Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Former exuberance

In the New Yorker's Talk of the Town, Lizzie Widdicombe on the fate of the deal toy in an age of austerity:
On an afternoon not long ago, a conference room there [at Icon Recognition] had a day-after-Christmas feeling: boxes everywhere, rows of lonely Lucite toys (a cube with 3-D shoes etched inside, a fake bottle of suntan lotion). “This is definitely a tough time,” Stephen Sokoler, the president of the company, said. He’d been up early working the phones: “You call and ask, ‘Is there anyone who’s announced a deal recently or closed a deal? Anyone you’ve heard of?’ ” He added, “It feels like we’re a ship in the middle of a storm. Not only are you in the storm but there’s no visibility as to whether the storm’s gonna clear.”

Sokoler, who is twenty-nine, came to the company in 2002, and he recalled, with some wistfulness, the go-go days of the business, when, for example, he made a faux emerald-and-ruby crown to celebrate a deal for Merrill Lynch, and J. P. Morgan ordered up a batch of ten-by-fifteen-inch Lucite blocks with dinosaur heads inside (three hundred dollars each)—a “Jurassic Park” reference—to celebrate a deal involving Universal. “That was just a monstrous piece,” Sokoler said.

The most recent era of toys—the one that just ended—had been exuberant, too: a gold-plated replica of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, in Las Vegas, commissioned by Merrill Lynch; a Lucite banana split, commemorating Sun Capital Partners’ acquisition of Friendly’s; a snow globe made for Northoil (“Inside the snow globe we have placed a pewter casting of an oil rig,” the ad material says). Sokoler pointed to a catalogue picture of a little banjo, commemorating a deal that Merrill did for G.E. called Project Bluegrass. “Isn’t that cool?” he said. “You can actually play it.”
(And a follow-up in this week's letters column...)

1 comment:

  1. ...And people think rappers are tacky? My word, these little deal-toys are the most dreadful items I've ever heard tell of. My advice for this company would be to make a toy commemorating the only deal that matters: the one between Obama and the American people. I'll take ten! Better yet, since only academics will have any income soon, Sokoler should make a "tenure toy." It could be the particular person who got tenure making a "T" sign with their hands. lol