“I’m a Mississippi, farm-born-and-raised blue channel catfish. This is the story of my swim to the top.
“My day on the Delta Western fish farm started out like any other: reveille, fin-ups, three laps around the pond. Then I spotted this guy in snorkel gear; a business card stuck to his facemask identified him as Martin Johnson, Sprout-Bauer Field Rep and Talent Scout.
“In one hand, he held up an ad picturing a catfish – just like me! – swimming to the surface for food. Bob Penny, Sue Whinnery and Karen Ingle of P/O/N, Sprout-Bauer’s ad agency, to introduce the pressure cooker-extruder in aquaculture publications, created the ad. Martin explained that this machine is used to make the food we cats nibble on here at the farm, as well as, pet food, full fat soya, puffed snacks, and breakfast foods.
“Martin said he was looking for just the right ‘cat’ to star in the ad; a real upscale, ‘Charlie the Tuna’ type. As we swam to the bank, he held up a piece of paper titled, ‘Run-Of-The-Ad Contract’, and I fell for it – hook, line and sinker.
“Now, I expected a limo standing by while I finned my name to the bottom line, but instead I was put in a waterproof shipping container filled with pond water. Could this be the old ‘bait and switch’ routine? Martin drove me to the Memphis, Tennessee airport, where two of Delta Dash’s finest, Ed and Jim, put me on a flight to ..Hollywood!
“But Dayton, Ohio, was where I landed, at 2:00 a.m. I was met by three very sleepy people from P/O/N: Karen Ingle, and Ralph Neiman and his wife Kathy. Ralph chauffeured us in his Volvo to Karen’s house, where she gingerly transferred me from the container to the water-filled laundry tub in her basement. I hadn’t flown over 600 hundred miles to be stuck in a basement. I had a contract and it was time to act!
“When I heard Karen coming downstairs about 7 a.m., I was ready – floating belly up, my horns limp and eyes glazed. What a performance! As I calculated, she panicked and tried to pick me up. But every time she did, I just wriggled free.
“But she craftily used a soft t-shirt to put me back in the shipping container, which went beside her on the front seat of her Mazda RX-7. I would have to think quicker on my tail to thwart these ad people’s plans for me. I’d long given up hope of a limo, but the close quarters now worked to my advantage.
“On our journey across town, I went into a tail-spin – I practically had that container airborne! I was baiting the hook; I would set it the minute I saw daylight. The car came to a screeching stop and Karen lifted the lid ever so slightly for a peek inside.
“Well, I torpedoed right into her lap! You should have heard her scream! Every time I moved, she jumped, then screamed again. But I got disoriented and leaped right back into that stupid container!
“I was sure that leap was my last, to that big catfish pond in the sky. The clear blue water I was swimming in was the most heavenly I’d ever seen, then a large pair of hands reached down to add another plant to the landscape. But they belonged to Mark Tambourski, who owned the 60-gallon aquarium and was creating a pond just for me.
“I was too busy exploring to notice two photographers, Fred and Terry, arranging large spotlights, small bullet lights, white umbrellas, battery packs, and other photographic equipment around my new home. Then Tom Schwartz, the photographer who would make me famous, dropped food on the surface of the water. When I ignored it, Tom motioned me over and held up the drawing of the catfish. Then I got the picture, and so did Tom.
“Now that I’ve been immortalized in print, introducing Sprout-Bauer’s pressure cooker-extruder to the fish farming industry, I’d like to thank all those who gave me a fin up on my way to the top. This advertising biz is a lot of hard work and it demands a real team effort, but if you get caught up in it like I did, you’re hooked!”