The day I thought I’d gone too far.

Everyone had a Client story back when. Sometimes it was the same story but now and then a tale emerged that beggared belief.

I had a Client to whom I had presented a campaign that they really loved. They had said so. My joy knew no bounds. So imagine my surprise when Senior Suit reported to me that the Client would not only not be proceeding with the campaign but had actually cancelled the entire budget on the product. No explanation was offered but a member of the agency, who was related to the client, later confided in me the truth. The Client had decided that the budget for this excellent product would be better spent buying a tank for Israel. I suggested that we drape the tank with a banner promoting the product, thus gaining international publicity, but they didn’t buy that either.

I wish I could tell you the name of the product or even the name of the Client. They were among my all-time favourite people. They once pulled my leg mercilessly; causing me to grieve for a week over what I thought was a lost account.

It happened this way. They were, as you will by now have guessed, of the Jewish faith. They were heavily involved in a club whose members hailed from their native mid-European country. They had asked a favour of me. Would I please suggest a name for the new dining room at the club?

As I have said, I was fond of these people, so I was very happy to hand them a well-considered list of names. In this list, however, unable to resist it I had included a name that I thought might amuse them. What better name for an Hungarian/Jewish restaurant, I thought, than “Hava Na Goulash”?

I waited anxiously for the phone call that would thank me for the list that I had sent them. Significantly, I hadn’t shared the exchange with anyone else in the agency. I couldn’t wait to share the Client’s anticipated amusement over “Hava Na Goulash”.

I heard not a word – for a week.

Then the call came. I was summoned to their boardroom for a meeting. This was it, I thought. Who would have thought that they might be offended?  There goes the account. My next task would be to explain the loss to some very unhappy Very Senior Suits.

The atmosphere in the room was decidedly frosty as I walked in. The meeting, however, went on without mention of “Hava Na Goulash”. The discussion of our current campaigns was cordial but very far from as friendly as usual.

It was only towards the end of this excruciatingly stressful meeting that the subject of the restaurant was raised. Howling with mirth they said how very funny they thought the “Hava Na Goulash” suggestion was. They said that they would, however, go with another of my suggestions. I have completely forgotten what that suggestion was. I can only remember that, recognising that I might feel I’d gone too far, they had kept me on tenterhooks for a week just for a laugh. Score one for a Client with a wicked sense of humour.

Those same folk had a habit of discussing things in front of me in their native tongue. I felt that this was both rude and unhelpful but couldn’t think of a way to ask them not to. Then one day, having been asked a question I answered at length in my very best Fijian (my first fluent language after all) and once I had stopped myself and apologised they got the message. They described me as “a friend” and I valued that greatly.

 

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