Andrew Wiseman shares some of his favourite tales from 25 years of working with clients

In these difficult times that we currently live in, it’s important to be able to take a step back and realise that despite the negativity in the world at this moment, there are also reasons to be cheerful. As the new trailer for Sky One’s ‘The Russell Howard Hour’ states, let’s laugh at everything to bring some much-needed brightness into our lives.

It was during a recent WebEx conference call with a client that I found myself chuckling. I’m sure we’ve all done things that are mildly embarrassing in our lives, even if it’s just mistakenly calling your teacher ‘Mum’ during our school days (I’m not the only one, right?)

Anyway, I digress. During this call, we were having a discussion about the research angle of a multi-layered segmentation that we’ve been asked to deliver. Given the customer base, there was an appetite to supplement an online sample with some offline research for those groups who are less digitally-savvy. We all know how easy it is to slip into the world of jargon (whatever industry you work in), so I quickly started talking about the ability to conduct some CATI interviews alongside the online survey. We forget as insights professionals that the acronym CATI is not always that well known as a shorthand for interviews conducted by telephone, as was the case here. All of a sudden, I was being asked about these cat interviews and what they were. In normal circumstances, this would have been easy enough to navigate, but when the project is about pet insurance, it made it all the more amusing!

This isn’t the first time that I’ve put myself in such a position. A number of years ago I was working on a project for an exterior paint called Weathershield. It was only after the final debrief that my colleague told me that I’d transported everyone to Coronation Street for an hour, by constantly referring to the brand as Weatherfield…

Of course, I’ve also been (un)fortunate enough to see others make similar, if not more hilarious gaffes in the course of their work. Once, I’d been working on a small analytics piece for a snacks brand, using TURF analysis (there’s the jargon again – Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency for the uninitiated). The objective of the analysis was to determine the right set of new flavours to take into a range, and which to leave on the shelf. So far so good, until my colleague referred to the analysis as TURD during the telephone debrief… In my opinion, the analysis was pretty solid, so found her comments to be somewhat hurtful 😊

Anyway, for my last trick, I take you back to my days at Nielsen, where I worked in their global analytics division. We’d been working hard on a piece of work for a spirits brand – looking at the tequila market in Mexico. We’d created a number of robust econometric models, analysed the coefficients and created the presentation before flying out to Mexico City. The presentation seemed to be going well, when all of a sudden, I started to hear muffled laughter from the room. It turns out we’d mis-labelled one of the products manufactured by a brand called Sauza. The product is marketed as Sauza Cien Años, whereas in our presentation we’d referred to it at Cien Anos. Little did we know that the absence of a tilde on the n had led us to change their 100 Years brand to 100 ‘a***holes’…

We’d love to hear your own experiences of unintentionally saying the wrong things in front of clients – tweet us @WeAreHoneycomb and we’ll send a prize to the best ones we receive!