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Who Was That Masked Mascot?
They say that there’s no ride like a Rolls Royce ride – comfortable, luxurious, serene,
smoother than a baby seal’s bottom. Legendary adman David Ogilvy once claimed
that the loudest sound in a Silver Ghost was the ticking of the dashboard clock. If
he’d been on this Rolls, Bella thought, the loudest sound would be his screams of
terror. Ogilvy hated flying, apparently.
So did Bella. But after Pegasus and the Roc, she was getting used to it. She
had more important things to think about than her former hatred of heights.
As the Spirit of Ecstasy lifted off from Purina Piazza, a plan was fermenting in
Bella Adélie’s fertile mind. As they flew over Fanta Falls, between the outstretched
thews of the Jolly Green Giant, the offbeat plan solidified. As they followed the
winding course of the Cokenoco River, with impenetrable jungle on either side, she
convinced herself that it was far too crazy to succeed. As they rose to their cruising
altitude, which revealed the many and varied glories of BrandLand – from Best Buy
Bay in the west and Dollar Tree Swamp way down south to Radio Shack Mountain
Range in the east – she decided to give it a go anyway. She had nothing to lose. She
had lost her parents, Isaac and Nina, she had lost her best friend, Paris Humboldt,
she had lost her very place in the wet ’n’ wild world, lowly place though it was.
Faint heart never won fair mermaid, much less defeated fierce macaronis.
It was true what they said, though. The ride in a Rolls was second to none.
Nestled in the small of the back of Spirit of Ecstasy, Bella was actually beginning to
enjoy herself. Ecstasy asked if everything was okay. Bella replied in the affirmative,
complimenting the carrier on her build quality. “They don’t make ’em like you,
“Rather,” the majestic mascot replied in a clipped English accent, redolent of
Roedean, Girton and jolly-boating-weather at Henley Royal Regatta. Bella didn’t
hold that against her. She asked instead about the brand, how Rolls had slipped
from a byword for British brilliance to a fusty relic of bygone days, under German
“We fiddled while the brand burned,” she said. “I myself was redesigned on
countless occasions. They had me kneeling in supplication at one point. During the
appeasement era, suffice it to say.”
Bella wasn’t sure whether that was a joke or not, nor whether to offer
congratulations or condolences when Ecstasy claimed to be one hundred years old.
“You’re looking well on it,” she replied diplomatically.
“Yah, yah, I am,” Ecstasy said immodestly, then proceeded to deliver a blow-
by-blow account of the torrid love affair between Lord Montagu and Eleanor
Thornton that instigated the emblem’s creation. If not quite Anna Karenina, it was
undeniably Mills and Boon. Bella was spellbound. Why, she asked, does Rolls never
use her heart-warming story in its marketing strategy?
“That’s where we went wrong,” Ecstasy sighed, while trimming her wings to
counter the unpredictable updrafts, eddies and air pockets above Victoria’s Secret
Canyon. “We emphasised our brand’s functional attributes, rather than the
narrative that surrounds it. Sad, I suppose.”
“Tell the tale, make the sale.”
All talked out, they lapsed into companionable silence as the supersmooth
journey continued. After climbing over the precipitous slopes of Brandback
Mountain, Ecstasy took the direct route to Adarctica, via the tempestuous Accenture
Ocean and stormy KPMG Sea. Buffeted by howling winds, Bella wrapped herself
ever tighter in her magnificent MuMi outfit. Who’d’ve thought hairballs could be
put to such productive use? Bezoars could be the next big thing, she mused, as they
crossed the bright “ice blink” threshold into Adarctica proper. Almost instantly,
Bella felt a chill in the air. It was wonderful. It was invigorating. It was as close to
ecstasy as Ecstasy was to her. Better yet, the chill got chillier still as they flew south.
Before long, it was bitter. The bitterer the better, Bella believed. It was beautiful too.
She could see the Homebase Glacier, the Iceland ice shelf, the deep blue Boots
crevasses, the wind-whipped blizzards out by TK Maxx Moraine, the magnificently
crumpled M&S Ice Falls and, in the far distance, the sublime sculpted icebergs in
Starbucks Frappuccino Sound. Bella could feel herself welling up. She was home,
even though she’d no home to go to.
Spirit of Ecstasy started circling, looking for a suitable landing site. Bella’s
heart leapt when she saw her first penguin. It sank again when she realised that
there were hundreds of them standing line abreast on top of Sony Playstation
Plateau. It was déjà vu all over again, except that there were more macaronis than
before. The muster was much better organised, moreover. They stood in serried
ranks in front of the podium, all equidistant, all regimented, all shouting as one.
“Yes, we’re tuft enough!” they roared in response to Le Penguin’s demagogic
incantation, “Are you tuft enough?”
The crystal clear air carried the autocrat’s speech aloft. He sounded crazier
than ever. The isabellines must be found! The emperors are responsible! The
cunning kings are irresponsible! The rebellious rockhoppers will pay for aiding and
abetting their isabelline brethren! ACME insists!!
True to form, Le Penguin was playing his divide-and-conquer card. The
colony had fallen under his sickening spell. They’d bought his bogus bill of goods.
Outraged, Bella screeched at the multitude below, “It’s a macaroni manoeuvre, a
penguin power play, don’t fall for it, folks. He’s a tyrant. It’s a trick.”
Carried away on the wind, Bella’s cautionary call went unheeded, though
some adélies looked up. She could see them pointing their flippers. More and more
turned round and faced skywards, taking in the incredible apparition above them.
Bella could clearly hear the group gasp, an enormous shocked intake of breath. A
murmur commenced. She couldn’t make it out at first. Suddenly she could. “The
Ibis of the Adpocalypse. Look, look, it’s the Ibis of the Adpocalypse.”
Taken aback, Bella whirled round, expecting to see something truly horrific
hovering among the scudding Adarctic clouds. Then she realised with a start that
the crowd was referring to her. Perched on the back of a flying angel, wrapped up
in a great taupe cloak, head covered in an enormous cowl, with only her beak
protruding, she must have been a baleful sight, straight out of a medieval bestiary by
The Ibis, it seemed, had finally arrived. Even Le Penguin stopped talking as
the avenging boogie bird of penguins’ collective unconscious circled ominously
overhead. He quickly regained his composure, claiming that ACME had sent a
warning, a sign, a messenger, a shot across the bows. Round up the remaining
isabellines or else the emperors would be forfeit, followed by those of gentoo
descent, followed by…
Bella asked Ecstasy to set her down by the side of the stage. The entire crowd
squawked in horror, as her image appeared on the giant screen. Le Penguin tried to
put on a brave face, but Bella could see the fear in his rheumy eyes. He vacated the
microphone. She knew she only had one shot. She took a deep breath, preparing to
denounce the despot and expose his nefarious plot. It was hard to control her anger.
These were the people who’d killed her parents. However, as she stalked across the
platform and looked out over the hollow where the rally was being held, she noticed
that all the participants were wearing macaroni tufts. Emperors, chinstraps and
adélies alike were wearing imitation crests – ridiculous fake headdresses – in
homage to their leader. We’re all macaronis now, they seemed to say.
Bella swallowed. Denunciation was doomed. A direct attack on macaronis
meant her head on a spit. She held fire. She bit her lip. She reverted to Orlov’s
maladroit marketing manoeuvre in Flea-Bey Bazaar. Antithesis. It was risky. Very
risky. Penguin psychology was unfathomable at the best of times but relying on
reverse penguin psychology was dicing with death. “Seize the day,” she whispered
“I am not the Ibis of the Apocalypse,” Bella announced to the multitude,
while pulling back her khaki cowl. The crowd gasped again, in delight and relief,
because she was one of their own. “I am, however, here on behalf of ACME. Ten
days ago, I set out to speak with Mr Kipling. I went there on behalf of the Isabelline
community – yes, I am one of them! – in order to plead for mercy. I met him. He
confirmed that penguin stock had fallen precipitously. He showed me the Dog Jones
Index and the Fang Seng index, both of which indicate that our species’ marketing
standing has collapsed. Mr Le Penguin is quite right in that regard. There is no
hope for us. All brands must pass. Even macaronisation won’t save us. Would it
Bella allowed her statement to sink in. She could see the confusion on Le
Penguin’s puffy features, as he tried to work out her angle. But he couldn’t
interrupt. Bella had the crowd in her pocket. Inadvertently, the dictator had ceded
command of his followers. “There is a solution, however, a way out for us all. It
requires a little lateral thinking, which of course is our community’s speciality.” She
paused again. Having planted the seed of hope, it needed several seconds to
germinate. “According to the Meow Jones Index, which is considered more
objective than Dog Jones, the principal rising animals are meerkats and prairie dogs.
As one creature falls in human estimation, another rises, and as ‘dogs’ are more
beloved than ‘kats’ and their kin, the coming creature is the prairie dog.”
The audience exchanged glances. Not sceptical. Not bemused. Just hoping
that Bella could pull a lifesaving rabbit out of her hat of hope. She already had.
“Fellow penguins, I believe a rebranding exercise is in order. We should reposition
ourselves as…polar prairie dogs. Penguins are passé, sadly. Prairie dogs are primed
to top the popularity charts. They look a little like us. They live in large communities
like us. They believe in mutual support and animal egalitarianism, like us. Bella
knew that was a blatant lie but she also knew that penguins prided themselves on
their ethos of equality, of togetherness, of all for one, one for all. In reality, penguin
parity didn’t exist. The dream did, though. Successful salespersons sell dreams not
Bella could sense that the crowd was undecided. They could see the
attraction but inertia’s a powerful force. She was asking them to take a leap in the
dark. She had another card to play. It was the riskiest of the lot. It was all or
nothing. “There’s a downside to prairie dogging,” she said calmly. “It means
removing all tufts. Prairie dogs are tuftless. Even our most extravagantly crested
species, such as our beloved macaronis, will have to depilate. This is a heavy price, I
know, but the rewards are enormous.”
There was complete silence for a second. Bella could hear the sea lions
barking on the beach beneath Sony Playstation Plateau, as the gathering made up its
mind. Suddenly, a huge roar of approval rent the air. No more tufts. No more
hairpieces. No more macaronisation. The old order would re-establish itself. Kings
could be kings, emperors emperors, royals royals. The blackfoots went bananas.
The gentoos jumped for joy. Playful as always, the rockhoppers formed huge
penguin pyramids, even though their natural crests would have to go too.
Having won over the doubters, Bella explained that prairie dogs were tan
coloured, a little like isabellines. “Fear not, though, I know someone who can supply
prairie-doggish outfits at a very reasonable price.” She dropped her cloak to reveal
her MuMi body suit, complete with stylish scarab logo. After ten days of enforced
dieting and extra-vigorous exercise, she looked incredible.
“I want my MuMi,” the audience shouted. “I want my MuMi. I want my
Mmmm, Bella thought, sounds like Mustapha’s got himself a slogan.
Victorious, she turned away from the podium. Bristling with rage, Jean-Marie Le
Penguin looked daggers at her. “I’ll get you for this, you isabelline bitch.”
“Not today you won’t. Today is my day, asshole. Your despicable band can
go back to the boondocks, where you belong. And take your tufts with you.”
He glared murderously. “Every prairie dog has its day. Enjoy it, because I’ll
“They also say that prairie dogs return to their own sick. But with a sick
slimeball like you, I’ll make an exception.”
“Catch you later, critter.”
“Don’t cull us, we’ll cull you.”
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