Surviving a goof and keeping cool.

We were ten foot tall and bulletproof back in the day but the fear of losing a Client was just one of the concerns of the upwardly mobile. The other was the fear of losing your job. I never did, but I recall a moment when I thought I might inadvertently have sailed too close to the wind.  It happened this way:-

I had been wooed from McCann to Lintas, as Joint Creative Director (I was to discover that the incumbent CD had not been told that Joint had been added to his title, which was a bit awkward.) On day one of my arrival the American Executive Creative Director, just one of his species that I had come across, breezed into my office and asked if I’d like to come and have a look at the new work for Breeze Soap. I was naturally anxious to do so and off we trotted to the projection room. This, need I say, was pre-videotape and a long way from digital and the future magic I would come to know. This was film. I was to be shown what I took to be a “double head”, which matched picture and sound for approval before the approved commercial moved on to become an “answer print” and then an “air dub” to go out to the channels. Still with me?

It was a very pretty commercial involving a very attractive housewife who was to discover the huge benefits of Breeze Soap while under the shower. I remember not a thing about the spot except that at the end we see the pretty housewife departing as someone calls after her … “Ethel”.

As we returned to the Creative Floor, up the fire stairs (which were never so much of a rendezvous spot as they were at McCanns) I was asked by our American mentor what I thought of his commercial. Had I realised I’d been watching an “answer print”, rather than a “double head” with the opportunity for revision, I would have said nothing. I had been in the place for maybe an hour.

As it was I expressed surprise that such a pretty woman should be given such a comic name as “Ethel”.

As I watched him take several stairs at a time ahead of me I was horrified to hear his reply. “Aw” he said, “I guess … it’s just because it’s my wife’s name.”

Our relationship survived that gaffe and soon he would return to Madison Avenue, as they all did, having generally taught us very little.

My Lintas office didn’t have a window. In an organisation where Suits were kings and queens and Research was a god they had simply run out of windows. So, extraordinary efforts were made to keep their new Creative quiet if not entirely happy. Little did they know how little time I would spend in my office if I could possibly help it, whenever a Friday-afternoon-type opportunity arose.

My office was of grand proportions. It was also in the middle of the building. It had been especially constructed. It had my name on the door. It was, however, windowless and airless.

My solution to this problem was creative and immediate. I climbed onto my desk and propped a ceiling panel open with a pencil. Cool air flowed down upon me.

It took some time before a keen eyed air conditioning expert discovered the source of the many complaints about the failure of the system. Nobody ever raised the subject with me. Nor did they give my pencil back






















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