Ad Nauseum

Full Length Drama (4M, 3F) Running Time: 90 minutes

Working in advertising, there's the need to 'believe' in the product one is selling, even if only temporarily. But how far could one stretch that belief, if a product or service runs completely counter to one's convictions? In this play I want to explore what happens when someone finds himself in such a situation, torn between self-preservation and self-belief. I also want to explore how people can morally justify persuading others to buy into a product or an idea when they don't themselves believe in it. Underlying the play is an attempt to expose cynical media manipulation of the public by corporations, political parties and governments.

Paul and Tony work in an ad agency as art director and writer. As the play opens they are struggling to come up with a concept for Eazisoft toilet paper, when Larry, an Account Director, appears with bad news. Their largest account has been taken over by an American chemical multi-national which has decided to realign its advertising worldwide. They will have to repitch. Paul is immediately worried what would happen if they lose the business - he has a credit-card hungry partner, Liz, and has just taken on a big mortgage. Later Tony researches the new American owners and discovers they are big in pesticides and insecticides as well as toiletries. Not only that, but products which are banned in the USA and much of the world are still being sold by them to some developing countries. This puts Paul and Tony in a great dilemma: they don't believe they should work on the business. Yet, if they refuse to, they could be sacked; knowing that, if they lose the business, they could lose their jobs anyway. When even more disturbing revelations come to light, they decide they have to make a stand. Initially, they both refuse to work on the business, but later Paul agrees to work on it on his own. This causes virtually complete disintegration of the working relationship with Tony. Now regretting what he's done, Paul begins talks with other agencies, looking for a new job. But, after several promising starts, no one seems interested. He suspects there are lies on the grapevine about him. He becomes increasingly paranoid, believing everyone is plotting against him. He even suspects Tony of having an affair with Liz. The play ends with the account director coming in with champagne – they've kept the business. Tony is left staring in disbelief.

Cast list

PAUL: An ad agency art director, late 20s. Arrogant, a bit of a smartarse, but has some principles.

TONY:His copywriter. Late 20s and very similar in attitude, but with more conviction. His wife is Jane.

LARRY: From the old school. Looks after No 1, but can be pleasant and surprisingly sincere.

TAMSIN: Mid 20s - PA to the media director, full of fun, full of talk and generally regarded as the office bike.

LIZ: Tony's credit-card hungry partner. Realistic and most definitely intends to take care of herself.

JOHN: Junior account handler. Early 20s, likeable but naive.

JILL: Brand Manager - friendly, open and extremely competent.

DAVID: Creative Director of rival ad agency. Cynical, but obviously very talented.

This article was updated on 22 December 2017