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Parker Hobbs sighed as the phone rang. The letters would have arrived this morning- it was going to be a busy day.

“Special Billboard Advertising Department, Parker Hobbs spea-”

He was cut off by an angry voice at the other end of the line.

He tried to continue. “Yes sir I kn-”

His shoulders drooped. “Sir if you’d let me expl-”

Okay, it was one of those calls. He held the receiver a little way away from his ear- he could still hear exactly what the irate man at the other end was shouting about but it reduced the chances of going deaf. He would just have to wait out the man’s ranting.

“Sir, I know you’re upset but please, it is already in hand.”

There you go, he thought, I got a full sentence out!

“Yes sir, I know that your campaign will be utterly wasted on the Westbridge Council Estate. ”

He twirled his pen in his free hand while the man ranted again.

“Yes sir, I know that it was intended for the True Gardens Gated Community.”

More ranting. He held his pen between his upper lip and his nose, catching it with his hand when the man allowed him to speak again.

“Yes sir. It was simply a mix up with the subliminals at the warehouse, sir. I know sir, it’s a terrible mistake but it’s very hard to catch because, well, they’re subliminal. Nobody can tell what campaign’s there by looking at them, we have to wait for the effects to show.”

He tried to balance his pen upright on one end. It didn’t work.

“Yes sir, we have teams going out tonight to get all the subliminals back onto the right billboards. It was all organised as soon as the error was confirmed.”

He tapped on his keyboard, bringing up the details for the mixed-up subliminal advertising. The Gated Community had, it seems, accidentally got a subliminal campaign aimed at encouraging volunteer activity. In the council estate it was intended for, the campaign was to have reduced official unemployment figures. With a richer community however, what it had done was reduce free time and therefore leisure spending. The exact opposite effect, as it happens, to the one paid for by the company director on the phone.

“Yes sir, I can guarantee that the team will be out tonight, your Consume More subliminals will be active in the right place in the morning.”

He listened politely to the angry customer.

“Yes sir, naturally you will be refunded for the period during which your campaign has been misplaced.”

As the man hung up, finally satisfied, Parker wondered if anything would be done about the poor people on the council estate who had been subtly influenced for almost three weeks into buying things they simply couldn’t afford.

© Kari Fay

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