Chapter 13

The most fun you can have with your clothes on

My earliest experience of losing a Client was gained at my first-ever advertising agency. It happened this way. With the principal and thus my boss, Peter Ryan, I was in the car on the way to make a presentation to a Client. This Client happened to be Sydney’s leading dry cleaning firm. We believed, of course, that this leadership was a direct result of our continuingly convincing creative campaigns. The Client was less convinced, to the extent that he had twice sent us back to revise our previous submission. He was being difficult, as Clients can be.

Determined to be positive, and perhaps seeking a memorable phrase because I had been hired as a Suit and had so far stayed that way in spite of writing several successful campaigns already without being dubbed a Copywriter, I said:

“Peter. We have an excellent campaign. We must stick to our guns. We should be prepared to carry our integrity into the street.”

I must have impressed the boss with at least a part of that little oration, because at a point where the Client had again begun to dither over wholehearted acceptance of our offering, I heard Peter say to the Client:

“We are prepared, sir, to carry our integrity into the street.”

And, you guessed it, we found ourselves out in the street with integrity intact but sans client. Fired on the spot, which was I suppose an appropriate area for a dry cleaner. We didn’t learn until the end of the day, when we finally returned from licking our wounds at Peter’s club, that we had been reinstated by phone only moments after our departure. They even approved our campaign.

It goes without saying that Clients were our life blood, particularly those blessed with a sizeable budget. The fear of losing one is real. To fight this fear when I went freelance I adopted an old standard as my corporate song. It went:

“Got along without you before I met you; gonna get along without you now”.

I don’t think I ever really convinced myself of that. I have just noticed that, even in blissful writing retirement, I have everywhere written Client with a capital.

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