Billy Tang was a go-getter. After graduating in the top third of his class, he turned down a job with the company he’d interned with, to take less money at the hottest marketing startup in town.
After a whirlwind first week when he became known throughout the firm as ‘the prodigy’ for memorizing the coffee orders of every employee, Billy Tang was brought in on his first client meeting.
It was a Tuesday. He showed up early for work and prepped the conference room with sharpened pencils and fresh strawberries for the ice water. A real client meeting with a real client was the chance Billy Tang had been dreaming of since he switched majors from political science to marketing halfway through his junior year at college.
“Billy, you’re here early.” said Martin Caswell, the 30-something CEO of PinkCarrot Ventures, as he poked his head into the conference room.
Billy adjusted his tie, pushed the glasses up on his nose, and smiled. “I’m ready for today, sir. It’s going to be awesome.”
“Indeed.” said Martin, returning the younger man’s smile. “Could you do me a favor …”
“It’s already in your office,” Billy said. “Grande, iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk.”
Martin smiled again and left.
That morning the clock didn’t move. Billy paced the hallways and tried helping everyone from the copy machine repairman to an account executive working on his putting. The client finally arrived at 11. Billy was ready.
The Charleston Mudcats were a AA baseball team looking for a bump in attendance after years of decline. Despite a meager marketing budget, Martin and his team decided to take the account for the prospect of doing some strong creative work.
The account executive introduced Billy as the newest member of the PinkCarrot team, and as their commitment to “keeping it fresh.” Billy beamed and nodded to the three baseball executives.
As he listened to the group of people talk about ways to increase fan engagement, Billy took fastidious notes. When the topic of specific promotions came up, Billy’s ears pricked up.
“We’ve got plenty of sponsorship lined up this season for all the old standbys,” said one of the baseball people. “We’ve got a Bat Day, a Glove Day, two Thunder Stick days. We’ve got Hat Day, a Jersey Day, that’s the one where you get seat upgrades if you dress like Bruce Springsteen, a Dog Day, and even a Bring Your Mother In-Law to the Game Day. We’re looking for a new kind of promotion that really packs the stadium.” he said, pumping his fist for emphasis. “So what have you got?” he concluded.
The PinkCarrot team threw a few promotional concepts on the table that had been successful at other minor league ballparks across America.
“Those are ok,” said one of the baseball people. “But we’re looking for something more. Something new. Something with massive, cross-the-board appeal.”
Billy cleared his throat and stood. “What about Pet Day?”
Everyone turned to face him.
“Well, we have a Dog Day, so let’s try to think outside of the box, shall we Billy?” the account executive said, motioning with his eyes for Billy to sit down.
“Not a Dog Day. A Pet Day.” Billy said, smiling and pushing the glasses up on his nose. “A day where people can bring any of their pets to the ballpark. Got a cat? Bring it. A goldfish? Bring the bowl along to the game. You could even bring your talking parrot if you wanted.”
The table was silent. Everyone was focused on Billy. He continued, “Dogs have ruled the land for too long. And, thanks to our lease agreements, some of us have other kinds of pets. It’s time that these pets had their own day at the ballpark!”
The terror in the account executive’s eyes was obvious. Martin’s polite smile was frozen on his face. Twenty seconds went by before one of the baseball people finally spoke. “I love it.” he said. “Hot damn, I LOVE it!”
The table then broke into laughter. “Brilliant!” exclaimed the account executive who thirty seconds before was ready to have Billy’s head on a plate. “Let’s DO this thing!”
Billy walked around the table topping off everyone’s strawberry water while listening to them talk about the idea. His idea. Billy was beaming. By the time the meeting ended, everyone was in high spirits. Pet Day was such a great idea that they bumped Disco Night, an annual fan favorite, to the second month of the season so that Pet Day could lead the way during the team’s opening home stand, a little over a month away.
Billy spent the next month as something like a PinkCarrot celebrity. He even got a raise. And a parking spot. Thanks in part to Billy’s input at the meeting, the print ad promoting the event featured a goldfish in a bowl balancing on a foam “we’re #1” finger. The ad had a tiny disclaimer at the bottom that read, “Stunt fish used in the making of this ad. Do not try this at home.” The game sold out two days after it was announced.
When Pet Day arrived, the stadium was awash in sunshine. People with all variations of pets happily strolled through the gates and found their seats. There were dogs, cats, birds, and yes, a few people with fish in bowls. There were hamsters, guinea pigs, and pet snakes. Someone even had a pet ostrich. Billy walked the concourse a foot above the ground. He’d done it. He’d become the kind of marketer people would remember. He was on his way.
Only, he didn’t count on ferrets.
It was the bottom of the third inning and the home team was leading 3-1, when a ruckus started in the right field bleachers next to the Chik-Fil-A “Eat mor Fowl” pole. One of the fans there had two ferrets in a cage, and, as it turns out, ferrets don’t like baseball games.
When the fan opened the cage to let his pets be part of the experience, they bolted. The St. Bernard in section 214 was the first to see them. When he did, he yanked his owner across the aisle and raced after the ferrets. The St. Bernard scared a tabby cat who frightened a nearby cockatiel, sending it into the rafters. The ferrets separated and scampered down different rows in nearby sections. People screamed and leapt on seats. Dogs broke free of owner’s leashes chasing cats. The malady spread slowly at first, like drunk fans trying to start the wave. People and their pets along the first base line were next to join the fray. The rise of barking gave way to frantic screams as dogs and cats, mice and rats ran along rows, across laps, and over tops of seats. People behind home plate stood to look in the direction of the rising noise, when their own restless animals broke loose, scampered down the third base line and into the concourse.
When Billy Tang emerged from a restroom, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Loose dogs dragged their leashes behind them. Vendors and fans ran screaming in all directions with their hands flailing. Police whistles came from somewhere. Billy made his way to the edge of the concourse and looked out onto the field where play was stopped while a half-dozen dogs played chase in the outfield. Throughout the stadium, fans in the stands looked like ants whose home had been poked at with a stick. To his left a black lab and a great dane had managed to overtake the hot dog kiosk and were feasting. To his right, a Persian cat was covered cotton candy. The loudest screams were reserved for a tarantula that walked with a perfect 10’ buffer between it and the closest person.
Billy swallowed hard and was then trampled by the ostrich. Laying on his back, he saw dogs and cats jump over him and macaws fly past.
What have I done? he thought. What will become of my career? Then, just as he was about to sit up, brush himself off, and get back on his horse, he felt it. It started at his right calf and scampered up to his crotch before he could react.
It’s said that Billy Tang’s scream that day was responsible for the Great Charleston Blackout that required the deployment of National Guard troops for four days until the grid could be repaired. But everyone who was at the game on that sunny April day day knows—it was a ferret.