ill fitting suits in slate blue or gray. Sienna, sports an impossibly short Stuart tartan plaid miniskirt, black tights and a fitted blouse, looking like a catholic schoolgirl pushing the limits of the dress code.
"The brother sits there on the bunk, eyeballing the little guy like he could snap him in two by just staring at him. Finally he asks, ‘so, you wanna be the husband or the wife?'
The little guy’s thought this out before hand and has decided he'd rather be the pitcher than the catcher, if you know what I mean." Sienna catches me staring at her and winks. Something about her makes me think of a hieroglyph image of Cleopatra – high forehead, softly angular Egyptian features, full lips. Her skin is milk chocolate brown and flawless.
"In this squeaky little voice the guy says, `uh, I’ll be the husband.'”
She lowers her gaze and arches her eyebrows at me. A couple people turn and look my way as if to ask ‘who’s he?’
“’All right,’ the murderer replies. ‘Why don't you come over here and give your wife a b---job.'"
A roar of laughter. Several people repeat the punch line. Everybody’s laughing at a joke I first heard in the tenth grade like it's the funniest damn thing they've ever heard.
Howard Umber, the Chairman of the agency, laughs loudest. Sienna sits at her desk, smoothing the pleats of her skirt, daintily patting the wool fabric like a self-satisfied little old lady. I stand there, waiting for someone to show me to my office or cubicle or whatever.
"Tell ‘em the oldest joke in the book and they're putty in your hands," Sienna says as the crowd disperses.
"You are a funny young lady, Miss America," Umber chuckles, making his way toward his office, hunched over, wearing a wrinkled trenchcoat despite sunny skies outside. "Tell Brunswager I want to see him, and show that young man to his cubicle. Then I want the two of you to join us." He turns and smiles a yellowy smile in our general direction before sauntering into his office.
"This way my good man," Sienna says, curtsying, and pointing toward a large expanse of office cubicles. We wind our way through them like rats in an undergraduate psych lab maze. The only thing that differentiates one from the other is the degree to which their occupants have decorated them. The junior creatives who don’t yet merit offices, line the fabric “walls” of their cubes with funky photos, concert posters and magazine covers. The secretaries’ cubes are decorated as you’d imagine their homes are - neat and clean with little framed pictures of kittens or cloying pastel reproductions of Thomas Kincaid paintings of homey little cottages in the woods. Because “cubeland,” as the area is referred to, is so maddeningly laid out, its occupants often communicate by simply shouting to one another without rising from their chairs or by popping their heads up over their walls to talk like little gophers in that amusement park arcade game where you try to smash them with a rubber mallet before they pop back down. Sienna stops at a vacant cubicle at a drafty far corner near a window.