Fear of losing the 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 far 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 video and the future magic I would come to know. 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. 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.
As it was I expressed surprise that such a pretty woman should be given such a, to my mind, 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.